I was thinking what I liked about religion. Not the Church itself, mind, but perhaps the churches. The idea of a sanctuary, a place that makes people feel safe.
Not me in particular, mind, as there are a lot of years growing up when I felt it was almost a cage. A home that appears false somehow, at least for me. Mostly it was because I don’t belong in it, for maybe a decade now, maybe more. Yet the not-belonging does not stop me from being in awe sometimes. The architecture, the withstanding of time, the hallowed silence that surrounds empty spaces. The ongoing discussion between edifices and people.
I was thinking, the idea of faith, and how its presence becomes a tether to one’s capacity for hope. A belief in something that does not need proof, and a belief that things will turn out for the best.
We visited seven churches today under the punishing heat. I prayed and not prayed. I mouthed the words when things needed saying, wholly conscious of the language I’ve forgotten.
Here are things that I think are holy: the way both wind and sunlight can break through a foliage of leaves, a meeting place of the tangible and intangible. The pleasure that fissures through the body when I am able to make someone laugh. My name spoken by someone who loves me. Unexpected rain.
I went outside when everybody else lined up for confession. I sat underneath a tree, my scalp warm, sweat trickling down my back. I was thinking, the idea of rituals, the meditative effect of doing things over and over, the fine line between comfort and agony when encountering the familiar.
When I take the vacuum out and spend hours moving through the house, cleaning up all the dust, I am praying. When I put books in my bag, when I read poems night after night as if it will save my life, I am praying. When I wash the dishes, when I make up my bed, when I count the cracks in the pavement while I am walking, I am praying.
Here’s a confession: when I tell myself every morning now, I’m still alive, I’m still alive, I’m still alive—perhaps I am praying, too.
Each Thing Measured by the Same Sun
Nothing to tell. Nothing to desire.
A silence that is not unhappy.
Who will guess I am not
backing away? I am pleased
every morning because the stones
are cold, then warm in the sun.
Sometimes wet. One, two, three days
in a row. Easy to say yes and no.
Realizing this power delicately.
Remembering the cow dying on the ground,
smelling dirt, seeing a mountain
in the distance one foot away.
Making a world in the mind.
The spirit still connected to the body.
Eyes open, uncovered to the bone.
This is from The Sacraments of Desire by Linda Gregg, published by Graywolf Press, 1995.