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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Holy Ground

In the short, cold, dismal gray days of winter, I can drive to work before the sun comes up, drive home after it goes down, and never see it or feel its radiation for weeks at a time. So Friday night I strapped the canoe to the top of the truck and headed out to Smith and Bybee lakes before sunrise.

At the east edge of Smith Lake, I pushed the canoe off the ice rimmed shoreline into the cold dark water and headed west. An icy whisper of wind stirred up a train of wavelets that gently splashed against the bow and retarded my progress, but the paddling kept me warm. In those moments of transition, as the sky lightened, and the trees began to murmur, I recalled the words from the creation myth that my particular culture endorses.

“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light””

I turned the canoe around and stopped paddling. I floated in the middle of the lake and watched the sunrise. I thought I could hear the earth turning.

The wind scribbles patterns in the lake as if it were a finger-painting. In the space of minutes, the water’s character goes from spastic to languid. I wonder if the author of the creation myth ever had a canoe.

Turning back around, I see the sun has painted the barren trees with fire. As I draw closer, I am reminded of yet another mythic story.

“And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.”

I know about myths and metaphors. I marvel at the complexity of life as accomplished by the cumulative effects of natural selection. I am sensitive to the beauty of patterns elicited by speeding photons striking the back of my eyes. I even convince myself that I recognize the difference between fiction and truth, that I know the difference between narrative stories and objective news. Yet some stubborn superstitious, story-telling part of me wants to tell you that in the magic hours of Saturday morning, I saw a bush that burned without being consumed.

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