Sunday, February 3, 2008

Down from the mountain...


Today was Transfiguration Sunday... Jesus went up the mountain, came down a changed man.

Today after church I went to the mountain, as my hubby and I fondly call Cedar Hill Retreat Center.Located deep in Nicholas County, it is a jewel waiting to be discovered: 80 acres of wooded hills, streams and fields, a labyrinth, a 'froggy bottom' trail, a pond, and the best porch this side of heaven. I have spent a lot of time there, both in official and unofficial capacities. I have been chief cook and bottle washer, retreatant, dog watcher, and family member. It feels like my second home. My friend Sandy gets to live there all the time. She gets to see the sun rise over the woods and set in the valley just beyond the labyrinth. She watches the seasons come and go on a daily basis while I just get a few privileged peeks.
But she graciously allows me free access to its charms.
Today was my first time back in many months. I think its the longest I have ever been away. For awhile I was there every weekend like a kid home from school, but then this fall due to illness, a new job and just life, I fell away from going. I shan't do that again!
When I drove around the curve in the road and saw the house, I nearly cried. I had not realized how I longed for its comforting shelter.
As I drove up the winding road, I saw many changes. The once steep curved driveway had been graded and paved, trees that were leaning dangerously close had been removed, and a new sign "Enter in peace" hung beside the door. Inside, I wandered about touching familiar objects, finding a book, meeting the new cat Anya, and letting the old gentleman dog, Koda up to visit.
Next to the kennel to let out the pack: Trey, Gypsy, Mary, Buster and Gus. As all 6 dogs swirled around me, tails wagging, snouts pushing to be petted, I truly felt as if I had come home.
While the 6 beasties took off for a run, I took my book to the porch and pulled a rocking chair into a sunbeam where I sat reading and rocking and petting whichever hound came by for over an hour. I would often pause to listen to the silence that is not silent. I listened to the creek gurgling over rocks as the pond cracked and popped its frozen skin in the warming sun. Birds sang, the hawk skreed loudly diving into the grass near the labyrinth. The dogs came and went, their footsteps padding across the wooden porch, their breath softly panting beside me...
The sun shone warm on me and the pups as they began to stretch out for naps. A rare car drove by in the distance, causing ears to twitch and heads to lift slightly. Only did they raise fully when Sandy came home.
After lunch, we went to a neighboring farm to see the newborn goat. I have an inordinate passion for goats. I adore them. These were particularly wonderful goats. They nibbled food from my hands and let me pet them for a long long long time... The baby did his tiny goat hopping, butting, prancing dance. The pygmies all crowed forward to get their ears scratched as they daintily nibbled at my fingers with their soft lips...
After picking up a striped kitten to cuddle and carry, we went to the chicken coop to see the 'fancy chickens'. About 6 different breeds of chickens strutted about pocking and pecking. There was a giant obsidian goliath of a rooster next to a banty rooster that was black and white, his red comb brilliant against the backdrop of mud and straw. The hens preened and cackled, their feathers ranging from sleek to silly and fluffy. Holding onto the kitten we then visited the rabbits. 20 or more rabbits slept, nibbled and played in their cages. There were large white rabbits with ruffs, small spotted rabbits with big doe eyes, two beautiful gray rabbits whose fur looked to be the lavender lilac of smoke or fog...
After we left, I packed up and started the drive home at sunset. The rose colored warmth of the setting sun poured across the hills lighting the barren trees in a burst of flame, russet and vermilion before fading to mauve and lavenders...
The shadows lengthened along the road, the water in the creek darkened with the coming dusk, and I realized that I too was leaving the mountain changed...
I had been away too long: too long from the earth, the animals, the silence, the incarnate God.
I know many will think it blasphemous to find God among goats and chickens, kittens and hawks, but I see the divinity in all creation. Especially in the animals. I never doubt where I stand with them. They either love me or fear me. They are not coy, they do not play games, they either accept me exactly as I am, or reject me completely. They do not base their reactions on how much money I make, whether I am driving a nice car, wearing nice clothes or with an important person. They don't care about that. All they care about is will I love them or hurt them? Will I respond to their needs, or ignore them? There was a flash of an epiphany, a moment with which I am struggling to articulate, a hint of the divine when I was with the 'creatures here below'. I felt life in the moment, as the goats were gently nibbling my fingertips. Nothing else existed, nothing else mattered, nothing else was REAL, except that moment, the feeling of a creature, so simple, gently taking food from my fingers. I was totally immersed in the present moment: totally alive, totally open, wholly holy...
I don't mean to be blasphemous or coy or weird, but it was a moment of transfiguration, standing with one of my most beloved friends, with life, creation, joy, surrounding us, engulfing us, uplifting us, connecting us, with one another, with the universe, with all that is and ever was.
In a strange and wondrous way, it was the second time in a day I had had communion.

2 comments:

Katie! said...

What a beautiful post! So descriptive and full of meaning.

But...

Did you mean it when you said that the driveway had been graded and paved?

Where's the challenge in hiking up a graded and paved driveway in heels for a graduation party? Where, I ask?

(*smooch*)

Alykat said...

No wonder Buddy Love calls it the "treat center!"