April 21, 2008

Companions and encouragement

This past First Day, the worship group had a Friend speak with us about her experiences traveling to meetings and isolated Friends prior to and early in the establishment of Northern Yearly Meeting. Raquel spoke about the "inventiveness" of a youthful yearly meeting like Northern, going on 35 years old, as compared to the settledness (my word) of a well-established yearly meeting like Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative--approaching its 135th year.

She also encouraged us to consider writing a State of the Society report, if not for one yearly meeting or the other, then as an exercise for ourselves: it can be a way to take stock of where we are as a body and how the Spirit is moving among us.

Interestingly enough, the very subject of writing a "State of Society" has been part of a recent exchange between the past and current clerks of the worship group, given that we continue to look at the question of affiliation with a yearly meeting and how we might be helped to grow in the Light if we were accompanied by and connected to a larger body.

During the worship that followed, I found myself reflecting on something my partner and I had witnessed a week earlier, as we were walking along one of the many lakes in our area:

The lake still had a thin layer of ice on parts of it. Other areas near the shore had a slushy mix of ice, water, and vegetation. Near where we were, we noticed that a Canada goose was trudging through the slushy area and seemed to be having a difficult time of it.

Then we heard another single goose honking overhead, and it descended not far from the first, along the banks of a small island but in open water about a hundred yards away. The second goose began swimming slowly toward the first, letting out an occasional 'Onk! .... 'Onk! as it maneuvered on the outskirts of the ice floe that was separating the two.

The first goose laboriously picked up one webbed foot from the slush and then the other, unable to walk on the surface of the floe and unable to fly from it, either. But it was definitely headed in the direction from where the encouraging 'onks were coming.

And the second goose was slowly heading in the direction of the first, too.

We watched for several minutes, and finally the two geese were united with each other, free from the ice and slush of the lake's edge. A minute or two later, they flew from the lake and we continued on our walk.

It seems to me that in our own faith communities, we might call out to each other when we see a member of our community trudging through some difficulty. Even if at times we have to trudge through the emotional and spiritual slush of our lives on our own, we can be glad for the encouragement of our fFriends.

It seems to me that God calls to us and companions us, too, continuously and in love.



Liz Opp said...

By the way, I have loved the lessons from geese that I came across in the early 1990s. What I witnessed on the lake that day certainly affirmed for me the instinct of these birds to both companion and encourage one another.

In my own life, I have taken a number of these "lessons" to heart.


Robin M. said...

This is beautiful. Thank you for being an encouraging companion in my life - even 2,000 miles apart.

I am often grateful for the encouragement of my blogging Friends, as well as when they point out where I'm stuck and where there's open water.

Allison said...

Speaking of geese, a friend of mine read this aloud this weekend and I thought I'd pass it on:

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver

Allison said...

PS - The context of the woman reading this poem was at the last class of our massage therapy training after 9 months of working on people who are homeless. She said this poem reflected her feelings about the experience.

Liz Opp said...

Allison -

Yes, I'm familiar with Mary Oliver's poem Wild Geese, which is so very wonderful to begin with... plus I was able to hear the poet herself read it at an event where she read her poetry for about 45 minutes. Lots of laughs and lots of tender moments, both.

If you ever have a chance to hear this author in person, DO IT. And reading her poems aloud to one another, from any of her collections, is also a moving experience.

Robin -

You're welcome. And ditto.


Laurie Kruczek said...

God speaks to us through nature in the most remarkable ways. Encouragement to move along, to get out of the funk, to be in the next moment and the next, helping each other when we need it the most... beautiful lessons to learn from and practice.

Liz Opp said...

Laurie -

What a timely comment from you on this particular post. It adds to my reflection on my current condition and the encouragement I've received "to move along, to get out of the funk..."

Thanks for the reminder.