image by Rebekah Choat
morning, outdoors, listening
to quiet, feeling
for balance, for the center,
tending soul and garden.
~ Rebekah Choat
I, who live by words, am wordless when
I try my words in prayer. All language turns
to silence. Prayer will take my words and then
reveal their emptiness. The stilled voice learns
to hold its peace, to listen with the heart
to silence that is joy, is adoration.
The self is shattered, all words torn apart
in this strange patterned time of contemplation
that, in time, breaks time, breaks words, breaks me,
and then, in silence, leaves me healed and mended.
I leave, returned to language, for I see
through words, even when all words are ended.
I, who live by words, am wordless when
I turn me to the Word to pray. Amen.
As most of you know, depression has been a part of all my adult life. Some of you also know that I was diagnosed with a chronic illness earlier this year. One of the things that helps most is knowing that I am not alone; that there’s a large community in each camp, many members of both camps. We are drawn together somehow, in ways ranging from deep personal relationships to passing acquaintance to simple silent nods of recognition when we see each other across crowded rooms. We support each other. When we speak, we offer worn-out words that are nonetheless true and meaningful. “I am here with you.” “Hang on.” “Take it one little step at a time.” “There will be days like this.”
What I have to say today is, “There will be days like this.” You’ve heard it before, you’ve said it before, you’ll hear and say it again. And again. But wait. Listen. There will be days like this!
This day, I feel good – almost unbelievably, delightfully good. This day I can do simple tasks without pain and enjoy the home-iness of my home. This day I can take real pleasure in my husband’s excitement about his latest pet project. This day I can share my daughter’s joy in dancing. This day I can look forward to spending an evening with friends without effort. This day I can smile in the sunshine and laugh without faking it.
Never forget. Thanks be to God, there will be days like this.
I wrote this some months ago, out of my own experience of a very difficult time. I post it today in limited understanding and great sadness for Robin Williams.
image by Chris Choat
The fog does not come pussy-footing
around a bend in the road.
It does not roll in ominously from the sea;
nor does it cascade in slow motion
down the mountain into my valley.
The fog seeps up from the ground,
from this very earth greening beneath my feet.
It does not puddle about my knees,
nor swirl in terrifying eddies around me.
It simply rises to envelop me in a fine mist,
which I cannot help breathing,
cannot prevent my pores absorbing.
Climbing the tallest tree does not lift me above it.
Bathing in the river does not wash it away.
Walking doggedly on does not carry me beyond it.
Ely Cathedral Rose
image copyright Rebekah Choat
“As long as we are able to
be extravagant we will be
hugely and damply
extravagant. Then we will drop
foil by foil to the ground. This
is our unalterable task, and we do it
And they went on. “Listen,
the heart-shackles are not, as you think,
death, illness, pain,
unrequited hope, not loneliness, but
lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety,
Their fragrance all the while rising
from their blind bodies, making me
spin with joy.
It feels like living in a minefield, this walking through depression; an achingly slow process of unearthing harmful things buried deep for years, fearing the fallout of their exposure to air and light, knowing absolutely that they must be pried out to make the soil safe for building on and planting in.
Some of the mines are easily discovered and, by the grace of God, disarmed fairly quickly, with minimal damage.
You know the general area where some of the mines are located, and you know that they are going to explode when you try to move them. So you make plans and equip yourself as best you can with God’s great help, and avoid them until you feel strengthened for the task.
But one day you are walking along unconcernedly over ground that has been swept many times, ground that you believe has been completely cleared, and a land mine blows up directly beneath your feet, ripping you to stunned little shreds.
The best you can hope is that it happens when you are walking in company with friends, friends who are just far enough off not to be injured in the blast but near enough to rush to your aid. They assess your wounds when you cannot, and discern that immediate attention is required – here, now, even with nothing to dull the pain. The field surgeon, wounded himself, steps forward to take charge, but your friends stay to help. They are obedient to the surgeon’s instructions, doing what must be done as firmly as necessary and as tenderly as possible. When it is over, they stay with you still, holding you, murmuring prayers, singing lullabies in the dark, until you are strong enough again to stand, to walk on.