Cause leaves don't drop they just let go
And make a space for seeds to grow
And every season brings a change
A tree is what a seed contains
To die and live is life's refrain
I've traveled through my history
From certainty to mystery
God speaks in rhyme in paradox
This I know is true
And finally when my life is through
And what I am not what I do
'Cause it comes down to you and your next breath
This I know is true
~”Leaves Don’t Drop,” Carrie Newcomer
For these days, for this day I am praying to have hands that are open. In these restless days, these foreboding days, these learning to live without knowing days it is so easy to clasp my hands in a fist and close down my heart. It truly is an intentional act to stay open and present. It truly is an intentional act to be mindful of balancing both holding on and letting go.
My hunch is that you and I have never washed our hands more in our entire lives as we are washing them now. It feels like I’m spending half of my waking hours washing my hands. It’s important to do. And then, after our hands are clean again, what are we to do with them? Perhaps it will be a good practice for us to say some blessing words over our red and sore hands. Perhaps we could pull out Anne Lamott’s best hits, “Thank you,” “Help me,” “Wow.” Perhaps as we wash and we pray, what we will do with them next will be revealed.
My hands are used to touching. In the dictionary under “touchy-feely” my picture is there with many others. My hands are used to lifting things up. They are used to reaching out. My hands are used to connecting. When my sisters and I were little and went shopping with Mom, we were told to put our hands in our pockets when we walked into the stores. I’m doing a lot of that now, putting my hands in my pockets. It reminds me about not reaching out to colleagues and inadvertently touching them. Putting my hands in my pockets reminds me of my Mom. I remember asking why we had to do that, and her response was, “Honey, I don’t want you to break anything.” And these days, I’m putting my hands in my pockets for much the same reason.
We began this Lenten season with Carrie Newcomer’s Two Toasts: “To the words and how we live between them. And to us and how we live between the words.” How are we to keep our hands open in this pandemic? How are we to keep safe and stay healthy, while we remain shut off physically from the world and all others in the world around us? How do we find some kind of balance? For me, this balance comes so often as I remember the wisdom of holding on and letting go.
Leaves Don’t Drop has phrases that ring true in these pandemic days. Every season brings a change – this is surely like no other time, no other season in our lives. This was supposed to be the season of Sam wrapping up his senior year and preparing for graduation; for Brogan, his season of taking his finals and finishing his projects; for me, the beloved beginning of the baseball season with some stout man in blue yelling, “Play Ball” and waiting for the once-a-year first pitch. Another of Carrie’s phrases is making a space. Social distancing: making a space, creating a space, leaving a space – all for the greater good and for our good as well. From certainty to mystery God speaks in rhyme and paradox – these do feel like days with hidden meanings, days when there are layers of knowing and unknowing. It is up to us, you and me to be mindful and pay attention. And finally, it comes down to you and your last breath. It does, after all, doesn’t it? That is our story within this story – our next breath.
There is a hopeful reminder of balance in Carrie’s Letting Go song. Even as she sings about the leaves letting go, in that very act there is also the calling out for the coming of the seeds sometime off in the future. Sometime in a time not yet known. A time we will just need to believe ourselves, hope ourselves into. Our breath is made up of the balance of holding on and letting go. And these days are surely teaching us new ways to live our lives. There’s a time for holding on, and these days are teaching us to hold on lightly. There’s a time for letting go, and these days are teaching us to keep our hearts open in the release. This I know is true.
(Thanks to Sam for finding the Shamrock and to Mom for her drawing of open hands)