Belonging

 
 

 

What are you reading? Me, I'm reading about a real-life journey of a woman who rowed alone down the Nile in a fisherman's skiff. I'm a sucker for tales like that. And just reread Thoreau's Walden, or really the clutter of my lively marginalia there. I am always reading poetry, and one poet I've been spending some time with is the late Irish priest-poet, John O'Donohue. A beautiful and inspiring writer and thinker. His book of blessings, To Bless the Space Between Us is really where I've been dwelling. O'Donohue talks a lot about the loss of ritual in everyday life and the ramifications of that loss that leave us grasping for a sense of belonging. He says:

While our culture is all gloss and pace on the outside, within it is too often haunted and lost. The commercial edge of so-called ‘progress’ has cut away a huge region of human tissue and webbing that held us in communion with one another. We have fallen out of belonging. Consequently, when we stand before crucial thresholds in our lives, we have no rituals to protect, encourage and guide us as we cross over into the unknown.

I certainly fought against the knuckles of ritual most of my adolescent life, believing I could operate beyond those boundaries, and I think that we've rebelled progressively as a culture against it. But I've come to feel its loss, as I believe many of us have. For me, the kitchen table has the qualities of a temple, a place to gather and share, to deliver and receive food. Here is John O'Donohue's blessing for the table:

 

Grace Before Meals

As we begin this meal with grace,
Let us become aware of the memory
Carried inside the food before us:
The quiver of the seed
Awakening in the earth,
Unfolding in a trust of roots
And slender stems of growth,
On its voyage toward harvest,
The kiss of rain and surge of sun;
The innocence of animal soul
That never spoke a word,
Nourished by the earth
To become today our food;
The work of all the strangers
Whose hands prepared it,
The privilege of wealth and health
That enables us to feast and celebrate.