Edgewise to the massive cliffs on either side of our RV, we nose through a misty canyon in Colorado.
Along the rim of a rocky cutaway, one valiant tree sports May’s latest green. Beyond its small canopy, ghostly aspen trunks mount the next slope: limbless, charred. Their music, silenced.
Fire once ravaged parts of this canyon. You could draw a v-shaped line where the flames stopped.
“Edge areas” between differing habitats are ecologically distinct. In the foreground above, lichens inch across stone. Sparse vegetation seeks footholds, hunkers edgewise between rocks.
In the ruined woods beyond, ground covers will vary now, as will returning wildlife.
The division appears stark, even hostile. Yet a strange serenity rules here, amidst devastation. There’s something compelling at play in this scene.
I’ve been dividing my evenings between several books, pulling out words and ideas from each and letting them converse in my head.
One book currently captivating me is God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us, by L. L. Barkat. She describes it as “a 12-week course in discovery and playing towards God.”
For someone who often overworks, the idea of playing towards God feels irresistible.
The right book in a ripe time offers gifts, unparalleled.
Published in 2010, this one reached me belatedly, and it’s searching and sifting my soul with each chapter I read.
An Edgewise Commitment
Barkat made an odd commitment after reading a book she found pivotal: Radical Simplicity, by Jim Merkel.
With her senses and soul open wide, for one year she spent time in her small backyard every day—no matter the weather—“to find some contentment and beauty” (p.5.).
Some days (and nights) she slotted in backyard dates edgewise: Fifteen minutes in falling snow or rain was all the time she could spare.
Just as the photo above suggests a heart-shaped area of destruction wedged between soaring walls of grandeur, so God in the Yard is gently ushering me between grief and recovery.
Pages nearly vibrate with unexpected observations. Paradoxes invite further exploration. Soul Questions are interspersed with scenes from the author’s life and readings. She invites the reader to fill in the blanks. For example:
When I was a child, I lived______________
Today I live________________________
If I could, I would return to_____________
My answers describe edges in my life: geographically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Yes, I long for earlier terrain (and people) no longer available
- And yes, acceptance grows slowly at deeper levels
- There are also actions I can take
Wisdom expands as I learn to honor new ways to thrive.
And you? (This is a question Barkat asks, again and again.)
Do you perceive a distinct edge for yourself? What change might you need to accept (or reject)? What one action can you take (or stop taking) to move you toward discovery and thriving?
God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us, L. L. Barkat, T.S. Poetry Press, 2010.
Note: “Words in Edgewise” is a title borrowed from a marvelous show created and directed by my mentor, Pat Stien.