Thursday, December 1, 2011


When I moved back to my hometown and started going to church, I was delighted by the home made and ongoing Advent wreath, a kind of art installation on the altar table. On the first Sunday of Advent, people bring rocks to shape in a semi-circle around the Advent candles that will be lit one at a time. The next Sunday, it's greens (evergreens or dried flowers or creative representations of greenery); then animals (photos of pets, figurines, toys); and, finally, humans.

I was so charmed by this that I wrote a poem about it, which is now published annually in the December edition of the church newsletter. I am honored. It might not make sense to anyone but us, but here it is:


First, we bring rocks: earth curves in a bow
around the source, light.  Is it miracle
or did rock bend always as the willow?

What next?  Acorn, walnut, holly, bluebell
pressed with a ribbon, tuft of baby’s breath,
pine cone, lighting of the second candle

by a child.  Magic again? Now our wreath
a parade of fauna: camels, a cat, a cow,
marble hippo, rocking horse.  Nothing yet

prepares as well for what’s to come: our own
meager arrival as human figurines,
plaster or plastic, a fragile sturdy crowd

of admirers, rigid with unspoken awe.
We stand alive, wild at heart, hope raw.

The first Sunday of Advent this year was actually November 27, when I stood on the train platform on Sunday morning, sending my son back to school instead of bringing a rock to the wreath. This Sunday I will take the weird little stand-up cardboard triangles of "greens" I've constructed from recycled greeting cards.

Here is the reflection from that missed Sunday, if you, too, want to ponder the Sacred Mystery. I was struck by the lines quoted from Mark Nepo about the seeds cracked open in the dark. They remind me of Leonard Cohen's song "Anthem," this famous verse:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

I just heard him singing this in the documentary Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man that I finally saw after many people had recommended it to me. Before I ever heard this song, I wrote a poem called "Damage" about banging on and cracking a wooden door and seeing the light stream in. People who read it and liked it alerted me to the famous Cohen song, which I have loved ever since. I wish I wasn't so clueless all the time...except that it allows me to fill with wonder repeatedly at the newness of what I've missed, or forgotten, thanks to the cracks in my brain.

And thanks, again, to Jonathan Koch, for another branch of persimmons! And the first, in case you missed it.


Sandy Longhorn said...

Lovely persimmons and lovely reflection. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

same wave length. my daughter and i attended the first advent sunday. your poem says what i couldn't explain to her. thank you.

Kathleen said...

Thank you, Sherry. And you, too, Sandy.

Maureen said...

Beautiful poem, Kathleen.

Cohen is putting out a new album in January. I've heard a couple of tracks that are great.

Kathleen said...

Wow! I am so glad to hear that, Maureen. I will keep an ear out.

Collagemama said...

I think this is a lovely Advent tradition, and I like the poem very much. It reminds me of Santa Fe and the fabulous processions created by Alexander Girard at the Museum of International Folk Art. I hope you have seen them.

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Collagemama!

Anonymous said...

Life is like school.

You come into it not knowing what you don't know. You leave it - someday - knowing that there are even more mysteries you have yet to explore.

In between, you find illumination, inspiration, and surprise.

Have an illuminating holiday season.


Kathleen said...

Thanks, Bob. You, too.