It’s Sunday evening, the time I usually sit down in my office to tap out Monday’s post, stringing together impressions from the last week, often inspired by something I’ve read or heard. Classical choral music, hosted by one of the stellar announcers on my radio station, CKUA, and the purr of the space heater create an aural ambiance, and some needed warmth.
I’d thought I’d write my more-or-less annual “word for the year” post, wherein I sing the praises of having been introduced to the notion by a dear friend several years ago, then more recently shored up by a twelve-day discernment process hosted by Abbey of the Arts. Last year, in hindsight, I wrote about the prescience of having had HOME “arrive” as my 2020 word, given the onset of COVID which had all of us everywhere staying put for months on end. And that I’d arrived at NATURE as being most apt for 2021, given how much solace and settling I had found being in nature during these past nearly two years of Covid’s continued destabilization. This year FAITH came, inspired by reading something in my friend Shawna Lemay’s recently published wondrous novel, EVERYTHING AFFECTS EVERYONE. Already primed for signs and shimmers, I was alert when one of her characters, quoting Alan Watts, said:
“We must make here a clear distinction between belief and faith, because, in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind which is almost the opposite of faith. Belief, as I use the word here, is the insistence that the truth is what one would ‘lief’ or wish it to be. The believer will open his mind to the truth on the condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes. Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go.”
I’m not sure why or how, but reading those words on that brilliantly sunny but brutally cold morning between Christmas and New Year’s Day, while Annie napped beside me on “her” loveseat, grokked my word for 2022. I let go of sense making, meaning making, and trusted the thud of certainty that landed inside, having faith that FAITH it was, and FAITH it would be for 2022.
I have just finished preparing an early dinner for us – veal marsala, pasta with a mixed wild mushroom cream sauce, sautéed carrots, perfectly matched with the Amarone gifted from friends for Christmas – the ingredients purchased and menu heavily influenced by pranzo yesterday at the Italian Centre, where we again enjoyed our vino rosso with porchetta panino only served Saturdays. While sitting in the café sipping and chewing, watching a steady stream of folks order their espressos e dolces, I talked about what I most missed about this, hard to believe nearly two years’ living a covid-curtailed life: travelling abroad. That while I occasionally miss being out and about town with friends, I most deeply yearn for the new impressions that travelling brings me.
“A great traveler…is a kind of introspective; as she covers the ground outwardly, so she advances fresh interpretations of herself inwardly.”Lawrence Durell describing Freya Stark in Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, 1998
I know I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping fresh those self interpretations here at home – walking with Annie, or during the Saturday Camino walks in the river valley, noticing the ever changing, ever constant beauty around me, and making photos and poetry from what shimmers; chronicling those impressions in my now second photo-journal of Covid life – my pre-determined final volume because at the rate we’re going, this could be another never ending story! Immersing in contemplative online learning programs and engaging in online poetry readings that inspire creative expression. Reading. My recent experiments in needle and hand work. Cooking. My biweekly circle gathering. Yes, through it all, even with grieving the loss of my professional life, and now nurturing a new one, as I reflect, I have navigated this time well. Still, I miss travelling.
And so I reminisced with him about the first time I ate a porchetta panino, at the little café in the piazzetta around the block from L’Accademia in Florence, as I waited my turn to see Michelangelo’s David. And then in Siena when we toured Tuscany and Rome together. Weaving up and down the cobblestoned streets, we suddenly found ourselves in front of the shop with the tell-tale pig sign and proscuitto legs, and scent of garlic and rosemary beckoning us in. Taking one to go, with a slice of panforte, it became a signature Sienese dinner that night in our room at the villa.
Waxing on, I told him that while there are vistas yet unseen I wished to experience – hopefully some with him, a less enthusiastic traveler – maybe due to my European roots and inexplicable fascination with Moorish design and culture, returning to countries I’ve already visited – Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco – held the most allure, to deepen those already etched impressions.
“the need for sacred beauty…we can only discover the real thing though deep observation, by the slow accretion of details”Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, 1998
Earlier this week my friend from Germany called, she with whom I lived the three months I travelled solo in Europe in 2011. “Come and stay with me for a few months,” she, recently retired and finding her footing, implored. If only it were that easy. And maybe it is, or soon will be, albeit with safeguards and precautions.
Perhaps that’s where faith comes in. Rings its bell quietly to remind me that one day, I’ll return to and visit anew, those places of my heart’s desire, to delve deeper into myself, by way of the world.
“Pilgrims are poets who create by taking journeys.”Richard R. Niebuhr in Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, 1998
Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.
6 thoughts on “Faith”
What a lovely read with my morning coffee, Katharine. I also miss travelling and dream of the day I can once again head off. Faith is a strong word for 2022.
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Thank you, Helen.💖 I’ve been working with PGWs…fingers crossed and faith. 😉
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I liked your reflection; and thanks for sharing it. In turn, I share with you two reflections of my own on belief and faith — a eulogy for my father from 15 years ago that sparked my own call to ordination; and a sermon from the third month of my time here in Edmonton, and which I preached on the morning of the day that included an evening covenanting service between me as minister, Mill Woods United Church as community of faith, and the Edmonton Presbytery of the United Church — http://littlechurchontheprairie.blogspot.com/2011/06/eulogy-for-my-dad-july-2-2007.html ; https://mwucsermons.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/born-again-into-belief-or-faith/
Ian, thank you for sharing your beautiful, thoughtful writing. The story of your father is touching and I appreciated this line from your service, “For me, life is a journey from fear to faith more than it is a journey from doubt to belief; and I view faith as trust more than as any particular set of beliefs.” I appreciate the time you took to read, and share what was evoked for you. Kindest regards.
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Oh, Katharine. What gorgeous food and locale descriptions. It makes me long. I’ve never been to Europe. Italy was always at the top of my list. I let it go even before Covid, just happy to be back in the beautiful PNW and content to travel the western sites I haven’t been to—or have, but not in adulthood. But now your narration makes me long again.
Thank you, Gretchen. You bring to the PNW the same. Your weekly mountain treks and daily photos of the vista from your home…beautiful.