By: Mary Lautzenhiser Bellon
For the spiritual pilgrim, particularly as the journey unfolds, there are presented and taken more and more moments of encounter that move us into liminal space. These snapshots of time may be brief, or, if one is removing themselves for retreat, even longer. The liminal, or that in-between space of what is and what is becoming, often captures the domain of spiritual exile in a unique way. It evokes the sense of being apart or separated for a moment from the confines of our culture, thought, duties and responsibilities to peer through a window of grace, becoming aware of holiness.
Rabbi Irwin Kula tells us that in Hebrew the word for “holy” is kedusa and literally means “life intensity” When we encounter holiness, or life intensity, we are really encountering the energy and presence of the divine. In my journey, I think of instances of seeing something with eyes I didn’t know I possessed; hearing something with ears I wasn’t aware heard like that; or feeling something that registered deep into the core of my own holiness or life intensity. For we in this busy world (which is often an overly planned out and stretched thin way of living), the moments that arrive, that catch us, can take us to a place of exile away from that world in order, just for a second, perhaps, to know the essential world, and to experience the beating heart of God at the core of it all: to let us see it, hear it and feel it. And then, to return to our ordinary lives with an extraordinary vision of the holiness around and within us. Below is a short poem of such a moment I had recently in these late summer days:
Encountering the Late Summer Hawk
Yesterday a red shouldered hawk sat on my fence
his yellow talons gripping the black rail,
and I wondered why he stopped beside me,
beside the window an arm’s breadth away
where we could peer at each other, see ourselves
in each other’s eyes, imagine the wingspan of our flight.
Was it I who visited his morning or he who visited mine -
or, in this season of rolling warm summer, were we accidently met?
I will say this: in his sharp sight I saw the day as possibility
and the night as a ribbon between his beak. I saw flight
and rest as ways of living on the earth, and the space
between us only a matter of where the sun stood
lighting our eyes, recognizing our gaze, while the grass
lay wet from the early hour and the trees breathed awake.