Where rest becomes luminous and play a prayer of gratitude

Sabbath

Field

Even as the subway car hurtles
into the tunnel and calendars heave
under growing weight of entries,
even under the familiar lament
for more hours to do

a bell rings somewhere
and a man lays down
his hammer, as if to say
the world can build without me,
a woman sets down
her pen as if to say,
the world will carry on
without my words.

The project left undone,
dust on the shelves,
dishes crusted with morning
egg, the vase of drooping
flowers, and so much work
still to complete,

I journey across the long field
where trees cling to the edges
free to not do anything but
stand their ground,
where buttercups
and bluebells sway
and in this taste of paradise
where rest becomes luminous
and play a prayer of gratitude,
even the stones sing
of a different time,
where burden is lifted
and eternity endures.

Christine Valters Paintner, published in: Arts vol. 29, no. 1

Where to put one’s gratitude

Zadie Smith’s On Beauty did never quite engage me in the way that I had expected, but here are what for me were the book’s three highlights:

… poetry is the first mark of the truly civilized.

And so it happened again, the daily miracle whereby interiority opens out and brings to bloom the million-petalled flower of being here, in the world, with other people.

It’s like he knows he’s blessed, but he doesn’t know where to put his gratitude because that makes him uncomfortable, because that would be dealing in transcendence – and we all know how he hates to do that. So by denying there are any gifts in the world, any essentially valuable things – that’s how he shortcircuits the gratitude question. If there are no gifts, then he doesn’t have to think about a God who might have given them. But that’s where joy is. I’m on my knees to God every day.

In the last quote it is the book’s male hero’s teenage son speaking and displaying far more wisdom than his father ever manages. There is such profound truth in the equation of gratitude and joy. Being grateful to God – that indeed is where true joy is.