On Tuesday night, I held vigil with several clergy colleagues at the clergy conference. It was a profound experience, to sit and wait….wait for a person to be executed. To wait and reflect on what forgiveness might look like, repentance, a willingness to move beyond the any initial “relief” vengeance might give. To lean into a deeper space of what being human together might be like.
It was a difficult space. Difficult to hold, to sit in, to digest…
As we sat there, we read so many psalms together. And the psalms gave voice, language, to how we felt. They gave voice to what we could not utter…..
I sat there in that space, feeling the heaviness of waiting. And, as I did, I looked out the window to see a single leaf fall from a tree. This poem came to me. I thought about Mary Oliver’s urging: Pay attention; be astonished; tell about it. And, I thought about how, sometimes, we are called to pay attention to the painful things–spaces we would rather like to avoid. And, when we pay attention to the painful spaces, we are astonished–for different reasons. Astonished by the depth of feeling we experience. Maybe we want to turn our eyes. But we cannot.
To keep vigil is to pay attention, to be mindful. To be mindful of the situation outside of which you are a part as well as the situation inside oneself. To be mindful of the depth of feeling…and that nudging for compassion. Your heart is broken and you discover that you can feel more than you thought possible.
So, I wrote this poem, as I noticed this one leaf fall….it made me wonder–and realize–how much this one leaf matters.
It’s an odd thing to wait for a leaf to fall,
to stand there,
but before standing there, pausing,
but before pausing, something
catching my eye.
I pause and stand there.
This one leaf.
What does it matter?
Who could count all the leaves that fall
They lie everywhere.
But, this one,
this work of beauty–
my eye is caught.
So I stand here
next to this leaf–
This one, fragile and flitting in the breeze,
I stand here
watching this leaf,
trying not to blink,
not wanting to miss that instant
when it falls.