Archive for December, 2020

I have watched dreams die.

Personally, matrimonially, and vocationally, I have become acquainted with the acrid smell of death. Yet I am not defined by death—as much to my own surprise as to anyone else’s—because I have heard in time the giddy laughter of resurrection. Time after time.

I cannot explain why my life is joy rather than gloom, generally so at least, without recourse to the loving arms of Providence. I settle easily into solidarity with the prophets and singers of Israel’s memory, as with the abiding astonishment of a crucified Messiah’s unlikely followers when I read the things they wrote, the words they’ve left. Those people feel like long-lost cousins or well-worn friends. Absent for years, we pick up immediately where we left off.

My dead dreams have come to life. Personally, matrimonially, vocationally. If the aroma of death still lingers, it is retrained and repurposed by the lively breezes of dreams reborn in dimensions, textures, and colors superior to the original.

I cannot explain this, if I may repeat myself so soon, except as evidence gently presented of loving Providence. A further, tentative, redundant declaration: this pattern in my life surprises me more than anyone. ‘The lines…’ —oh, those ancient poets again— ‘…have fallen for me in pleasant places.’ They gave out their words ahead of time and here I sit, repeating them as though my own.

This truth is not easy for me to put into words, rumbling along in the heart as it customarily does at an almost inaudible volume. It is perhaps not so much for speaking out or writing down. But it does nurture its own expectation that death is not privileged with the final word. I think I now accommodate the blows of fresh, new deaths with the barely surprised smile of suspicion that this, too, is only for a moment.

Which is why I find myself coming to write on this crisp morning of blue New England skies about a deer named Morris.

We bought a home in Portland, Connecticut not a month ago. This is its own story of dreams reborn, two of them at the least. But that is not my story exactly, not now, not this morning, not with a strangely potent grief for a dead deer weighing down my heart in a way that makes me feel foolish, naive, overwrought. And compelled to write about him.

One of the harmless little fantasies I’ve carried about for too many years to count is having a backyard that, as my Latin American friends would say it, gives to the woods and to find deer wandering into that backyard for me to contemplate and admire. It’s a sentimental notion, the mark of a small-town boy become a city guy who doesn’t sufficiently understand that deer eat everything you’ve planted, bring their ticks with them, and are generally a nuisance to be warded off with stuff you buy at the Tractor Supply.

But I do know this about my little dream, which is why I’ve never pursued it. Life was differently shaped than wood-bordering yards, it seemed. But I had taken the measure of this abiding dream well enough to name it to close friends, to a wife, and to myself. They smiled benignly, sometimes dismissively, about my little deer dream. Life is not like that, I sometimes thought I heard them think, and even if it were, that’s just a little bit childish at your age.

Then it happened. Not a month ago we took possession of our beautiful new-old New England home—ah, there’s another story—with its backyard giving to the woods and a first conversation with neighbors turning to how that’s a veritable deer highway back there because it runs to the river and deer need water, particularly after a night of dodging bobcats and coyotes and sharing their woods with bears, fisher cats, red foxes, and lots of other deer.

Dreams stirring, dreams awakening, dreams reviving, dreams reborn.

Then came Morris. On that first night in our new home—only a week ago—the motion-sensitive light on the back of our new home’s crown came on to show us a beautifully antlered buck exploring our back yard. Clearly something was wrong with this animal. Its left front leg hung uselessly and unsupportive, causing this gorgeous creature to lurch painfully about in search of, well, he really loved early Winter’s paltry remains of pachysandra, gobbling as though there were no tomorrow.

In spite of his injuries, which became grotesquely visible as he began to return from his daytime hidings in the woods behind us, he had a jauntiness about him that made it impossible to see him as a pest, an intruder, just an animal.

He became Morris.

Morris was in clear decline. Soon he was investing some daylight hours in lying beside the house in obvious distress. Our dog Rhea and I would occasionally sally forth to view Morris more closely, to make his acquaintance, one might say.

Uncharacteristically, Rhea kept a respectful distance. So did I. When Morris would see us approaching, he’d lurch as best he could in the other direction, sometimes back into the woods, sometimes just far enough to eye us warily from what might have passed for a safe distance if we had intended him any harm.

I called the police to see what one does. ‘We let nature take its course’, came the voice over the phone, surely a voice that commented to a colleague about ‘another city family up on Karen Drive’ after he’d let me go. Ah, Nature. Red in tooth and claw. I wished I had ammo to pair with the one weapon I own in order to put Morris out of his misery, but after a notorious school-shooting tragedy this New England state puts classes and fingerprints between a hunter and the ability to purchase ammo. It takes weeks.

Morris didn’t have weeks.

Two days ago, I found Morris on the ground, back in our woods—I claim them now, though not with title—lying prone between two fallen trees. He had collapsed or lay down and was unable to extricate himself. I knew the end had come. He looked at me with frightened eyes as I approached, struggled a bit to pull loose from his accidental captivity and flee. He didn’t have the strength.

I pulled one of the trees off of him in the vain hope that he’d be able to get up after I’d done so. But for what what I hoping? Morris was going to die.

Yesterday, he looked at me when I approached in my painful, self–inflicted duty to ‘go check on him’. This time, his eyes seemed plaintive, not frightened. He didn’t kick, didn’t struggle.

This morning, the coldest of the impending Winter, I wandered out. The life is gone from Morris’ beautiful, traumatized body. Clearly, a vehicle had hit him hard, probably only days ago. His lifeless eyes are open, staring. They are glorious eyes, eyes designed and created, eyes now devoid of life.

I cannot say why this has been such an emotional experience for me. My hunter friends will be laughing, my fishing friends asking ‘But you kill and eat what you catch, don’t you?’

They’re right. This was ‘just an animal’. But his nobility, his helplessly injured vulnerability, his proximity, his antlers rattling against the house as he gobbled pachysandra, the way in those first days he kept disappearing and then showing up from behind a new tree when you least expected him. These have fallen on me like an avalanche, making me…well…leading me to sit here and write down these thoughts instead of bending my shoulder to the harness of so many waiting tasks.

I had a dream of deer creeping into a backyard I would never own. Yet I have a backyard like the one in my dreams, now. It gives to the woods. On our very first night in this new place, Morris came creeping—creeping, lurching, creeping—into that yard and captured our hearts.

He arrived as to an appointment.

Why has Providence resurrected my little, inconsequential dream in the form of a mortally wounded antlered buck? Why has this all happened so very close to our windows, indeed in our very own space, if ‘own’ properly describes anything in a world where these things are given? Why is Morris’ once majestic body lying out there in the cold, right now, right there?

Why not a doe and her fawns making a quick appearance and then gone, or an unremarkable quintet of ordinary deer in our backyard? Why not a simple story of ‘lots of deer around here these days’, an anecdote that would prompt a neighbor casually to counter, ‘Oh, I had nine of them the other night…’?

Why Morris?

Is there instruction here, a thing to be learned? Do dreams come alive wounded sometimes? Does Providence beckon us to see remote things called ‘wildlife’, ‘prey’, and ‘deer’ as Morris, who looked at me with eyes that in the end lacked the strength to be afraid?

I don’t know.

But I wonder.

And that is all I have to say about it.


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Claramente una reflexión sobre la narrativa de la creación del Génesis 1, el ‘salmo del aleluya’ que está enumerado como el 148 del salterio trae toda la creación en su vórtice doxológico.

Tal como es costumbre en la alabanza bíblica, el salmo deconstruye las mitologías reinantes que se muestran como representaciones incuestionables de la realidad. El sol, la luna y las estrellas, por ejemplo, no están simplemente despojados de su presunto poder sobre los seres humanos. Eso ya se ha logrado en Génesis 1. Aquí, el asunto va un paso más allá: se unen en la alabanza a YHWH, y esto debido a un motivo interesante: “porque él mandó y fueron creados”.

Ya no hay poderes que temer, escudriñar y manipular, ahora los cuerpos celestiales ocupan su lugar en la congregación de los adoradores, junto a los hijos e hijas de Israel.

¡Aleluya! ¡Alabado sea el Señor!

Alaben al Señor desde los cielos,
    alábenlo desde las alturas.
Alábenlo, todos sus ángeles,
    alábenlo, todos sus ejércitos.
Alábenlo, sol y luna,
    alábenlo, estrellas luminosas.
Alábenlo ustedes, altísimos cielos,
    y ustedes, las aguas que están sobre los cielos.
Sea alabado el nombre del Señor,
    porque él dio una orden y todo fue creado.
Todo quedó afirmado para siempre;
    emitió un decreto que no será abolido.

(Salmo 148:1-6 NVI)

Desconozco alguna construcción similar, en la que los seres y objetos creados más potentes se entreguen a la doxología agradecida por el simple hecho de haber sido creados soberanamente. Es un acto supremo de reconfiguración, aunque no de humillación. Los cuerpos celestiales se unen a la “hueste celestial” angélica más personal, al ser ubicados firmemente en el lado creado de la bifurcación de la creación del Creador. No representan para YHWH ninguna competencia en el departamento de la soberanía. Por el contrario, lo alaban tan fuerte como cualquier otro de la multitud reunida.

El punto de la unicidad de YHWH es nuevamente traído a colación cerca de la conclusión del salmo. Tomando un lenguaje que es común tanto a Isaías como a los salmos, el poema se complace explícitamente en el dialecto monoteísta:

Alaben el nombre del Señor,
porque solo su nombre es excelso;
su esplendor está por encima de la tierra y de los cielos.

¡Él ha dado poder a su pueblo!
¡A él sea la alabanza de todos sus fieles,
de los hijos de Israel, su pueblo cercano!
¡Aleluya! ¡Alabado sea el Señor!

(Salmo 148:13-14 NVI)

Así que el monoteísmo bíblico toma forma en el contexto de la adoración. Rara vez se expresa prosaicamente o incluso teóricamente. Más bien la poesía y la alabanza reconocen el lugar único de YHWH como el único ser digno de adoración, el único poder al que todos los demás voluntariamente se inclinan, el único que se contrapone a la creación.

El aleluya, en un mundo así, se convierte en la palabra más digna. Sólo ella es capaz de ordenar a la creación con precisión. Se convierte en el contexto doxológico en el que el ser encuentra su significado.

Incluso el sol, la luna y las estrellas lo dicen, y con alegría.

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