Grace and gift

The rain sleets down, drawing out the yellow of the squash blossoms, a terrestrial sun. Bees crawl in their satiny cavern, emerge and then flit to the calm blue of the borage.

Rain is a gift — something that the planet herself, or the Gods, or however you see it, must grant to us. We cannot take it, although we can store its bounty in reservoirs and glass bottles. Rain, too, can be a curse, bursting through walls and levies, sweeping away the semblance and accouterments of our normally-imagined life. Then, too, it is something given. This isn’t to conceal mankind’s role in climate change, mind you, but merely a reflection of the vastness of planetary pattern in contrast to the smallness of our mammal selves and cares.

I’m thinking today of  friend’s musing on grace, and spiritual flatness. Grace — whether of the Gods, the ancestors or nature spirits, or the common concept of Yahweh — is like the rain. The word means favor, and is connected with an Indo-European root meaning “praise.” From what I understand of Christianity (albeit as a lifelong outsider), it cannot be asked for, given or earned.

As such, grace has always seemed to me an unjust thing, a poor means of enlightenment, a poor demonstration of love. I feel the favor and love of the Gods, but I try to lavish them with praise and attention. I offer prayers of gratitude and blessing during the most common of circumstances — seeing a bird, or light striking a telephone pole in a particularly interesting way, or reaching the end of my destination without the Malibu going up in a ball of flame. Like any individual, I can be an ungrateful sot at times, particularly when it comes to my fellow primates. There have been some occasions — thankfully rare — that I haven’t been appropriately grateful to the Gods. But overall, I do my best to give forth blessing for any I have received, even if it’s only warm words and kind thoughts.

And perhaps this is why I don’t think grace is unearned. Grace and gratitude come from the same root: the Latin gratus, or pleasing. When you say a word of blessing to the passing bird, the unkempt stranger, the slant of light or the listening spirit, you are offering your grace; it’s not a one-way street, some pipeline from the Gods to us. And when you offer gratitude to the spirits, other creatures, the universe for the blessings given — especially the blessing of their existence, and not what they’re doing for you, per se — you feed the flow of grace.

I’ve had my dark nights of the soul(s), so to speak, the sense of disconnection from society at large, my essential pessimism about humanity’s future. But I’ve never felt forsaken by the Gods, not even when I was a little girl making spontaneous offerings to the spirits at Woodland Park down the street. Forsaken by humanity — sure, been there, down that, got a whole wardrobe of t-shirts. But I’ve never had a sense of being alone in the universe; the Gods are there and listening, even if they can’t or won’t offer ready-made solutions or pat answers.

Sometimes, I’m closer to the heart of things than others; my sense of connection with particular deities can shift and waver. I think, however, that the sense of grace as gift —  gift I share and not only passively accept — fosters that spiritual connection. I am more than a beggar, giving my sob story to the spirits so they can give me their alms.

This isn’t, I must emphasize, addressed toward my friend, who is one of the most spiritual and thoughtful people I know. I’m just making sense of things.

One of my favorite poems — undoubtedly posted before, and now posted here again, is Mary Oliver’s “Mockingbirds.” It tells the ancient Greek story of Baucis and Philemon, an elderly couple visited by the Gods. Although they have little by way of possessions, they offer what they have gratefully to the strangers — and ask for nothing in return other than the sense of connection, of presence. I have it posted on our fridge.


Mercury and Jupiter in the House of Philemon and Baucis by Jacob van Oost, the Elder


This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing

the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing

better to do
than listen.
I mean this

In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door

to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,

but gods.
It is my favorite story–
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give

but their willingness
to be attentive–
but for this alone
the gods loved them

and blessed them–
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water

from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,

and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down–
but still they asked for nothing

but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.

Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning–
whatever it was I said

I would be doing–
I was standing
at the edge of the field–
I was hurrying

through my own soul,
opening its dark doors–
I was leaning out;
I was listening.


About whitecatgrove

The musings of a Druid priestess, singer, poet and musician in Upstate New York.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s