The mornings are dark when I slip outside now, reminding me that the days are folding in on themselves and my world is starting to lean her tilt away from the sun—turning her cheek demurely from its warmth. But one would never know this by what the thermometer tells; the mercury climbs high as I step into darkness. The air is dense and etches the windows with heavy spoors, clings to my hair in weighty drops.
I ghost through this mist, past the water reservoir where the nitid fog gathers in the low and the geese are silhouettes gliding on shimmer. I imagine the long-legged heron is Ezra on his high wooden platform and we have gathered by the Water Gate to hear. The geese are restless and their honking echoes across the water. The heron rises out of the pool when I draw near and trails his ballerina legs behind him as he flies away. Was Ezra ever so beautiful in his priestly garments?
These geese have no respect. They honk until daybreak and seem like Eutychus to me. No wonder Ezra was skittish. But I’m no better. I trudge on by, up the hill and ascend out of the white mist. But I am thinking about hospitality and the Festival of Booths and saying goodbye.
It is week twelve. When I began this journey I had no idea where it would take me. I am well-traveled now, though feeling sorrowed to say goodbye to the book. It has been a good friend.
Ah, but Nehemiah says, this day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.
So I shall not. I shall celebrate instead.
But hospitality demands I think of home and what it means and in the end it’s something totally different than it seems.
What is the nature of home? Partly it’s a place where we feel we have something in common with people—in other words where we experience communion. (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard).
Our home was rent in two. Into three, really, because home was at mom’s sometimes. At dad’s others. But mostly home was wherever we were when my siblings and I were back together again.
Yet this place did not have a sense of place.
In the tall crawlspace under mom’s decrepit house in town. Up the Indian Road at dad’s. Walking the streets of the city at night. On the log of a fat fallen tree in the woods.
Wherever we were together, it felt like home. At least until we were hardly ever together. And then, with a mother and father who were emotionally unavailable, and a herd of kids who were trying to take care of themselves…then we were homeless.
So I let my mind settle as the stars give way to the dawn spilling over the horizon. And I remember the simple one level home we had, with the in-floor furnace in the hall between the boys’ bedroom and ours (how many times did we all get branded with grill marks in failed attempts to jump that metal grate?) and I remember the apple tree in the field and the garter snakes we used to catch and keep in shoeboxes and the amazing buried marble treasure we found when we dug in the dirt up by the chicken coop (where did those things come from? We found enough to fill a Quaker Oatmeal cylinder…shooters and all) and riding our neighbor’s ponies on hot summer days and…
and I know that was home.
Any sense of hospitality I have is rooted in my memory of how it felt to be held and loved in those few short years before we fell into disarray. The place where every part of me belonged—the good and the not-so-good.
I like how the ancient biblical festivals build a communion-based hospitality into their structures—especially the trilogy of harvest festivals, which invite everything to the table: suffering, triumph, sorrow, joy, struggle, comfort, ugliness, beauty, emptiness, plenty, separation, community, death, and life. (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard).
See, these are the things I bring to the table. And God says, bring it all. And He invites me in to this divine relationship He has with Himself and He says, hey, I want to stay here with you, ok?
And this is home.
Wherever He is—this is home.
And I understand why this deliberate approach to spending time noticing Him–an hour a day for a year, in His Creation—in this world He made for us—would drive the point of His gracious hospitality home.
All this for me, Lord? For us?
And it models for us how we should be with each other.
When I started feeling more like God’s Beloved throughout my year of daily solitude, existence seemed to become a kind of festival, welcoming all manner of emotions, the light and the heavy. Strange things started to happen. I found myself feeling more connected to people…I began to want to know strangers’ names—I bought a silver bracelet one day and had to know that Tonya had sold it to me; it was important that Jose was my driver to the airport. I had the urge to embrace people and forgive things. (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard).
True hospitality means inviting people into our lives.
The sun is creeping and I’m nearing the end and part of me doesn’t want to stop. So I think of Ezra. I remember how the people celebrated that first Sukkot in Jerusalem after Babylonian captivity.
…From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was great. (Neh. 8:17b)
They knew where Home was.
And their joy was great.
May it be so for you as well.
This was written in response to Week 12 of L.L. Barkat’s book God in the Yard: spiritual practice for the rest of us. Read my journey in its entirety in the following posts. Thank you for joining me. How about taking your own pilgrimage?
Related: Dream Girl
Week One: Finding God…In the Yard?
Week Two: Parachute
Week Three: On Contemplation
Week Four: Celebration
Week Five: Sky Stories
Week Six: Lament
Week Seven: Hide
Week Eight: Sabbath Joy
Week Nine: Silence
Week Ten: The Bridge
Week Eleven: Chameleon