January 6, 2018, is a cold, really cold day, and at four-thirty in the afternoon the screen on the weather station to my left indicates an outdoor temperature of – 4° and an indoor one of 63°. It’s dusk, I’m doing my dance for fun and warmth while facing west into the forest. This view, regardless of the season, always intrigues and never disappoints me.
This late afternoon, early evening I am not alone; memories and the living surround me as I dance. In front of me, wedged up against the windowsill, is my great grandfather’s seaman’s chest, the one he packed for the Atlantic crossings from Larvik, Norway to Brooklyn, New York, working journeys while he followed his “star” to a better life in America. It’s an empty but beautiful chest, a relic now filled with memories and mythical stories—reminders of my ancestry.
Beyond the window of my second story office, cautious, faintly perceptible four-legged creatures embracing the anonymity of semi-darkness forage for food while following their own star. In the clearing, tree trunks, like slim elegant architect’s writing tools, rise above the cover of newly fallen snow amidst thick pines, solid children’s “My First Ticonderoga #2” pencils.
There’s a shape, a familiar yet foreign silhouette in the woods. God, maybe? An incarnate presence or a lone white-tailed deer? It is Epiphany, Advent’s over and the Magi, three kings or wise men, have been led to the baby Jesus. People around the world are celebrating with parades of decorative floats, jugglers juggling, and an exchange of gifts; mountains and waters are blessed, worshipping fools and revelers strip and plunge into icy rivers and lakes, tasty breads and sweets are baked then shared, wines savored, toasts made, and whether in Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Mexico, Australia or the United States the star that brought the three mysterious men to that particular manger on that specific night—the entire holy, mysterious, if not wonderfully crazy event—is celebrated.
My incongruous dance, suitable only to me, has no star to follow (or so I tell myself), no purpose other than to express my soul’s yearnings, find joy and bring contentment to my soul.
That’s all I ask on this 12th Day of Christmas.
Tolstoy wrote: Everyone can feel God, but no one can truly understand God. Thus, do not attempt to understand God, but try instead to feel God’s presence within you. If you are unable to find God there, then you will never find Him. When you look inside yourself, you see what is called “your own self” or your soul. You cannot touch it or see it or understand it, but you know it is there. And this part of yourself—that which you cannot understand—is what is called God. God is both around us and inside of us—in our souls.
The dance continues, arms, legs, and body more synchronized and centered. The shapes and shadows beyond the window pane are less distant than before, almost within reach. The incarnate one or the lone deer hasn’t strayed, remaining erect and still, but now as my body persists in uninterrupted and unscripted movement, it has turned its head as if expecting another. And then there are two, now three, then four, and finally five apparitions emerging from the forest. I extend my left arm toward the window, wanting to touch and hug them, caress their heads, imagine holding out my blueberry and apple slice palm-filled hand to their mouths. Can they see my darkened form silhouetted against the hall light, my shadow stretched across the ceiling? Do they mind or care?
Pope Francis, in a celebratory Epiphany mass, urged: “…the faithful to be like the Magi, who, he said, continued to look at the sky, took risks and set out bearing gifts for Christ. If we want to find Jesus, we have to overcome our fear of taking risks, our self-satisfaction and our indolent refusal to ask anything more of life. We need to take risks simply to meet a child. Those risks are immensely worth the effort, since in finding that child, in discovering his tenderness and love, we rediscover ourselves.”
The reluctant disciple’s dance, mine, is less frenetic than before, perhaps choreographed by the unknown and unknowing, but as I watch the parade of recognizable shapes, one following the other, walking slowly, light of foot, by the trees and into open space my dance is fearless, risky and assured.
Be still my restless soul and dance.by