all that rings true, all that commands reverence, and all that makes for right;
all that is pure, all that is lovely, all that is gracious in the telling…
let this be the argument of your thoughts.
~ Philippians 4.8 (Knox Bible)
Two evenings and one afternoon of late have been communion for me, eating and drinking from the altar of the world. Take from them what you will, dear reader. I trust you’ll find an ace that you can keep.
At the invitation of some of his friends, Kent Haruf traveled to Monument, Colorado and spoke at our local bookstore. Haruf has written books with such titles as Plainsong, Eventide, and his most recent Benediction. His fictional town of Holt, Colorado has become a sort of everytown – a place where trouble happens and people respond to it.
In Benediction the local minister, Lyle, is out walking around town in the evening, looking in the windows of the houses at the end of town. He pauses so long before one window that the homeowner calls the police to complain. That evening Haruf read this excerpt of the conversation that ensues between the arriving officer and minister:
What did he say?
That you were looking in his house.
Did he say what he was doing in his house?
Why would he do that?
People in their houses at night. These ordinary lives. Passing without their knowing it. I’d hoped to recapture something.
The officer stared at him.
The precious ordinary.
A good friend and I drove up to Denver to hear Pam Houston speak. I’ve not read all of Houston’s work but I’ve read enough to know she practices blood-writing, writing built on candor, the only kind of writing I care about. She read aloud from her latest collection – Contents May Have Shifted. I enjoyed hearing her voice. In one passage she described walking with a group of six of the best women she knows, women who have in common a love of the world so fierce it makes us edgy. That line caused me to think of Haruf’s precious ordinary.
But while I enjoyed hearing her read what I enjoyed even more was hearing Houston witness to her life and the abiding sense of providence she carries. She never used the words God or Jesus, but simply confessed: I’m being looked after.
I said Look, summer snow. The air was choked with cottonwood fluff falling like desiccated flakes of snow. My wife and daughters raised their eyes for a moment then went back to enjoying their frozen yogurt and talking as girls do. But I kept on staring. I’ve always found something fundamentally affirming about cottonwood fluff on the wind. Quirky I know, but true. I whispered thank you, finished my yogurt, and returned to the voices of my wife and daughters, to all that is.