Feeling of Skin

“Stars”, 1926, Maxfield Parrish

It was an early autumn morning at the retreat center and I was walking through the back meadow in the pre-dawn light. Even with the hood of my bright-blue—Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious—sweatshirt scrunched up around my neck, I felt a slight chill and shivered; my pant legs and shoes were wet from the morning dew.

The sky was clear. To the west the heavens were a dark navy and still reflected a few stars. Eastward it transitioned to a luminous blue-gray. A thin fog filtered the emerging coral light. I was reminded of the skies in Maxfield Parrish paintings.

To say that I was praying feels inaccurate, even shallow. As written by a friend, Elizabeth, the Presence feels touchable at those moments, when the world falls still and angels have time to catch their breath.

Silence is a defining portion of my life…welcomed and practiced.

I work diligently to be concise with words, and many times am confounded trying to find a language that expresses holy awe, love, and assurance. I read in Magnificat, from Fr. Donald Haggerty, that “The soul can only wait in a poverty of speech.”

This poverty was made more pronounced at the Catholic writers’ retreat this week when I was asked, more than once, what made me so joyous—jokingly teasing me about being on drugs. It felt odd to have these new friends ask where my peace came from. I thought…we are Catholics, we have Mass, Eucharist, the True Presence…it just exists.

I continued my walk through meadows and woodlands and realized that to describe the love of the Creator is like trying to describe skin. It is simply there, intimately and uniquely formed, expanding and contracting, sensitive to damage, and without it we would die.

But to write about how skin feels against the veins and tendons of my hands, or the sensation as it sets upon my cheek or toes is an awareness that words cannot describe. I am rarely conscious of it unless it is damaged. Skin is there—simply, purposefully, essentially.

This is how I experience our God and the love that envelops. I cannot tell you of its existence, but I can tell you of the sense of absence when I have damaged that relationship.

There are times—when exposed to disrespect of others, when hearing of violence, or when I am insecure or self-centered and have my feelings hurt—that the outward expression of happiness may recede. But that is an emotion and emotions change. Joy always remains—it is the very skin of God intact upon the soul.

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  • Nancy Ward

    Wonderful analogy. It reminds me of a story I heard decades ago about the little boy who was asking his Mother after prayer time to stay and comfort him until he fell asleep. She told him that God is everywhere and was with him whether he was asleep or awake. He said, Yes, but I want someone with skin!

  • Michelle

    I really like this post. It would be impossible to overstate how much God tells us about Himself through the natural world around us.

    • Margaret Rose Realy

      Thanks Michelle! I know you understand the natural world too.


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