When I travel, a list often accompanies me–things to pack, things to see, tastes to try, people to meet. On this last trip, our cry often went up, “We can check this off our list!” However, in the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, there was a room of paintings of doorways of all kinds, and not far from it, these words: “Invitations on the Journey.” I right then re-framed my pilgrimage from a check list of accomplishments to a noticing and gathering of doors, invitations–to taste, to see, to listen, to touch, to breathe and to enter into the goodness of the Holy One. It is the question I often ask when I sit with friends in spiritual direction: “What is the invitation in this part of the journey?”
I recall the divine messenger in the book of Revelation saying to the the church in Philadelphia, a community that was not powerful, only faithful, “Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one shall be able to shut!” (3:8). I wonder how often on my journey, I miss the open doors, the invitations that are there for me–strong, clear, unmistakeable–for delight and praise, for compassion, for empathy, for participating in God’s healing in the world.
On adventures into beauty such I as I have been able to take this past year, there is an emphatic invitation to that first response in the life of a faithful seeker, a call to gratitude! Despite all humankind has done and continues to do to be carelessly destructive with the resources of creation, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” as poet Gerard Manley Hopkins says. In rock formation, in color and shading of turning leaves, in striation of rocks, in the shaping and re-shaping of formations of clouds, in palpable stillness, in the vast motions of tide and swell of great bodies of water, “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things…” the poet says, and the invitation is right in front of my eyes to praise, to give thanks for that grandeur and mystery.
God’s grandeur is easily observed in the lives and creations of humans and animals. Look at that hummingbird’s nest and the relocated beaver’s dam! Each of them invites a song of delight and gladness to the Creator, Whose ingenuity is implanted in these creatures, small and great. Artisans of all shapes and sizes carve, paint and sculpt, sing and dance in what seems like an infinite variety of hue and tone. How can I keep from singing? And that grandeur is equally evident in the imagination and ingenuity of human artists. From the glass blower Dale Chihuly to the Navajo storyteller crafts maker to Georgia O’Keefe and Judy Chicago to painters of retablos and sculptors of bultos, the artist is telling the glory of God with her diversity, skill and wisdom, leading me to see what I have never seen before, nor even imagined. I am led to gratitude for the imagination in the eye and heart of the Creator, manifest in the eyes and hands of art maker.
Moreover, I am grateful for the Grace of senses that allow me to partake in this manifestation of the Holy. Right now I am able to see with clear eyes (though assisted by glasses!). I am able to smell the pungent aroma of lavender for the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm. I am able to taste the texture of hot sopapillas and the honey that fills them. I can feel the softness of wool sewn into beautiful and practical garments, and I can hear the sound of the ocarina and pan-flute evoking the Mystery in all of creation. How glad I am to have been given the senses for each of these holy things that I have encountered.
The invitation prompts me to ask: what deserves my gratitude in my “ordinary” life at home? To whom and what is the Spirit directing my attention for thanks? I can barely begin to count the ways, yet I must. That is the first invitation from my journey, not to store up my thankful heart for the special journeys, but to walk through that open door of gratitude with praise every day–first thing, over and over, all the days of my life!
I am grateful for the journeys; I am grateful for the home places. More invitations await!