Sunday, November 22, 2009

Following mystery, not maps (and the elusive blue heron)

The elusive blue heron was the subject of many a story of family road trips.  My dad was a preacher, but when I think of what I learned from him in my childhood, it isn't the Sunday after Sunday of sermons and stories that comes to mind, but practical lessons about making space for mystery.

Dad was a contradictory traveler, ready to start the day of sightseeing at dawn, so as not to lose any time.  I couldn't understand the need to schedule, to wake at 5:30 which seems to go against the very definition of vacation.   He loved history, and a trek through a humid WWII submarine with a sweaty, exhausted bored teenager was a highlight for his trip.  But he also had an artist's eye, and from this, I learned the importance of getting lost in order to find the really fantastic sights to see.  To ignore the map for the longest short-cuts in the history of scenic routes.  To pull over, no matter where along the twisty coastal highway, to capture the beauty with a photo, especially a shot of the elusive blue heron.  The bird of Snavely legend.

I always imagined the herons saw him coming.  They watched the tall man unfold from the compact car, set up his tripod, hurried but paying attention to the details of the perfect shot.  Wait for it, wait for it, the heron alone on the river, tensing its muscles in preparation for flight, waiting for dad to remove the lens cap, focus the camera and Now!  The elusive blue heron bursts into flight, the photo a blur of wings and water.

After a childhood spent in the world of the American Protestant church, I have stopped attending, finding my faith outside, off the beaten path.  Stopping in the middle of the road, being aware of fleeting beauty and open to mystery does not seem a part of the current institution of church.  I'm not ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater.  But I'm not willing to settle for politics and rules that are not of love.

Mystery does not coexist well with living by the letter of the law.  Mystery is stuff of the spirit.  My faith-filled father taught me to pull over on the side of the road, absorb the beauty, and wait for the blue heron. 

(Photo: Great Blue Heron, Mal2009, Etsy)


kevin rolly said...

"Mystery does not coexist well with living by the letter of the law. Mystery is stuff of the spirit."

Sounds beautifully familiar...

2 Corinthians 3:3
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

I don't comment as often as I follow here...but follow I do

And I believe I owe you some thoughts on a much previous post...

Rebecca Snavely said...

Thanks Kevin. I appreciate knowing you're reading. And I look forward to your debt of thought being paid.