"Solid Ground?" by Anna Gilcher

March 12, 2008


2008 Lent Bulletin (Link to "How Can this Be?" Liturgy)

“The Opening of Eyes” by David Whyte

That day I saw beneath dark clouds

the passing light over the water

and I heard the voice of the world speak out

I knew then, as I had before

life is no passing memory of what has been

nor the remaining pages in a great book

waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.

It is the vision of far off things

seen for the silence they hold.

It is the heart after years

of secret conversing

speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert

fallen to his knees before the lit bush.

It is the man throwing away his shoes

as if to enter heaven

and finding himself astonished,

opened at last,

fallen in love with solid ground.


Fallen in love with solid ground.


I’m thinking about eyes being opened, about being made to see. I’m thinking about dead bodies coming alive. I’m thinking about bones coming together, about the intimacy of healing, about the connection we have to the earth.


Prophesy to the bones…

Prophesy to the breath…

Prophesy and say… Thus says the Lord God: I will bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil.


Your own soil.

You are dust, and to dust you shall return.


Holy words.


In last week’s lesson, Jesus spat and mixed his saliva with soil to create healing mud for the blind man.


Soil. Dirt.


But when I feel dirty, I usually feel: unlovable, unacceptable.

I touched into the shame of feeling dirty recently. The shame was very strong; I was startled by its depth.


Some background –

Many of you know that we have been working on refinancing our house. After trying to decide between two different mortgage lenders, one of them a broker and the other our current lender who didn’t require an appraisal, we decided to go with the mortgage broker, “Ron,” with whom we’d started the conversation about refinancing to begin with. I sent an email to Ron after calling his co-worker, the loan officer, to say we’d chosen them, and asked him to look over the Good Faith Estimate we’d gotten from our current lender, because I wanted them to figure out how to do the closing costs in line with what our current lender had offered. Since I didn’t hear back, it seemed that they were indeed going to be able to match it, as expected.


Then the appraiser came to look at our house. It was primary election day, so there was no school, and everyone was home. I had a class in Kensington that morning, and on my way back I called George and reminded him that the appraiser was scheduled to come around noon–which I hadn’t thought to mention in the morning–it hadn’t been uppermost in my mind. He said, oh, no, the house is a mess. As indeed it was. Our vacuum cleaner was broken and there were bits of bedding from the hamster and guinea pig dotting the carpet upstairs. One member of the family was sick with “intestinal difficulties,” so the bathroom smelled. Kids had been home all morning so there were papers and toys around. There were piles of stuff on the dining room table. Etc. etc. In short, the house has rarely looked worse.


Still, I had a certain level of confidence that the appraiser would be a
ble to see past all of that, and see the beauty of the house. We were able to clean up a few things before he arrived, and we apologized for the state of things, but he didn’t seem to be perturbed.


I felt a little embarrassed, perhaps, but also had a sense of trust about it.


A week later, I got two emails, both from “Ron,” the mortgage broker. In the first, he told me that he’d only just now gotten my email asking him to look over the Good Faith Estimate from our current lender–that it had gone into a junk folder and had not even been downloaded; it was just a fluke that he’d even seen it now–a friend had tried to write to him and his email bounced back with the message “mailbox is full.” He got in touch with Ron and Ron went looking for the reason his mailbox was full and found hundreds of emails that had been put into an online junk folder, most of which were indeed junk, but one of which was my email–NOT junk.


He said, if it’s not too late, we should go ahead and take the other offer because he wouldn’t be able to match it–the closing costs would be higher.


The offer had expired Sunday evening–I’d even had an email from the other guy on Sunday telling me it wasn’t too late, I had until that evening if things didn’t work out with Ron & co. But this was now Tuesday, and it was too late.


In the other email, which he had sent just a few minutes later, he told me that he’d just heard from the appraiser who was having trouble getting the value to be anywhere near the purchase price… which basically meant that the refinancing offer was no longer valid because we’d be going down under 20% equity, which changed everything.




I found that whenever I thought about the appraisal coming back low, I consistently felt a deep sense of shame, which seemed way out of proportion to the facts of the situation. Even this Friday evening, I thought about it, and I felt myself drawn toward an abyss of shame. I thought to myself, this is something that needs attention. I can’t say, though, that I really wanted to pay attention to it. I just wanted it to go away, so I distracted myself with other things.


But that night, I woke up at 2 am, my whole body on red alert–and I could tell, lying in bed, that relief would only come by getting up and tending to this fire burning within me. I resisted, wanting it to go away and come back at a more convenient time. It was persistent, however, and I’m grateful. I felt a much greater peace sitting in my beautiful spiritual direction room, drinking ginger tea, writing, my prayer blanket wrapped around me and the candles lit.


Here is a passage from my journaling that night. Through my journaling I came to understand that I was experiencing this appraisal of the house–this container that reflects me–as really being about me.


I’m aware of two things (among others) that seem to be calling for my attention. One is a spot to the right of my heart, and bordering my heart, that feels blocked–energy not flowing there. And my right ear is slightly stopped up. Another is a persistent place of shame–drop in energy in a very specific flavor–when I think about our house not getting a good appraisal. Shame, says Judith [Roark, my therapist], is a distraction from the real, core feelings. I’m sensing it as diverting energy so that it can’t go where it’s needed–so the state persists.

Core feelings, then. It’s hard to stay with them. This feels connected to that dead/blocked place to the right of my heart.

Sadness. Core longing in my heart center for true connection–to be seen, to be received as beautiful, precious.


I am having such difficulty staying with it–it’s a deep, deep something. Linked with being unacceptable. Here I trusted that I would be received as beautiful, seen for my true beauty through the mess of life and the fear is: I wasn’t. My deepest fear, that if I don’t clean up and look good and perform well, that I am unacceptable–or that I won’t be accepted, welcomed.


The appraiser said he couldn’t get it close to the original purchase price and he wouldn’t charge. [I was grateful for his not charging, but my underlying story seems to be that he] dropped us–[we were] too disgusting/unacceptable for him to even sit with it any longer. The tears are coming / / or actually they’re not quite tears, but sobs, moans, without tears–releasing the trapped energy in that dead spot.


It’s a frozen spot.


Moaning, sobbing, retching.


Holding a rough hewn rock to that spot on my chest, that the rock may soak up some of this deep energy. That it may draw it forth.


Prophesy to the breath.


Out of the depths I cry to you, o Lord!

Out of my depths.

I am out of my depth!

I am/have been/have gotten out of my depth–need to get back in. Feeling myself flip out of the depth over and over, like when a massage therapist pushes on a knotted muscle and it flips and you’ve lost the touch that will relax that muscle and untie that knot.


DRY BONES. Valley full of bones. Mortal, can these bones live?


Prophesy to the breath!


I was amazed as I experienced shift–not full and complete shift, but shift nevertheless–by staying attentive to the core longings, the core feelings. The sadness, the fear, the longing to be seen as beautiful, as acceptable, as truly welcome. Beautiful and welcome in the midst of mess and bodily smells and dirt.


Jesus spat on the dirt, made mud, and put the mud on the blind man’s eyes. Be open!


We may fear that Lazarus stinks, but Jesus welcomes him to come out.


And Lazarus does walk out, his eyes opened, his body alive and awake–

I imagine him looking around him, and in David Whyte’s words, “finding himself astonished, opened at last, fallen in love with solid ground.”


As we enter these last two weeks of Lent, I wonder: where is the dirt?

…are we connected to solid ground?




[For offertory immediately following sermon: David Whyte CDClose to Home, track 3, “The Opening of Eyes.”]

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