Nearly fifty years—during the years of psychedelic painting—a friend showed me a print of a dense, deep, almost black green, fir-tree forest against the broad sweep of a turquoise sky. A path of pink splotches wended through the trees.
A poem by St. John of the Cross was painted in calligraphy across the sky, among the trees, and along the path. The print and the poem have remained in my mind’s eye and my heart all these years.
The poet, known today as a mystic, was born in Spain in 1542. He studied with the Jesuits—esteemed teachers then and now. At twenty-one, John entered the Carmelites, a contemplative monastic order. A few years later he tried to reform the order, considering it too lax. When that attempt failed, he and several other men established a strict monastic society in a farmhouse.
Because of this, he aroused the animosity of the first Carmelite order he’d entered. This resulted in his imprisonment, during which he wrote the poetry for which he became famous. The poem I’m quoting to you today came from those lonely years of captivity. The “he” of the stanza is, I think, Jesus of Nazareth, whom I think of as Yeshua—his Jewish name.
Pouring out a thousand graces,
he passed these groves in haste;
and having looked at them,
with his image alone,
clothed them in beauty.
That treasured poem and the rugs in my house brought equilibrium to me this past week. Here’s how that happened: Because of the possibility of falling after I left the hospital on March 23, the rehab department asked me to clear my carpet of any throw rugs, furniture, or boxes that might hamper my walking. “Get rid of anything that could trip you,” I was told.
I’ve always liked wall-to-wall carpeting, but I enjoy having thick, Persian-like, throw rugs scattered here and there on the carpet—in the hallways, under the tables, by the bed. So when my eldest niece brought me home she rolled up ten throw rugs and stacked them on a large table in the garage.
That same afternoon, she took from my cabinets, storage areas, and pantry any food items, pans, or dishes I might need and placed them on the extended counter and the round table in my kitchen. Having everything at waist level would keep me from bending and twisting, which was a no-no for the next several weeks.
I hope you are getting the picture: clutter, clutter, clutter on every table top and counter, and no lovely rugs on the carpet. The poem comes in here. Ever since learning the poem and seeing the print, I’ve thought of throw rugs as the bright blotches of color in the forest through which Yeshua walked, strewing beauty in his midst. Those Persian-like rugs were my path through the forest of my home. They were a path of beauty on which I sought to walk with grace.
Last week I wrote of physical and emotional imbalance. This past week a sudden realization came to me: I was partly imbalanced because my home didn’t seem like mine anymore: All that clutter on the counters and tabletops. No path of beauty on the floor.
My home seemed stripped of who I am and try to be.
Thus it was that two friends came, put down all the rugs, put away the canned good, pans, and dishes and left me with a home that breathed contentment: Space. Beauty. Balance.
So today I’m posting in a much better frame of being than has been represented by my past three postings. Equilibrium has come to my life. I feel as if I truly have come home to myself.
Life is good. Peace.