We are not left unchanged by 2020. It was a year that caused us to confront who we are (and whose we are) individually, as a community, as a nation and as a global people. In this hard season, nothing has been more sustaining, for me at least, than the prayerful practices of art, poetry, music and nature. These disciplines can hold our sorrow, rage, and hot exasperation at injustice, our tenderness, kindness, and persuasive love and any other kind of human emotion that needs a place to land. They are all embodied practices: they reach out beyond our digitally stitched-together lives, mending us, healing us, and nourishing us. We need these embodied practices to draw us into the present moment and punctuate the now in a way that makes us stop and pay attention. Yet somehow, digging deep into art, poetry, music and nature also connects me to the history of courageous life-travelers who have suffered hard days long past and made a way through. We need both to carve out a future: the storied past and the anchored now.
So, a 2021 winter devotional is ahead, one exploring art, poetry, music and nature. Because I miss wandering the halls of our Art Institute, expect to find reflections on art typically housed there, and at other favorite art museums. Because Phyllis Cole-Dai’s collection of mindfulness poetry has influenced my spiritual life for almost a decade, expect to find snow-tinged poetry that shows us, as Cole-Dai says, “how to be more present in the living of our lives…exquisite lessons in being here.” Because Lisa Bond and her team of musicians have created a stunning digital archive of music in 2020, expect to find our own KUC choirs highlighted regularly. And, because the Botanic Garden, the lakefront, and Harms Woods Forest Preserve were balm and blessing to me in our socially-distant 2020, expect to hear reflections on the way the texture of winter is made known in the woods and waterways of Illinois.
Daily, I seek to walk around inside the blessing of this moment. Some days, the blessing is hard to find. Sometimes within the moment, there is darkness. Blessing is an art adjacent to what Billy Collins says about poetry in Introduction to Poetry, we “walk inside the poem’s rooms and feel the walls for a lightswitch.” I hope that “A Blessing to Walk Around In: Art, Poetry, Music and Nature for the New Year” will be a way for you, and for us, to turn on the lightswitch of blessing in 2021, seeking God eagerly as the year unfolds.
As we release 2020 and enter 2021, may there be blessing, O God, and embodied hope. Amen.