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The Place I Want To Get Back To

posted Feb 8, 2019, 9:33 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Greetings of peace on this wet, chilly day in New Jersey.


As I awoke this morning, I had no idea what I was going to write to you. ‘I got nothing,’ I thought.


Little had necessarily inspired me this week. My focus was my concern for some in our congregation who are in need of physical and emotional healing. And my head was more in my sermon writing than in taking the time to listen and observe God’s holy hauntings for my Friday email. 


But, as God would have it, while waiting for my car to be repaired, I scanned Facebook, and read a poem posted by one of my colleagues called “The Place I Want To Get Back To” by the recently deceased Mary Oliver.


The Place I Want To Get Back To

is where

in the pinewoods

in the moments between

the darkness

and first light

two deer

came walking down the hill

and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,

this one is okay,

let’s see who she is

and why she is sitting

on the ground like that,

so quiet, as if

asleep, or in a dream,

but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came

on their slender legs

and gazed upon me

not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look

and look and look

into the faces of the flowers;

and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life

bring to me that could exceed

that brief moment?

For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,

not waiting, exactly, just lingering.

Such gifts, bestowed,

can’t be repeated.

If you want to talk about this

come to visit. I live in the house

near the corner, which I have named

Gratitude. 


After reading it, I felt like she had witnessed a snippet of my life with the creatures of Olivia’s Forest. For just this week, I found myself grudgingly going out to feed them. It was early; it was cold; I was still sleepy; I had just settled in to have my morning coffee, and there stood the herd and the outside cats looking in the window, waiting expectantly. And not only expectantly, but they were also waiting patiently, because they were assured I would come out as I do every morning. Putting on my coat, out I went, and as I filled their troughs and bowls, I called to them by name. As they walked up to me, I forgot my previous tiredness and ignored the chill in the air.


Oliver’s words were a reminder of the joy these animals give me in a frenetic world: peaceful beings reflective of God’s presence, even if it's cold, dark, and I'm weary. This was the nudge I needed to make sure I do take the time to listen and observe, for sometimes we are offered unexpected gifts from God that are simply never repeatable. Those gifts become a holy touchstone for us when our lives become untethered or distracting. It is then we can look back on those moments with a gratitude that will ground us once again. 


Oliver’s poem was my gift this morning from the Spirit. I wonder, what gift — unrepeatable, unexpected, holy — will God bestow on you in the coming days? Look for the holy . . . it’s always humming around us, beckoning us to get back to the place we need to be.


In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish

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