Paul Jesse Baird
Abode Of The Great Spirit
Poem by Paul Jesse Baird
I am writing in Armstrong Redwood Grove along the Russian River in Northern California.
The box canyon in which this ancient grove lies is a place of mystery.
The indians came into it fearfully, for it seemed to them to be a place of spirits,
Of the Great Spirit.
They seldom came at all, and were awed by it's ponderous silence and deep shade,
As I am now.
The sun journeys far in breaking thourgh to the clover and fern on the forest floor.
A bird-call from high shadows echoes as through a sound tunnel,
For the deep needles and rotting chips cushion the cathedral sound
And send it ricocheting three hundred feet in the air.
"Down in the forest something stirred,
It was only the note of a bird...."
A note to pass unnoticed against the hard acoustics of the highway
that races along the river outside.
But here in the cushioned silence it is a momentary requiem,
A flute interlude,
A piquant overtone to the soughing wind in the giants.
Light and shade, highlight and shadow...
And the Great Spirit.
I can think of two other places where I can worship God like this:
Amid the mellow desk-tops down a side aisle of the old National
Library in Mexico City;
That sanctuary was once a cathedral; but by the simple device of
Removing the crucifix and filling the building with tomes,
It has become a cathedral of learning;
And at night, sometimes, the National Symphony and Chorus sing
Verdi and Bach under the great dome
And it is easy to worship God there.
I think also of the turn in the road at Cypress Point
On the Monterey Peninsula
Where often I have listened to the wind,
And seen the cormorants fly, and have sung into the sky.
Two ocean currents come together there from out of the Pacific
And Indians have worshipped there...
Abode of the Great Spirit.
Just now I become aware of two couples eating in silence
At the base of a Redwood.
They have come, as I have, to listen to the hush and be fed,
And to pray - before going out into the noise again.
This is a good place to ponder what we are about in Christian
Worship, these days of the Twentieth Century Revolution.
In another Time between the Times...
The Revolution before the coming of the Massiah,
Men sought out the caves and silences near the Dead Sea
Where they practiced rites of cleansing and meditation;
Waiting in those times, too, when it seemed the gods were dead,
To see what new light would break on the world's fearful darkness.
Then and now people seem to have lost their souls,
And are sick because of it.
And their young people are called "children of yearning."
What the church has lost for a time is what was historically
Called "the Cure of Souls."
Cure means care, integral liberation, health,
And enrichment of souls;
It means mutual care, since every Christian is part of the
"Priesthood of all Believers."
"We abandon ourselves to the will and love of God,
and feel ourselves divinely known and forgiven."
The chill winds have come with the fog in late afternoon.
My companions at the base of the Redwood are fed and are gone.
The sun lingers a little longer in the tops of the Redwoods.
The night comes again.
But having been here in the place where the Creator is at work,
I shall remember more easily out there the words of the Psalmist:
"The day goeth away,
For the shadows of the evening are stretched out.
But it shall come to pass
That at evening time it shall be light.'
And the words of Jesus:
"The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers
Shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth;
For the Father seeketh such to worship Him.
God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him
Must worhsip Him in spirit and in truth."
"O come, let us worhsip and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God.
And we make the people of His pasture
And the sheep of His hand."
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