Wild and precious
“What is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver wrote this question as the closing line in the poem The Summer Day
Most days I answer this question by finding time for swapping stories with strangers until they become friends. At ConnexionTacoma we call these meetings one:one. We sometimes drink coffee or beer. We linger for about an hour to talk about our dreams, fears, hopes.
That is how I met Danica.
My kid went to preschool with Danica Miller’s kids. But I think our souls had met long before that. I knew a little about the vitally important work she does as a professor at the University of Washington to preserve Lushootseed language, culture. You can read about her here: https://www.tacoma.uw.edu/sias/news/shs/lushootseed/miller
She asked how she could help with The Wolves so I asked her if she would help us with a Summer Smudge. This sacred practice makes use of local sage and cedar. We light the dried greens on fire and the smoke fills the spaces in homes and lungs to enliven, awaken, and purify. There is much to it that can only be taught through experience so I won't fill your head with words about it now. I will ask, however that you reflect on your own understanding of smoke before you attend so you will know what biases you're bringing with you into what may be a new experience.
In the Christian tradition we have long used incense in our liturgy to remind us of the invisible and comforting presence of the Divine. We breathe in and out in meditations and contemplations. We teach that God breathes into and around us the Ruah, the breath of the Holy Spirit. We tell stories of following pillars of smoke when we’re lost in the desert. We recall the burnt offerings that sent a scent of our sacrifice- a way of letting go of what we thought was ours- to God. Those of us who identify as Christians may enter into the practice of Smudging as guests, offering our love for the abiding beauty of rituals that guide, cleanse and keep us humble.
We can honor what we know about each other and what we don’t. We hope to honor what we have learned about our ancient stories and practices by adapting the Summer Smudge to meet the needs of the souls that requested it, lead it and attend it. Imagine my excitement when I realized this summer smudge will not be rude appropriation. It will be a Latina Pastor and Puyallup Professor sharing the journey.
Danica is teaching me that I cannot afford to wait until I find the perfect way to enter into the stream of new experiences. I can walk humbly, do justice and love mercy only if I turn down the volume on the voices that remind me of my imperfections.
Danica is one of many partners who share in the beautiful work of intercultural spiritual formation. It will be what it will be: humble, just, merciful. It will not be perfect. It will be a wild and precious pillar of smoke, a signal and a song that is breathing in, letting go, wrapping us in its cleansing scent and guiding us as we go into a great green growing season.