ODE TO THE DOG

 

 

One of the richest and deepest blessing poets of the 20th century is the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Poetry in 1971.  A Marxist who supported the popularly elected Communist government led by Allende, Neruda was dismayed by the violent overthrow of the government by the military led by General Pinochet, an American supported military dictator who only relinquished power in 1990.  Neruda, who had been a diplomatic representative of the Allende government,  returned to Chile after his Nobel award, but was most likely, all remains uncertain in the shadows of Pinochet and the disappearance of thousands, killed by a doctor’s injection.  But no one knows for sure.

 

His poems relish and give thanks for ordinary life.  He wrote a series of Odes, that is, poems of celebration, which are usually in the Western poetic tradition about great events and great people.  Neruda turned the Ode to celebrate the most ordinary things, like soap , the color green, a chestnut on the ground, the liver, an orange and an onion, and kindly and thankfully on.  His Odes in particular bring us into the world of praising things, the rich and peculiar and graceful things of creation, both God’s and the world’s and our own.

 

Because of my love for my puppies, Finn and Molly, who are nearly 11 years old but who are still dear puppies, one of my favorite Odes is Neruda’s  “Ode to the Dog”, translated here by Ilan Stavans from All the Odes, published by  Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2013.

 

                ODE TO THE DOG

 

The dog asks me

and I have no answer.

He jumps, scampers through the fields

and wordlessly asks me,

and his eyes

are two wet question marks, two liquid

interrogating flames,

and I’ve no answer,

no answer because

 

I don’t know, I just can’t.

 

Cross country we go

man and dog.

 

The leaves glisten as

if someone

had kissed them

one by one,

all the oranges

climb from the ground

to establish

little planetariums

in trees round

as the night, and green,

and man and dog we go

sniffing the world, parting the clover,

through the fields of Chile,

between September’s clear fingers.

The dog comes to a halt,

chases after bees,

leaps over gushing brooks,

perks up his ears at far-off

barking,

urinates on a rock,

and brings me the point of his nose,

like a gift.

It’s his tender coolness,

conveying his tenderness,

and there he asked me

with his two eyes

why it’s daytime, why night comes,

why spring brought

nothing

in its basket

for roaming dogs,

but useless flowers,

flowers, flowers, flowers.

And so the dog

asks

and I have no answer.

 

We go

man and dog together

through the green morning,

the rousing empty solitude

where only we

exist,

this unity of dew and dog,

and poet of the forest,

for the hidden bird does not exist,

nor the secret flower,

just trill and fragrance

for the two companions,

a world humid

with the essences of night,

a green tunnel and then

a meadow,

a whiff of orange-scented air,

the rustle of roots,

life walking,

breathing, growing,

and the age-old friendship,

the joy

of being man and dog

converted

into a single animal

walking along moving

six legs

and a tail

splashed with dew.

 

Before Mary Magdalene and all the other Marys and women got to the tomb on the morning of resurrection for Jesus, and before Peter or John arrived, and even before the young men/the angels arrived to spread the word of resurrection, before all of them including the drowsing soldiers at the tomb, I like to imagine a dog waiting and resting, for resting and waiting is what faith is about,  in front of the sealed tomb – and then the first to welcome Jesus into the life of the world again.

 

The dog is who Jesus needed to come back amongst us.  We always want to run away, angels and disciples and saints alike, off into Holy Land and Spirit and Heaven.  But Jesus was not resurrected to Holy Land or to lead us there.  Jesus was resurrected in flesh, back into the passing world we are alive in, and while we are all praying and trembling in a hidden room with the frightened disciples, or in an early morning Easter liturgy at church, the dog looks up into the face of Jesus and puts his nose into Jesus’ hand and licks his fingers, alive in flesh again.

 

And then off into the world they go, the dog with questions but not needing answers, needing only to wake from his long waiting, as Jesus from death, and walk together, six feet and a wagging tail again, and as they went,

 

life walking,

breathing, growing,

and the age-old friendship,

the joy

of being man and dog

converted

into a single animal

walking along moving

six legs

and a tail

splashed with dew.

 

Neruda, from his own attention to the world of ordinary people and animals and weather, fruits and things, gives to me a better imagine of what the resurrection can come to be in me than most Christian books and preachings.  Instead God and man in Jesus then rising in blessing man and dog together, all baptismally  “splashed with dew.”

 

If you have or ever had a dog I trust you know that central line in Neruda’s poem: the dog brings me the point of his nose / like a gift .  When Mary Magdalene and then the disciples all come with doubts, with questions, with all their dashed needs in the crucifixion, the dog offers sniffing near his nose as Jesus comes out of the tomb – his nose saying everything YES, and there is no question about where to go next – out into the world in spite of all its questions and disappointments.  Out into the world with Jesus.  The dog no less than we, and most likely the dog leading the way,

 

converted

into a single animal

walking along moving

six legs

and a tail

splashed with dew.

 

The Marxist Neruda imagines for us a conversion “into a single animal”, a single flesh, people and dogs, but then also Jews and Muslims and Christians, no less than dogs and trees, squirrels and birds….but as to cats, well, that’s one of the dog’s unanswered questions.  Poetry offers this discovery how in all our differences we might find ourselves converted into company and metaphor coupled and shadowed, “splashed with dew.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Week's News

Next Week’s News: September 25 – October 1

This blog post highlights some events and news just for the upcoming week. The primary source of information about what’s happening at Grace Church is our weekly newsletter – for full news and events please subscribe to the e-vangelist!

Sunday Forum

gallagherWhat does a monk eat for breakfast on a Sunday morning? Coffee and danish if he’s at Grace Church! Join the adult forum this Sunday, September 25 at 9:30 AM in the parish hall to meet a monk, Br. Michael Gallagher!

Br. Michael is a Roman Catholic Benedictine monk at Holy Cross Monastery in Beaumont, Texas. He is also assistant director of Holy Family Retreat Center in Beaumont. He gives retreats, talks and spiritual direction at the Monastery and Retreat Center and in the wider community, as well as workshops on music, prayer, lectio divina and Benedictine life and spirituality.

Michael has degrees in music from Penn and law from Villanova. He practiced law in Philadelphia and New York from 1978 to 1988. He entered Mount Saviour Monastery in New York in 1988. In 1998 Michael went to Texas to co-found Holy Cross Monastery.

Br. Michael is coming to share and have conversation about living in community. Join us for this conversation that promises to deepen our understanding of God in community. from the Holy Cross Monastery, Order of Saint Benedict. Ask more weird questions, build on what you know about how Grace Church is a living, breathing, holy community, and connect so simply and in a real way to the monastic idea of preferring nothing over the work of God.

Br. Michael will also join us at the 10:45 AM worship to be present for The Community of Hope recommissioning. Please welcome him and introduce yourself!

many_hands_filter_wordsTogether… as One

During worship on Sunday, September 25, Mary Margaret Calvert, Executive Director of Our Neighbor, and Scarlet Pendarvis, a parishioner whose family has deep connections with Our Neighbor, will share their thoughts on how the Grace Community can share in community ministry partnerships. By having Our Neighbor share their reflection, we want to highlight all the community ministries Grace participates in!

By taking the opportunity to hear from Mary Margaret and Scarlet we want to foster a conversation where we see that we don’t “give to the Church.” Rather, we ARE the Church. We are the Body of Christ, called to share of ourselves and embody Christ’s love in the world around us.

Link » Together… as One

Food Pantry

Our next food pantry rotation is coming soon. On Sunday, September 25 you will be asked to take empty bags home and return them to the church by Thursday, October 6 with requested items. Needed for the upcoming rotation are grape jelly, bath soap, cereal, and laundry detergent (42-46 oz). Your support of the Food Pantry is appreciated!

Women’s Bible Study

The Women’s Bible Study will meet on Sunday, September 25. Join us at 4:30 PM in the Parish Hall.

Sacred Roots Farm

sacredrootsfarm2Please join us at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, September 28, following our Wednesday night supper, for a special program. Our speaker will be Sam Haupt, executive director of Sacred Roots Farm. Sacred Roots Farm is an ecumenical initiative designed to serve the needs of women (and often children) who are escaping sex trafficking. Presently, there is nowhere for these women to go for the long-term residential counseling and rehabilitation that is necessary for them to begin the long process of healing and restoration.

For more information on this project, including how you can become involved in this worthy mission, connect at: www.sacredrootsfarm.org or contact Dr. Park at 770-536-0126 or Cynthia@gracechurchgainesville.org.

Wednesday Night at Grace

Dinner Come eat dinner together at Grace on Wednesday, September 28 at 5:30 PM! Meal and nursery/childcare reservations are due by noon on Monday, September 26. Sign up online, at the information station, or call the church office. Full details, and policies on our website.

  • Menu: Baked Tilapia, Rice Pilaf, Green Beans, Rolls, Salad, Lemon Bars
  • Vegetarian Entree: Cheese Tortellini in Marinara Sauce
  • Children: 1/2 portion regular menu or PBJ, Cookies

Sacred Roots Farm At 6:30 PM, following dinner, we will learn about Sacred Roots Farm. see article above

Meetings/Conversations If your committee/ministry group would like to schedule a meeting at 6:30 PM following the meal, contact Jennifer or fill out the online facility use request form to reserve a room.

Children A nursery (age 4 and under) and childcare (PreK-5th grade) will be offered on September 28 from 5:00-9:00 PM. Reservations are necessary and should be made on the same form as meal reservations.

Youth Youth (grades 6-12) now meet on Wednesday nights for fellowship and fun! We gather for dinner in the Parish Hall (reservations required!) at 5:30 PM and then continue in the Youth Room until 8:00 PM.

Creative Expression Movie Night

The Grace Church Creative Expressions Cluster is kicking off a quarterly Movie Night. We hope you will join us for the very first one on Thursday, September 29! See the bulletin board at church or Friday morning’s newsletter to see what’s showing.  Doors open at 6:30 PM. Movie begins at 7:00 PM. Please feel free to bring a friend and snacks and/or drinks of your choosing. Popcorn will be provided.

Flush Away Cancer

COG’s Flush Away Cancer fundraiser will continue through the end of September in honor of the two children in our preschool who have been diagnosed with cancer. Visit the COG website to learn how to help or what to do if the purple potty appears in your yard.

20s & 30s Young Adult News

Register for CanoeCharist Now Paddling + Eucharist = Canoecharist. Everything you thought “CanoeCharist” could be and more. We’re working with LCKC to have an amazing morning on the water of fellowship and worship on October 15. More details to come. Cost of $20 per person covers canoe/kayak rentals. Register at this link.

boats-1350876_1920rev

Grief Recovery Group Now Forming

Grief is the normal and natural response to a loss of any kind: death, divorce, job changes, lifestyle changes and more. But it saps our energy and limits our capacity for happiness. Come learn practices to help you recover, using the Grief Recovery Method-an eight week course designed to help you move beyond loss. The group will meet weekly for eight weeks at Grace, beginning the week of October 17 (time TBD), and will be facilitated by Cheryl Kelley. Contact Cheryl for more information.

Youth News

Sign Up to Help with Blessing of Animals Love animals? Come hang out with our furry friends at the Blessing of Animals on Sunday afternoon, October 2 at 4:00 PM. Youth are invited to help in many ways that day, from receiving pet food donations to visiting with pets of all kinds. Let us know if you want to help that day at this link or talk to Father Alan or Jane Bradley.

Young Harris College All High School students are invited to visit Young Harris College for a morning trip on November 5. Get on campus at a local college, eat in the dining hall, see what it will be like to visit a school. You don’t have to want to go to Young Harris to check this out. Take your first campus visit with your friends from Grace! Parents encouraged to attend as well. More info in the Youth Newsletter.

Middle School & High School Retreats There are two retreats this Fall for different ages! Love Camp Mikell? Want to have a weekend with youth your own age? Sign up for Happening (9th-12th grades) November 11-13 or New Beginnings (6th-9th grades) October 7-9. Cost is $100 for each. Scholarships are available. These programs are designed and led by youth! Register for New Beginnings, October 7-9 here: https://goo.gl/qqQS2P Let Father Alan or an adult youth leader know if you are interested (or if you have registered).

RSVP for Family Outing

You are invited to join us at Jaemor Farms, Sunday, October 2 from 1:00 – 3:00 PM for a time of fellowship and fun! We’ll enjoy the “Jurassic Jaemor” corn maze, the apple cannon, farm slide, hayride, skeeball, duck races and more! Cost is $12 per person. The farmers market will also be open. Please contact Cheryl to rsvp and for more information.