Tag Archives: Spirituality

Prayer

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Prayer Rock by Laura Baker

Prayer has never come easy for me.  I avoid it, put it off, wander in my thoughts, cut it short.  Yet, I pray every day, because I have been told to, all my life.  It’s what I should do, they said.  I also pray because I want to believe that someone is listening and caring and responding.  But really I pray because I cannot deny a subtle, loving presence that abides and sustains when I am prayerful.  Prayerful through formal kneeling prayers as well as daily mindfulness.

For a family activity, we had each child choose a special rock from our faux riverbed, a rock to paint.  Laura (now 20) painted this rock when she was a young girl.  She gave it to me: a present for dad.  I keep it on my nightstand where I see it every morning and every night.  I call it my prayer rock.  I reminds me to bend my knee and bow my head, in humility, in gratitude, in desperate supplication, in recognition of the divine.

I offer to you two short poems on prayer.  Fitful, imperfect, but sincere prayer.

YES, I PRAY

Do you pray morning and night? they asked.

I wondered, Do I?

I pray all the day long.
My life is a prayer.
Living is a prayer–
a sacred expression of dreams, frustrations, loves, and straining efforts;
a reaching out to the One who can reveal the mysteries hidden deep within;
a cry of faith and despair, of struggle and the hope of victory;
an ever truer reconciliation of heaven and earth.

Yes, I pray.

ENDURING

Father–
I am here, and
I am listening.

The Dance

Rabbit Lane-Laura

My family’s favorite event of the year is Tooele’s Festival of the Old West, combining a gem and mineral show, a mountain man rendezvous, and an Indian pow-wow.  I give the children a small allowance, and they bring some money of their own, to buy polished rocks or beads, a bag of marbles or a medicine pouch, a rubber-band gun or second-hand knife, and always a homemade cream soda and fry bread.  “Fire in the hole!” precedes the boom of the real cannon that blasts arm-loads of candy for children to scamper at.  Men and women walk around in period clothing–my kids always chuckle at the man with the deer-skin breaches not quite concealing his butt-cheeks.  And then the drum beats begin, and the chanting.  The Native Americans have begun their dance competition.  Exiting the back door of the gem and mineral show one year, we saw a young American Indian man dressing in his fancy regalia in preparation for the competition.  His father helped him with the clasps and ties that held in place the flowing regalia, which abounded with feathers and shells and bells.  I wrote this poem to express my overwhelming impressions of this boy connecting powerfully with his peoples’ at once glorious and painful past, with his attenuated but clinging culture, and with the spiritual reality of his ancestors.  (This poem relates to Chapter 7: Turtle Lodge on the Rabbit Lane: Memoir page of this blog, and also to the poem House of Offering on the Rabbit Lane: Poems page of this blog.)

THE DANCE

Shell open.  Tailgate down.
A boy,
in bright-beaded leathers,
in spirit feathers,
preparing,
for the dance.
Father inspected, breathing deep:
satisfied and proud;
unspeaking:
You are ready.

The drum beats the hour,
the moment,
of the dance;
a summons:
compelling
the movement of feet
pressing the ground in
a rhythmic communion
of flesh and earth,
of spirits;
compelling
the movement of arms and wings,
like the offering
ascending
in red birch smoke.
Earth and sky recede.
Light and darkness combine.
There is only him,
with the drum,
with the song,
with the dance—
his dance.

They come to him, then,
and lift him up
in flight
through the heavens:
Shadow-faces
with warm wrinkled eyes;
their hair flowing in long gray strands,
like wispy rain clouds
above the parched plains.
Shadow-faces
singing the ancestral song,
turning above and beneath,
swirling around and through,
joining him, becoming one,
bringing him tenderly
down to earth and sky as
his feet press the ground
to the last drum beat.

He walks, then,
slowly,
back to the tailgate,
the world
before him,
Shadow-faces
within.
He waits, then,
to dance again
the dance.