In the year 2013, Brianna Van Dyke, publisher/editor of Ruminate, turned to me during a coffee break and asked, unexpectedly, what I had written over the course of my life. I shrugged, and told her there were several manuscripts decorating my file cabinet. She asked to see one. I told her I would dig one out and blow the cobwebs off, when I got back to California. She agreed, and I did it.
The next spring, I received a formal letter offering me a fellowship for a month's residence at the family home and Ruminate office. I was stunned. Excited. And I spent weeks and ultimately months editing and rewriting, augmenting a journal I had written almost a quarter-century earlier. It came together slowly. Carefully. Prayerfully.
This journal had started out as a diary, a "keeping of the days." It became a chronicle of change. The flora and fauna of this arid land became a Holy Land, my writing a wistful monologue toward an unseen, indefinable Presence.
I was led on an inner journey by observing the antics of a broken-down donkey or a pompous Bantam rooster or birds soaring, by drawing water from an old stone pump-house, by measuring the earth's harsh horizon against what little I knew of Heaven.
Sky Mesa Journal is a day-into-day account of my unraveling and reweaving. Light comes. The simple metaphors of nature lead me into a Land I always yearned for and never really found. The birds and beasts speak up around me. Not in voice . . . but in paradigm that places all things before Him. They tell me more than I have ever really known of that sacred understanding which is His Kingdom.
It happens down deep or not at all.
An excerpt from Sky Mesa Journal by Judith Deem Dupree
This is a place of Sabbath. Horizon lines stretch out and ease from jagged up-and-down to slanted hills; their surfaces are carved in ochre, dun, and amber. Between them, the long, gray snake of road hisses faintly in its man-made trench.
Sky Mesa Ranch . . . . It didn't register initially that when I came up here I was seeking, even yearning, albeit a bit vaguely, to leave my own small self behind—to understand what no human mind can fathom adequately: the Kingdom of God. What I have learned in, yes, a primal way is: the mind does not get me there. I was already there, here, in a sense. Of course! I never understood those "Aha!" moments, those engulfing, shivering other-world sensations, the inexplicable way complexities unraveled before my stuttering thoughts could quite reweave them. I knew how to parse a poem, but never, no never, had I learned the dialect of God. Never, by conscious thought, had I unearthed the Edenic from the clay and shale of life. Until now.
I suddenly saw, from the porch out over the yard, a new landscape. I perceived the incomprehensible—that what I had entered into was a metaphor too viable, too startling to dismiss. I had been planted here expressly for this reason—to catch a glimpse of that Greater Kingdom by looking through the smudged lens of this smallish acreage. Everywhere I looked, the parallels unrolled, drawing me on and in. For me, the Kingdom of Heaven and Sky Mesa are, at this moment, come together.
I think I have entered a new place. Something has changed within me that causes change in what I perceive around me.
It is a long time coming. But here it is; without fanfare or proclamation it has come to me—that "it" I stammered over a few short weeks ago. So simply, like the Word whispered to Elijah. Now I can begin to hear it, to speak it, speak of it. Now I can learn to pray it, invoke it, yearn over it, with all my misplaced yearnings!
The Kingdom is elusive; God made it that way. We know so little about it that it becomes merely a parable about parables, a list of "ingredients" that Christ listed at another time about another place. So we miss it; it passes us by, by our default.
I always had a problem with the Kingdom of Heaven. It was too far from me to wonder about, much less worry about. I secretly thought, in my early years, that the Kingdom of God/Heaven was a sort of LaLa Land—Pie-in-the-Sky, Further-Over-The-Rainbow. Ah, but now that I see it, I see it everywhere. It is created, sight by sight, behind our opened eyes.
Such a Wind-sweeping move from our rubble and stubble into a realm of clean-swept concepts and precepts is staggering! It is awe-full, meeting God on Holy ground! Holy becomes. It once was a remote four-letter word that chilled our secret fevers; now we say it with stammering tongues, our throats all husky with unpronounceable joy.
Freedom is Holy, is beautiful with all the beauty of pure intent, of passion that has caught flame from the compassion of God. Here abideth faith, hope, love. And God's unimaginable self. Here, descending in some manifest and unseen way, is manifest, unseen Presence. The creator wraps his cloaks and courts around him and settles the Kingdom upon our very dust!
Like Jesus on the road to Emmaus, he walks unrecognized. Christ incognito, a Breath beyond our own labored breath, a Heart-pulse beneath our own.
This is his Kingdom we step into, all unknowing, like a tousled child into a Secret Garden. We know him by the Hush within us which is full of Sounding, like that which a ship makes in the deeps. We know: this is what Home is.
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