What happens [in our Anchorhold] when we hear sounds not just with our ears, but with hearts and minds informed by knowledge of the deeper significance of these things – that they are all part of God’s creation? Heart-habitat.
Learning to keep our ear to the ground. That is, learning to hear- in silence, reverence, respect, awe, wonder – what there is to hear, what mother earth, the creation, would teach us, her wisdom. And here let me emphasize that silence, reverence, respect, awe, wonder – often referred to as the ‘egoless virtues’ – are ways of knowing and seeing where we get our busy self-centred selves out of the way and get in touch with what’s ‘out there’ and beyond us – to our great delight!
In that way, the wisdom of creation might have to do with discerning the difference between what’s dying around us and what’s struggling to be born. The incoming tide wipes the beach clean. Gales roar over the landscape destroying what is rotten or rootless – just as rain and sun enable and nurture new growth of every kind. These earthy images of judgement and grace are the stepping stones that allow the prophet Jeremiah to be in touch with God’s calling: ‘to pluck up and pull down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.’
In the same way, once we begin to hear the powerful and unsentimental wisdom of creation, of mother earth, both tough and tender, we can explore searching questions about ourselves and our world: What’s rotten and rootless in us? What counts as genuine, as new growth? Can we tell the difference? What are the things – good and bad – that we feel strongly about?
The poet Cilla McQueen, now living in Bluff, speaks of years of being formed at heart level by the hills, rain, wind, sea, inlets, light of that particular place: habitat-habits of the heart.
She might be part of the granite cliff she leans on,
her face seamed with shadow like a rock.
From chapter 3 of Anchorhold – the prayer of the heart in daily life, published by st Peter’s Publications, 2005
from Poet, in Markings, Poems and Drawings, by Cilla McQueen, University of Otago Press 2000.