The red rhododendron in my new front yard burst into full bloom seemingly overnight yesterday. After months in bud, some unseen signal orchestrated an explosion of color, a riot of red on green branches.
These days, I'm feeling a bit like a budding rhododendron. After four moves in just over six years, my husband and I have settled into a home and community where we'd like to stay beyond our previous two-year-ish home renovation and sale endeavors.
Planning to be in one place for the foreseeable future, I'm feeling the desire and finding the courage to branch out and develop a place for myself in the local community, "to bloom where I'm planted," as I've seen on gardening gear.
I have a devoted prayer partner and a rich personal spiritual life, but I've been without a worshipping community for four years and knew it was time to find one. I am an introvert, small talk is difficult for me, the thought of church "hopping" or "shopping" has little appeal, and I always have anxiety in new churches about whether or not I will be able to participate in the Eucharist/Communion, since I cannot eat gluten (wheat).
The last church I attended was Episcopal, and as a newcomer to the Pacific Northwest, the constancy of the liturgy was exactly what I needed when nothing else in my life was familiar, except my husband! And so ten days ago, I emailed St. David of Wales Episcopal church in the nearby (13 miles away) town of Shelton and asked about the Eucharist. Yes, they had gluten-free wafers available (though previously reserved for shut-ins, they made a change to accommodate me—and others like me). This morning they began a class between services on the history of Anglicanism and I was one of three who joined the priest around a table in the fellowship hall.
Today we celebrate Pentecost when the Holy Spirit whipped in like a mighty wind and burned bright as tongues of fire, inspiring thousands of strangers from all over to hear God in their own language. It's a day I've observed in the past by dressing in red, swirling streamers in worship, singing the Spirit Song, and writing poetry.
This year I observe a quieter Pentecost, a day where the Spirit has come on a gentle breeze, late afternoon sun warming a cool day, where I have come to a new place and heard God speak in a language that welcomes me into Communion, conversation, and study.
A detail I love: St. David of Wales is not just the patron saint of Wales, but also the patron saint of poets! In his honor, I close with one of my poems:
We can’t outrun Pentecost
Hot breath of God on our faces
Spirit scorching our hair
One day it will singe off our eyebrows
and throw us into the street
on a tongue of flame
Pentecost comes to set us on fire
to brand what we know on our skin
to clean us to bone and sinew
The dove circles overhead
alights on our crowns
dares us to expose the spirit of things
How do we tell the world
we have been burnt down
blown away and recreated
How do we open our mouths
and let tumble out what we know
Someone has survived the burn
and danced in the ashes
This someone will stand with us
and keep sacred the space
at our center
It is the very emptiness that fills us
this void alive with fiery whirlwind
sweeps us into tornado dance
Shake up our lives
throw us off balance
refuse to set us down
until we arrive at Pentecost
I am a writer who, in December 2011, fortified by a new MFA, empty nest, and changes in my husband's employment, relocated from my native California to Washington state to see what would unfold next.