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The Way Is Grace

Cliffs and Sails at Pourville, Monet
You can have the other words - chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I'll take grace. I don't know what it is exactly, but I'll take it.
- Mary Oliver

Sailors on the open seas often speak of unforseen lulls in the winds - those strong and blustery trade winds that ply boats horizon to horizon. I think of these times of stalled momentum as empty spaces. Empty of grace. Surges of achievement - the momentous leaps we take bounding through the world as though running hurdles - seem able to depart from our lives with the break of a heartbeat. What happened? the confused self asks. One minute we're on target, blazing down the road...next second, sidelined in the broken trees. Grace unfurls the flag with each shift of intention, each correction in course, every moment we struggle. Grace departs in the wake of uncertainty and mistake; grace arrives with purpose and intent.

One I love is stalled in seas of lostness. Misfortune shredded his sails in a tearing howl and like Ulysses, his ship drifts in uncertain waters. He rows forward through the gloom, awaiting the passing of the shrouds of clouds. And as do most of us, he puts in a steady effort to find course again...and yet each effort is met with a kind of hand of destiny, pushing back. Wait, wait, is the whisper. Wait on what? Perhaps, it occurs to me, we wait on grace. On the intervention of whatever that thing may be that is not just chance or luck, more than coincidence or serendipity. We wait on the sudden lift of filled sails, the miracle of known whereabouts. A new course set by an unseen hand and clouds disperse, the bright light fills our eyes. Wait within. Wait patiently. Wait still. Listen. But wait. Grace arrives when it is no longer expected. Grace rings true. Grace answers the unanswered question.

Mary Oliver, the poet, wryly observed, "Nobody ever says of a painter he has lost his way. It is said of writers. But when one is talking about a painter one says, 'He is finding his way.'" Is this not true of all? We are finding the way, our way. With grace.

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