An empty horizon, no hills and no trees, Where from a great distance, a person could see Each movement that passed, every sound could be heard, Home only to creatures who didn’t use words.
Until a young pilgrim stepped onto the scene. The view made her nervous—should eyes even see So far they can’t tell where earth comes to an end And heaven begins? And beyond it, what then?
Like all wildernesses, it called to be crossed. With no map, no water, would she soon be lost? Standing still, looking out, she asked sky and land, “But how can I do it?” And with open hands… …she listened.
A few years ago, I was on family leave after having my first child, reading in a small park in my neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi, and was unable to move past the introduction of the book, despite the fact that the baby was miraculously continuing to sleep in the stroller. The pages told a simple children’s story as an introduction, and despite the meaningful content of the rest of Frederica Harris Thompsett’s book We are Theologians, this short tale took hold. I found myself considering the vast implications of its meaning, and reciting it to myself in a verse form, words coming in bursts after I would put the baby to bed, the rhythms of his favorite board books ringing in my ears.
After reading countless meaningless rhymes about fish and the moon and dinosaurs with bedtime preferences to a little boy who still can’t get enough books at bed time, I have decided I need more books that can appeal to his little mind, with sing-songy rhythms, while also conveying content that I want to contemplate. Since we read children’s books over and over (and over and over!!!), it would be wonderful to incorporate the ideas I long to ponder into this naturally meditative practice that we engage as a family.
As a result, I decided to write out the entire tale in verse; I ran it past Frederica to make sure it was true to her vision, and I am reaching deep back into my past as a college art student to remember how to illustrate this story in a way that could appeal both to my children (now there are two!), and to my own tired eyes after a long day of work, parenthood, and living in community.
Hopefully this journey might offer you some of the stimulation that it has me in the past three years. It is slow, fraught with distractions that can last for months, and often feels pointless, self-indulgent, or impossible. But hopefully sharing it with y’all will allow me to engage it with the vigor that first gripped me, unexpectedly, the way the Spirit tends to do when she’s on the move.