Small Prayer in a Hard Wind | by Christian Wiman
As through a long-abandoned half-standing house
only someone lost could find,
which, with its paneless window and sagging crossbeams,
its hundred crevices in which a hundred creatures hoard and nest,
seems both ghost of the life that happened there
and living spirit of this wasted place,
wind seeks and sings every wound in the wood
that is open enough to receive it,
shatter me God into my thousand sounds…
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This Advent season, Christa and I are in the midst of purchasing our first “home.” We’ve lived in our share of houses (easily a dozen) over the past twelve years and have made many of these places into homes. Most have been in western Washington, a few were in western China. But each of these was always borrowed, always “for the time being” places that we leased and stewarded in the stead of someone else. For the very first time in our family life together, should this home work out for us, we are on the cusp of “permanence” or at the very least the greatest sense of rootedness we have really ever known. This is exciting, mysterious, and a little scary. The nomadic way of life has grown familiar to us over the years and suddenly we find ourselves packing up the tents and breaking soil on a new foundation (figuratively speaking of course).
Reading A Christmas Carol and Wiman’s poem above, I have been reflecting on home–what it means to have a home, what it means to return to a home, what it means to have “homes” shape and haunt, bless and burden, us. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is the ghost that enters the homes of his past and current self unseen. Home provides more than just a setting in A Christmas Carol. It is the window and vessel for memory; the living monument to mankind’s charitable and carnal desires; the welcome mat and locked door that spawns and spurns community. The centrality of home (in all its variety) is not so different today than it was in Dickens’ time.
Obviously, Advent presents an even more ancient and universal reflection on home and homecoming. A stable, an inn, angelic bodies, and a baby’s human form. So many narratives about housing and displacement.
As Christa and I consider our “new home” we say little prayers for this or that to happen. (I do anyway.) These petitions seem so fragile, like a half-standing house ready to teeter and fall. Like child-like faith or superstition (or almost good news) such rituals may seem small and inconsequential, almost silly. I never expected to be that person listening to the “wind that seeks and sings at every wound” the one that hopes for the “openness to receive it”. But here I am, nonetheless, getting excited for Christmas and Advent, and home.
This series of blog-vignettes explores the many-faceted aspects in home: