I spent the day in the 19th century, working at Old World Wisconsin, so naturally, I wasn’t allowed to be wandering around with a camera. I have to admit, though, I did square off my fingers to imagine a few frames. The sky today was absolutely breathtaking. Big cumulus clouds with flat, gray bottoms were floating around as if on parade. Looking up outside St. Peter’s church, with its 1839 bell tower and cross silhouetted against these clouds was like looking at a catalog of “INSPIRATIONAL”. I remembered back to the days when I was living in Los Angeles County, CA, feeling as if I would suffocate any minute. To look across the atmosphere to the horizon was like looking into a thick bean soup. Even looking straight up would remind you of watery hot cocoa. I longed to escape the valley and take off for clearer skies. I thought I could simply ascend the mountains and be in a brighter, cleaner, more natural world, but it wasn’t that easy. Everything is Owned in California. There is hardly any open land. We did get an invitation one weekend to house-sit for a retired couple who lived on Mt. Baldy. Their home was beautiful, furnished with antiques, quiet, nestled away from the highway in the pine trees. It was good enough. I took our nine-month old daughter in the baby backpack, my Canon AE-1, and left the smoggy valley behind. There is a photograph from that weekend etched in my mind. I’ve got on my beloved hiking boots, Susan is smiling in the pack on my back, my skinny legs are striding over a boulder. I was in the throes of postpartum depression; I weighed 98 pounds, and I was nursing. My husband’s buddies called me “Tits on a Stick” behind my back. I was struggling for survival.
Some years after that, I was living in suburban Illinois, and the skies opened up over the prairie. I would wander out to open land while the kids were in school and get lost in the clouds. I remember September 11, 2001, as a clear, sunny, perfect sky day. I spent the afternoon out in the prairie after having saturated myself in the news that morning. I look to the sky when I am confused. Back in the heyday of my Christian spiritual journey, I wrote this poem:
Did I ever thank you for the sky
spread far around like an open field
piled high with moods and structures,
a playground for my soul?
This space above bids my thoughts expand
to climb the heights of an anvil-cloud
and teeter on the edge of a dazzling glare
or slide down the shafts of the sun,
To swim to the center of its lonely blue
Where I find no mist to hide me,
and lie exposed to the western wind
like a mountain braced for sunrise.
Or clad in the shroud of brooding gray,
it coaxes me to musings
far removed from the minutiae
that chains me to my life.
I search for light and openness
to shadow the bonds of earth,
exploring the vault of heaven
for its meaning and its truth.
Thanks for this cathedral speaking glory through its art.
Thank you for these eyes admitting You into my heart.