On This Shining Night

On This Shining Night

Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.
— poem by James Agee

Since early February, I’ve been participating in a writing seminar — my second in recent months, as the same facilitator gathered a similar group in the fall. There are six of us, including the convener. All white women. Three of us are clergy. Three are psychotherapists. At age 50, I am the youngest.

In each seminar, there’s a book to read asynchronously, some writing prompts between sessions, and then bi-weekly gatherings for discussion and timed writing with prompts. In the fall we read Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt, and now we’re reading Erosion: Essays of Undoing by Terry Tempest Williams.

It’s been a strangely vulnerable experience, as I’ve made the commitment to this group in an attempt to stretch beyond my usual style and comfort zone, exploring what kind of writing I might offer beyond sermons and these occasional blog posts. I do not feel confident about the quality of what I write in these sessions, and yet it’s a very nourishing, satisfying process.

A recent prompt (inspired by Erosion) was, “Write about where the river of beauty and the river of grief join one another.” I wrote several pages about my deceased father (and memories of him), and then an entirely different memory surfaced. It dates back to 2016, when our musicians performed a dedicatory concert after our OBIC building expansion was complete.

So, below I share what I wrote in response to that prompt, because the truth of what emerged — of how beauty and grief flow together — is intensely relevant in this moment through which we live right now.

* * * * *

In it, the choir sang, and I cried. The river of grief in my body flowed.

I am often moved — in body and in spirit — when they sing. But on this particular day, as they performed Morten Lauridsen’s “Sure on this Shining Night”, something in me broke — as in, broke open.

My body was wracked with the sobs of an unnamed, unspecified grief. Grief, borne of love — as it is always borne of love.

And in that moment, the rivers of beauty and of grief flowed as one, together powerful, stunning, healing.

* * * * *

I love you, UUCC. May you know the stunning, healing power of beauty and grief.

Love,
Paige

2 Comments

  1. Michael Adcock

    Thank you for this beautiful and vulnerable reflection, Paige. My parents, who were in attendance at the building dedication concert you mention, had a similar response to the moving Lauridsen anthem. I felt honored for the privilege to conduct and lead our Chalice Choir in that unique anthem, on that special day in the life of our congregation. Here’s to the hope of many more future profound and moving musical/choral experiences from the chancel of our sanctuary.

  2. Laurie S Coltri

    When I read the words of the poem in your lovely post, the gorgeous anthem rushed back into and inhabited my body. In this tender moment, we are all one.

    For those who were not present at the building dedication, here’s one of several YouTube videos of other choirs performing this piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnmjP_wAAEM

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