Book review: Walking Toward Morning
by Victoria Safford
Victoria is the minister at the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church in Mahtomedi, MN, just a few miles from where I live. I’ve only met her briefly, but we’ve communicated a bit by email, and I’ve come to appreciate her sincerity and genuineness.
This little booklet presents various reflections on life and purpose. It works great as a month-long collection of morning meditations. It’s not meant to describe UU teachings, but it gives a flavor for the sacred, while managing to avoid any particular religious paradigm—no foundation upon any single religious teacher such as Jesus.
Victoria gave me permission to simply quote an essay from her booklet. This is the one I chose, titled In Between, a particularly poignant selection for me as I just became a first-time grandpa on Sunday … and quickly picked up the phone to share my joy with my elderly mother.
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One afternoon some time ago I brought my little baby out to visit a very, very old neighbor who was dying that year, quietly and gracefully, in her gracious home. We were having a little birthday party for her, with sherry and cake and a few old friends gathered round her bed. To free a hand to cut the cake, I put my baby down right on the bed, right up on the pillow—and there was a sudden hush in the room, for we were caught off guard, beholding.
It was a startling sight. There in the late afternoon light were two people side by side, two human merely beings. Neither one could walk, neither one could speak, not in language you could understand, both utterly dependent on the rest of us bustling around, masquerading as immortals. There they were: a plump one, apple-cheeked, a cherry tomato of a babe, smiling; and a silver-thin one, hollow-eyed, translucent, shining, smiling. We revelers were hushed because we clearly saw that these were dancers on the very edge of things. These two were closer to the threshold, the edge of the great mystery, than any of us had been for a long time or would be for a while. living, breathing, smiling they were, but each with one foot and who knows how much consciousness firmly planted on the other side, whatever that is, wherever that is, the starry darkness from whence we come and whither we will go, in time. Fresh from birth, nigh unto death, bright-eyed, they were bookends there, mirrors of each other. Radiant.
Cake in hand, and napkins, knife, glasses, a crystal carafe a century old, we paused there on the thresholds of our own momentary lives. Then, “What shall we sing?” said someone, to the silence, to the sunlight on the covers, to the stars. It was the only question, then, as now, years later. What on earth shall we sing?