Sparse and thirsty

Where I go I just don’t know. I might end up somewhere in Mexico. When I find my peace of mind, I’m gonna’ give you some of my good time. – The Red Hot Chili Peppers

This is my first day back within the tangle of the world wide webs. Sorting through emails is always quite a task after ten days of being outside of the reach of wi-fi.

Camping in south Texas was good. Time in the silence of the desert is its own kind of thing. I am most familiar with camping in the mountains, in the forest, or near bodies of water. These are the spaces of nature that are full and rich. The desert is poor and sparse, dry and dusty. A solitary person in the desert faces his or her own inner poverty. It is a lonely landscape that leaves you with nothing in the surroundings to hold the space for you. This, along with the beautiful silence of the land, creates a unique environment for introspection and spiritual reflection.

I read from The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton. “To fly into the desert in order to be extraordinary is only to carry the world with you as an implicit standard of comparison.” When Christianity became the dominant religion of Rome, the primary Christian sacrifice of martyrdom no longer existed. Some felt that Christianity had been cheapened by mass Roman endorsement. The so-called “Desert Fathers and Mothers” went into the desert to create a new way of life and cultivate a way of purity and holiness.

Merton’s book is a collection of sayings. While the desert does not make one extraordinary (in the ordinary sense of the word!), it did bring one’s soul into contact with our precious ordinariness. “Whatever you see your soul desire according to God,” says one Desert Father, “do that thing, and you shall be safe.” In other words, much of the spiritual life is trying to understand the desires of our soul, our true wishes apart from the myriad ways in which daily life with its demands pulls us apart from ourselves, from the sacred stirrings within us that we wish to be faithful to.

Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

8 thoughts on “Sparse and thirsty”

  1. Sacred stirrings – those sound good. Maybe they’re hard to arrive at, in the sense of requiring discipline, but if you get one, I bet it’s worth the struggle.


    1. I think of “sacred stirrings” as being kind of broad, diverse, and open-ended. I think that nature can catch us off guard and stir something sacred in us. Relationships and love, in all those different forms, seem to be a venue for many sacred stirrings. I think that finding our vocation or something we love to do (even if we don’t get paid for it) stir something sacred. Birthing. Art. Poetry. Music. There seem to be many ways that we can feel something holy…..but yeah, what do we do with those? How do we hold on to them and grow from them? How do we discern the ways in which a sacred stirring is leading us to follow through? All questions that may require struggle, discipline, or commitment.


  2. It sort of feels like sacred stirrings have lessened in my life since becoming the parent of a baby. This is maybe because I have to focus on caring for the child and still accomplishing the mundane tasks of a household. I underestimate the necessity of self-care, of listening to my life, because it seems I’d have to spend a lot of precious energy to get there. This is ironic in so many ways!

    Parenting is such a holy undertaking, for one, so who says it isn’t a sufficient enough task (at least for a bit)? For two, every day I’m witness to the physical, mental, and emotional progress toward maturity of one of our own species, one of our own offspring! Talk about fodder for inspiration!

    I wouldn’t say sacred stirrings are totally gone during this season, but that I feel so limited in what else I could DO or take on that I’m not on the lookout for stirrings that require action – – like volunteering at the orphanage. So, I’m realizing as I type that I was thinking of a stirring as being a call to DO something more, rather than maybe to REALIZE something more or to be more deeply connected to God in some way.


    1. Yeah. Tamie and I are thinking through what children might look like in our lives, but it’s still a big question mark, I think. At least for me.

      Lori, you are talking about being stirred and called to do something, to take action. It seems, however, that when it comes to parenting, the sacred sense and the sense of calling is often not immediately evident. At least this is what I am hearing you say. Please feel free to correct, because I’m trying to get a sense of where you are coming from, hopefully to help myself think through parenting a bit.

      Have you ever felt that parenting was a sacred calling?


  3. Man. When I read Lori’s responses, I really do wonder if parenting is what I want to do in this life. That’s not to say that parenting isn’t a sacred and blessed vocation, but wow…

    Then again, it does seem like the kind of super intense parenting that Lori is talking about is only a season in a parent’s life. There are other seasons.

    It’s so interesting to read Lori’s sense that a sacred stirring would mean *doing* more. I often have that same sense. But then every once in a while I catch this glimpse that my most sacred task is letting go, accepting, etc.


  4. I absolutely DO see parenting as a sacred calling. No doubt about it! And it scares the snot out of me to think someone might consider my perspective, even minutely, in their decision to have or not have children. Aaackers! But still, here’s some more stuff:

    You know how, with every undertaking, something else has to give, since we don’t have infinite time and energy to do every thing that occurs to us, even every good thing? Well, in my (limited) experience, parenting a baby or toddler is a classic embodiment of that principle. Something has to give. Like, when Zoralee is taking a nap, I can either take a nap myself or do a quick-clean of the house or blog. Whichever one I choose, I may or may not get a chance to do the other things that day, depending on a million factors.

    So, when I think of a sacred, life-giving thing in your collective life (Jon and Tamie), I think of writing. Of course, if we were perfectly well-adjusted and self-realized, every thing could be considered a sacred stirring, even eating a bowl of morning oatmeal with joy and thankfulness. But sticking with a love, a passion, that seems to be a shared one for you two – writing – just realize that if you had a baby, it would be darn near impossible to continue to write at the same pace or with the same uninterrupted time. At least, this is so for the first couple years, until the child gains independence for daily needs. Now, if you didn’t have full time work and you were very organized, and you made time for each other to work in quietness, it could still happen to some extent! Sure! Obviously creative people have babies and still get creative things done, and people with big hearts can still organize humanitarian efforts with small children in tow…I think. But SOMEthing has to give. That’s my point. And when you’ve got a little critter, it just feels like a lot gives (at first).

    Having a simple household, a simple schedule, and a highly refined sense of what you want to do, helps the sacred stirrings within parenting and non-parenting to co-exist the best.

    I do not mean to sound like a doomsdayer, because I am SO glad I became a parent! I wouldn’t trade my child or my experiences with her for a bajillion dollars. Hey, that was helpful for me to write out. Thanks for the opportunity. 🙂


Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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