I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Cassidhe Hart is one our newest Wisdom Council members. Read on for her reflection Walk Barefoot.
walk barefoot wherever you go you are standing on holy ground there’s a burning bush on every block the sound of sheer silence in every person who passes the hem of your neighbor’s garment an accomplice to miracles
During the times I lived abroad, outside my native US, I carried a notebook with me everywhere, recording the tiniest details to help me depict my surroundings. Countryside, city square, alleyway—anywhere I went, I wanted to take in everything and pour it back out in words. As an adolescent, I had loved waxing poetic about the forests and fields near my house, but I’d never really lingered on descriptions of human-built things. This changed in a foreign country; I was enamored no matter the setting and wanted desperately to convey to my loved ones what it was like to inhabit a space and culture outside my own. So I noticed and noted and wrote. I tuned my senses to attend to streets and structures, city smells and village gardens, neighbors’ walking styles and shop-owners’ wares. I gave all these the attention I usually reserved for wildflowers and mountain views.
Though I never intended to be a city dweller—not long-term, anyway—I’ve spent the last decade living in the outskirts of Chicago. City trains rush by regularly. When I sit on my front porch, there is always someone walking or biking by. I have to hunt diligently for the first spring blooms, and only the brightest stars are visible. There is a never-ending background hum. I’ve struggled with this urban life—how to be present to it, how to be present to myself in the midst of it, how to manage my longing for wilder spaces. How to take in my place and love it deeply.
A year or so ago, I decided to write a collection of poems inspired by my neighborhood, seeking to give my attention to my home the way I did to far-flung places. If I approached the familiar as foreign, what might happen?
Now I can’t stop seeing poems everywhere:
in the fallen mittens plucked from the snow and hung on a bare bush in hopes that their owner will see them;
in the boy who walks his dog every weekend while wearing headphones and carrying, inexplicably, a long iron shovel over his shoulder;
in the seed pods and pollen that stream off the top of a car driving away from its parking spot;
in the brave bunnies that make a home in my backyard;
in sidewalk chalk, graffiti, dog leashes, and fruiting trees.
And I again feel the compulsion to paint word pictures, to write love notes to a space that has drawn me in so fully. When I give a place the tender gift of my attention, that place offers itself back up to me and grounds me in my own being.
I think of all the biblical stories of theophany, of God revealing Godself. Some stories occur in natural places: mountains or deserts or rivers. Others are on a busy road, or in rooftop rooms, or in a dream. Urban or wilderness, these settings are part of the characters’ regular experience. God comes to Moses as he tends his sheep near Mount Sinai. Deborah hears God’s voice while completing her daily meditation under her palm tree. Zechariah sees an angel while he performs his workplace duties. A risen Jesus cooks breakfast for the disciples after a hard night of fishing.
God seems to prefer meeting us where we are, in the everydayness of our lives. I’ve heard this time and again, and while I acknowledged this truth intellectually, it hadn’t taken up deeper residence—a lived and centered knowing in my body—because I didn’t know how to practice it. Walking my neighborhood as if travelling a foreign land has given me a concrete way to embody the reality of the Divine inhabiting the mundane. I hope my practice keeps expanding, but for the time being, I walk my neighborhood with notebook in hand and approach the world around me as a stranger. And in this way, God becomes known.
Cassidhe Hart, MDiv., wrote her first poem as a toddler with her mother’s help, dictating words onto a scrap of construction paper. She’s been writing ever since. As a poet and liturgist, she writes at the intersection of faith, ecology, community, and ritual to explore the ways we tell stories about our inner and outer worlds. She comes from a long line of settler-colonists and is committed to listening to systematically oppressed voices and to growing an anti-racist, decolonizing ethic in all her work. She has been commissioned to write prayers, liturgies, and songs for various worship and retreat contexts. In all her writing and facilitating, she seeks to cultivate a tender and radical attention to God’s presence among us. Her list of favorite things includes sunlight through tree leaves, children’s novels, jasmine tea, and her nephew’s drawings of rainbow narwhals.
You can visit her website here: CassidheHart.wordpress.com