The Manger and Jack the Donkey
Before I left for my Christmas visit to Hudson Acres in Jasper Arkansas, I told Ron Starbuck of Saint Julian Press that I was going to find a manger. I needed rest, and had pushed very hard in publishing two editions of Going Naked Being Seen within 30 days. It was exhilarating, exhausting and emotionally and spiritually charged. I’d slipped into a pattern of putting out, and I needed no reminding that I had pushed too hard when I arrived at the Emergency Room on the Solstice Eve, with a flare up of a hernia.
Such a scary time for me, as I live alone. The pain stole my breath, my endurance and my balance. I was down. But, good friends attended me, and so did the staff at the hospital. I’ll follow-up, humbly, and attend to a repair that has been necessary for some time. Even really exciting, good things can throw me off-balance. So, when I arrived by Charter Flight to the foothills of the Ozark mountains at Hudson Acres, I was glad to disconnect, and be cared for intimately, by my family there.
Hudson Acres, established in 1826, has grown as a homestead, a farm, and cattle ranch over the years. It is also the most amazing museum and natural resource I’ve ever seen. My Uncle John Wallace’s father, William A. Hudson, was a founding member of the American College of Thoracic Surgeons. He helped develop a treatment for tuberculosis and treated international leaders; saved many lives, and was a legend for his genius and compassion in treating those that couldn’t care for themselves, or pay for services. I could have stayed in his study for days; read through his charts and notes for months. It was otherworldly to be among such greatness contained within the simplicity of the farm. And, it reminded me of what the manger might mean as it relates to the birth of greatness in all of us. It is the light, life and love that shines brilliantly, and why the surroundings remain humble, in service to it; the source. My family has preserved these gems, located in “Jasper” Arkansas, honoring them like the light bearers that they are.
Something else struck me as I met “Jack” the farm donkey. J.W., my cousin said, “look at the cross on his back; these were the donkeys in the manger with Mary and Joseph.” I’ve long ago stopped being blown over by such simple coincidence. I did realize, that I was like Mary and Joseph too. Surrounded by Jack, the owners of the farm that offered me shelter and love, and that delighted in my presence. I didn’t need to bring anything but myself to this place to bear gifts. It’s humbling to live close to the bone and accept generous gifts, and help from others. But, it creates a circuit for the love and grace to flow, and that grace must move. We are the conduits; not the generators.
Aunt Barbara is the last living Fry of my father’s generation. A beautiful, gracious and gentle woman, it was painful to see how heart disease has limited her. At 83, she has been through some hard times on that farm. Uncle John Wallace is a large bear of a man, but age has had its way with him too. It was priceless to share ourselves for a week; through meals, and stories and love. So much love. I rose early morning to meditate and watch the sun crest the mountains; Uncle John Wallace worried that I was sad, and asked me if I was okay every morning that he caught me sitting alone by candlelight.
I’m sad that it took me so many years to feel this simple intimacy with my family, but I am so blessed to have it now. Now that I can receive it.
And, that is what I bring back from the farm. The realization that I am able to receive. To say “YES”. To life, to light and to love. That was harder for me to do than many other things that other people thought were fine achievements.
I return gently, committed more fully, and stepping lightly into this New Year. And, with some amazing two million year old rocks. I’m back, but I’m truly “home”.
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And, Amazing Grace, from BraveHeart<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/lQlzITtxAMA” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>