I’ve been reading God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us by L.L. Barkat, and one of the suggested exercises is to spend up to an hour in the yard every day for a week, simply sensing the world, perhaps lying on a blanket.
I didn’t do that. I have neighbors.
“Hey, Young! Whatcha up to?”
“I’m lying on a blanket for an hour.”
“I can see that, but why? Getting a suntan?”
“No, I’m sensing the world. Contemplating. Thinking.”
“Oh, doing nothing, huh? Well, you might want to know that the rabbits are chewing right through your zinnias.”
There was one element of this, though, that attracted my eye when I read it. “So let yourself go,” writes Barkat, “the way the Psalmist David probably did all those days and nights in the fields…and in so doing, heard the murmurs of God.”
There it was – a picture, a picture of being like David, out in the valleys, fields and caves, climbing in the mountains and crossing deserts – all to hide from Saul and his men. Hiding for his life. Long periods of isolation and separation, punctuated by short bursts of activity and (occasionally) confrontation.
What struck me as I saw this reference to David was that we know what he did while he wandered those places.
He sang songs.
And he wrote poetry.
We know this because we have the song poems in the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, 70 of which are identified as “of David” and seven specifically identified as from the time of this “wilderness” period.
His life threatened, living in harsh conditions, exposed to all kinds of weather, chased by Saul and his soldiers, David wrote poetry. Beautiful poetry. Even in English translation from the Hebrew, the beauty of David’s psalms shines through, and has done so for 3,000 years. It’s also entered our collective consciousness with such phrases as “the valley of the shadow of death” (a write would have written “the valley of death;” a poet would write “the valley of the shadow of death”).
That such beauty came from David’s “dark night of the soul” is indeed something to contemplate and wonder.
Related: Celebration by Laura Boggess at The Wellspring.