1: a strong usually blue cotton cloth that is used especially for every day work and play.
1: the presence within that is believed to animate a body and give it life.
When I was living in northern Vermont there was an oak tree outside my window with whom I was on a first name basis. We talked all winter, the tree rattling its brown leaves in ferocious winds and sub-zero temperatures. I marveled at how she held onto her curled brown leaves through every winter storm, those arthritic looking hands of crumpled life held by threads of stem. She didn’t give up her leaves until new ones sprouted, and always she was the last among her peers to bloom. Stunning.
The chickadees amazed me also. How could they get so round and fat for the winter and stay that way? Weighing about as much as two silver quarters they nuzzled inside the spruce tree through minus-nineteen nights and flitted joyously through ten-degree days. Then I heard that chickadees bury some three thousand seeds and other bits of food during the summer and can remember where ninety-percent of those scattered stores are hidden. Miraculous.
I have shared the moment of death with more people than I can actually remember, more often a voyeur with pastoral presence than personal friend or family member. Surrounded by the pain of grief but not always part of it, I have been allowed to witness the thinning of the veil between life and not-life. Never was that moment more intimate than when I watched the vein in my father’s neck slow and then suddenly cease. Once frightening and repulsive, I have come to experience such moments as a birthing from here to there, wherever and whatever there is.
A tree, a bird, a death – not typical icons of the sacred, and yet with the right lens on they are vessels of the holy hiding in plain sight. Being able to see and experience the sacred in the ordinary, and without the heavy pall of dogma and doctrine, is what I mean by denim spirit. It is the ability to see and experience the extraordinary hanging out in the midst of the ordinary.
When our hearing and vision become more acute and keen at witnessing wonders in the mundane and minute we can begin to perceive the marvelous ecosystem within our own body and life. Like Thoreau at Walden Pond, we will begin to notice that in our own scars and woundedness, some of which we have been carrying around and battling since childhood, there are pieces of gold. Then we will discover that all those limitations we took for weaknesses have inherent strengths within them as well. Fabulous.
So that is what this column is about: looking for and listening to what appears when the veil between here and there thins, and when the spectacular light of the golden hour reveals a world with a diversity of presence that has been there all along. We need not call it sacred or holy to witness it and be astonished.