come softly down,
and touch the land I know.
come softly down,
and touch the land below.
is in my eyes
and in the places I knew
If a light can carry freedom,
let it shine on you.”
~ Frieda Morrison, Northern Light
As days are replete with images, words, and ideas, so are they textured. A recent journey to a nearby island brought to mind some of the dazzling textures in my midst. The view from the ocean presents a context of water, sky, and land in unity. Within these grand worlds are countless elements. Gazing from the boat, after having collected some thoughts about fragments and edges, textures began to surprise my attention. The ocean has constantly shifting characteristics. And these contours, these palpable experiences, like ideas and words, become reference points.
Tactile qualities are essences, and with this in mind it is easy to see the common root of the words texture and text. The Latin textus refers to cloth fabric- material comprising many intermingled threads into one gathering. In the textura of the broader journey are reminders and memories of essences. The sea air itself has a thick, salted, and chilled consistency; gusts of the airborne ocean. In turn, the rugged terrain encompasses numerous textured patterns. Observing sands and tides brings to mind the grander entirety within which I am a very small component. Considering the miraculously and mysteriously appointed order to the universe is a humbling assurance to me.
Being attuned to texture indicates awakened spirit. When I notice my appreciation of aspects often overlooked, there follows a welcome reminder to cultivate ways to perceive on many levels. Comprehending subtleties, essences, and beauty encourages by steps along this unpredictable voyage. Some shells and glass fragments, rounded my incessant tides, sit upon my desk as reminders of how the forces of creation can transform surface textures. It is the same Spirit that exalts valleys and makes rough places smooth.
Transitory chapters, liminal spaces along the way, cause the soul to be acutely aware of immediate textures. Whenever I have ventured out to the unknown, my senses have been noticeably attuned to surface and scent. The cool, ink black air of thick forests at night. The fearful, as well as the peaceful, has texture: it’s when we unavoidably sense our heartbeat. Freshened school buildings, with glossed floors and anesthetized halls that somehow enhanced our echoing steps and voices. My grandmother’s potato pancakes- coarse, then buttery, then spicy. A heartfelt Mass, after which I stepped from the cavernous cathedral, out through a frozen Montreal night, and down into the crowded subway filled with faces for whom I sensed a deep affinity. Standing in that crowded train became a prayer for all present, with the aftertaste of bread in my mouth.
Texture is woven into the pages of memory’s tomes. Just as there are immortal words meant specifically for an individual’s heart, there are indeed textures that we can each uniquely comprehend. Stored memories of essences remain with me as both reminders- and even as consolations. Curiously enough, in response to institutional eliminations of books, popular outcries cite the attributes of tangible volumes. We animate all that books comprise, with our imaginations and movements, and can hold them close to heart.
Compare fast food, and its consumption, with a savory meal- even a simple one- with aromas and strata of tastes. Memorable dining has always been an experience of ambience and spice; a totality of texture. My recollection of a deeply-appreciated dinner, after a hot day of wearily walking Burgundian roads, is ever colorful with the garnishes, sauces, porcelain plates, and paper lanterns of the outdoor tavern. I was on my dusty way to Taizé, and, knowing that, the waiter gave me an extra glass of wine. Within the textus of the moment there emerged the sounds of the environment beneath a night sky in eastern France.
Pilgrimages and daily routines alike provide chances to gather. And the collecting varies from artifacts and addresses, to words and experiences. The ancient emblem of pilgrimage is the scallop shell, and I never remove mine from my backpack. The shells reflect roads, skies, lightness, and friendship back to me. A few of the smaller shells were tied in place by children wishing me well on my way. Such treasured tastes abide, and descriptive words seem insufficient. Similarly, there are only so many expressions to attempt to give an accurate sense of the millions of steps in a life’s pilgrimage. Rather than to tire myself by trying to describe infinity, there are more intimate and intricate ingredients to meet my finite understanding. Beginning with shells- and the very lines I inscribe in my notebook situated on my oak table.