Contrails

Dave Smith

Late.  Very late.  Words agitate through my mind, tumble with my grumble from the comforter.  A dark, tuxedo shirt of sky studs with sparkled stars, clear constellations I once knew in the black cold.  Predicted winds have begun to stir and ruffle through branches in eerie chorus.  I expect coyote yowls, but none come.  The keyboard beckons and we join in the dim of dining room, silhouettes shaping words that chase my sleep and, this night, haunt my think.  I listen to them, the echoes shaping onto the page, into a moment to share.

Earlier a nurse came by to do some physical stuff in the comfort of home.  My main interest sat in the memory test, the post-stroke, how am I doing after these passing months.  Simple thing.  Three words given, then draw how I see the face of a clock.  Add a specific time by penciling on the hands – “good job!”  Then, “What were those 3 words?”  Well, I knew this little quiz, had it several times while in the hospital awaiting other pokes and probes.  I imagined a blackboard and wrote these terms, now of course forgotten, on it.  I held that picture while drawing and saw, to quiet amazement, one word slowly chip into shards, fall, and in a black dotted float, lift away into a greyish-mist contrail slowly disappearing.  Gone.  And so I got 2 of 3, “Ok – if you only got 1 we’d have to schedule a neurology visit.”  The morning visit finished, but the image stuck, that contrailed fade, a memory gone.  This very moment, God answered a long time question – He waited a bit as He tends to do, ‘til I am ready for His thought.

Heaven.  I want to know what awaits me, my sometimes shaky confidence needs reassuring.  I hold the Bible details, the many golden mansions and all, but I struggle with the concept that it offers a place of riches.  “Golden mansions” chips away these days, scrapes against reality, and flakes remnants into wisps greying into nothing.  I have come to think God inspired the description in terms the people of those days of writing clearly understood.  The poor existence of most, the humble existence of faith would be richly blessed when the last would be first.  I recall a quote I shared a year ago.  “Religion is sitting in church thinking about being in a kayak.  Spirituality is sitting in a kayak thinking about God.”  Theologizing, synodizing, dogmaizing, and sectizing a concept of heaven has never worked for me.  I believe, truly believe, heaven begins when we get out of the brain-izing of belief and get to the heart-izing of faith.  “I gotta remember just what heaven is so I keep striving to get to that beautiful place when I die.”

No.

Heaven comes when I find the kayak.  For me, perhaps a pontoon with family on the waters of the north.  Perhaps by a fireside with loved ones or friends as sneaky oak smoke escapes the flue.  Maybe in the solitude of a tent and the sush of pines on a soft fall night.  The bursting exhilaration of full throttle thunderstorm wave-runnering across a mountainside.  A waterfall into rapids caterwauling down and over rocks, then eddying into pools of peace.  In those moments, all the heaven words shard away, float into contrails.  Peace.  We cannot define it, we cannot really dream it.  There it is, deep in the heart of us, in our very soul of being.  We know God blesses us, just know it.  No thinks, no reasoning, no verses or parables.  Just a heart filled with faith.  To move from sitting in thought in a pew to living in the heart and loving God, being thankful for His Son Jesus, and recognizing the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit

Cats getting crazy with this strange at wake time of night.  They run and grapple, growl and hiss – energy burning.  I wrap in the comforter of Grace, thankful for the smiles the little ones bring, the furry purrs that give companionship. I glance back at the sky.  Ursa Major or Minor?  Orion?  Who knows?  Sure does look peaceful.  They’ll look different another night anyway. Just stars, star, sta, st, s……..must be heaven.