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"Thirteen Ways to Encounter God" by Barbara Pelman

Barbara Pelman is a retired teacher and poet, in Victoria, BC. She has three books of poetry: One Stone (Ekstasis Editions 2005), Borrowed Rooms (Ronsdale Press 2008), and Narrow Bridge (Ronsdale Press 2017) and a chapbook, Aubade Amalfi (Rubicon Press 2016).Her glosa, Nevertheless, won the Malahat Poetry Contest in 2018.

Thirteen Ways to Encounter God

Lay your head upon a stone,
a pillow of rock.
Dream of ladders, sulam, a staircase.

The beard, the white robes,
the hand raised in judgment,
the maleness of Him. It won’t do.

Sunday morning on Kootenay Lake,
a Quaker meeting at Argenta,
silence. Then singing. Then silence.
Sun on the lake, burnished blue.

It helps to have a practice.
Ride a bike, sit in lotus, write in your journal.
It helps to find a silence
in the forest, at a park, in a quiet corner
of the library.
Who is speaking?
Are you ready to listen?

Search for her, for Shekhinah, who has vanished
from your world. In the jeweled and ivory palace
she lives a narrow life. Yearn for her,
take this longing with every step through the forest.
Do not lie down by the wine-red lake.
Do not reach for the apples in the tree. Eyes open
in the wilderness.

Having faith, emunah,
In your head, in your heart, in your gut.
The thing that moves your foot each heavy step.
Some call it hope. How do you find it?
Can it be taught? I am a slow learner.

Every day, a hummingbird on a branch of hawthorn.
On my birthday, two, where usually there is one.
Is this a coincidence? Mere loveliness? Or a sign?
Coincidence is a spiritual pun. Chesterton.

Every night, I recite a brief version of the Shema.
Then a prayer for my niece: heal her cancer.
A prayer for my family in Sweden: keep them safe.
Gratitude for the day.
If I miss a night, will something terrible happen?
Magical thinking.
But just in case: Shema Yisroel.

Blessings in winter:
one yellow crocus under the snow.

Ayecha? Where are you in the world?
At the table, with my mother,
learning patience. Ayecha?
tongue-tied with my daughter.
Ayecha? By the ruby-red lake,
fast asleep.

A stone, a pillow, a place.
God was here and I did not know it.

It begins with gratitude:
green leaves after a long winter,
scent of lilacs in the morning air,
daughter returning home.

The raven flies over the hills.
Sun on the lake. A stirring in the leaves.
The wind.
Hineni. I am here.



Stanza I: refers to Jacob’s dream of the ladder to Heaven

Stanza III: Argenta: a Quaker community on Kootenay Lake

Stanza V and Stanza X: refers to the Rabbinical story of the Lost Princess

Stanza VII: G.K. Chesterson, British writer



Love this. I know "hineni" from Leonard Cohen....thank you Barbara Pelman.

This poem beautifully paints a portrait of individual spirituality, how the speaker lives her life in faith. I love how she weaves the Biblical and religious references throughout to blend with her own beliefs. Thank you Barbara Pelman for this gorgeous poem! I will share with friends.

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