Celtic Christianity calls me back to my earliest memories of wholeness. My roots are in my family, of course, and they were Jesus people, all about good behavior. If you can’t be perfect fake it. (Do your best. Be the best. Never lie. Get good grades. Be nice to your sister. Eat your vegetables. Wear a coat. Wear clean underwear, sensible shoes, and a smile.) Those teachings were all well and good but of limited use in the face of growing up. I felt misunderstood, picked, on, worried, and never good enough.
But other roots went deeper than the ideals taught in words. We had a half-acre garden where I learned to plant and weed and pick in morning’s stillness, dew heavy on the leaves of beans, and corn so fresh and sweet I closed my eyes to taste it. And the lambs and the kitten with their lessons of untimely death and injury and loss. (Now button up your coat, put on your boots, and do your chores. No need to fuss—that’s how it is.) Then there were glowing afternoons of grasshoppers and goldenrod, of maple leaves in piles beneath my feet, the sun a perfect yellow fire against the blue.
I was fifteen when I discovered Psalms. I’d planned some Bible memory work that summer but I fell in love. This was poetry that spoke of anguish, anger and despair, both desperate and joyful, could it be? Was this a secret? Had I found a hidden treasure? A holy fellow human who was wracked by fear and love, who dared be mad at God! I’d take Psalms any day before commandments, prophecies and visions, and the nightmares they’d mislabeled that were so NOT revelations!
Now I can see it, looking back. Before the rules, before the spankings or the guilt, before the books and expectations, there was already love. Love looked like fir trees, smelled like dirt. It sounded like small spring frogs under zinnia leaves croaking in the night. I knew the love of dirty feet, of compost heaps, of wasps on fallen orchard fruit. Of thickets hiding treasure if you dared thrust in your arm to find the berries hanging there. The love of ice, of snow, of rain, of mud that clung to beets and parsnips and my boots. The whole world sang to me of love, of belonging, and of how everything changes and moves on.
The bitter and the sweet. The future and the past. The taste of joy and longing and defeat all grew in me from that dark soil, the rich brown earth of Oregon where I grew up. I’m also the result of seasons of sunburn, shivering and solitude, hopefulness and humor. And yes, a product too, of ironed dresses, folded hands and polished shoes. Of music practice and of prayers said on my knees. A glorious mixture of the random and the planned, of subterfuge and honesty, persistence and mistakes.
God has always spoken to me through the natural world, through poetry and music, and through the people in my life. And the God who brought me from the dirt, who loves my dance as turning twirling falling rising I bow to the light, that same God loves me as I am. My roots are in the mud of Earth and I sing to the sun. Hallelujah.
Eileen Terry is a member of the board of directors for Celtic Way. She has lived, raised a family and worked as a cardiac nurse in the Denver area since 1987. Her non-medical passions include poetry, music and being outdoors.