The dirtiest, most divine sactuary

By Michele Zirkle Marcum - Contributing Columnist

Editor’s Note: Listen to the podcast of this column.

The sanctuary in which I’ve experienced the most divine bliss is landscaped with mud, ticks and decaying leaves.

Pollen drifts across the rocky path that’s all but impassable due to a fallen birch tree. Birds tweet the hymns in this wilderness chapel — a woodpecker is rhythm-keeper and a crow provides the baritone.

Each tree strives majestically toward the heavens like a steeple, each branch bowing in supplication to the Source of all light. Sunlight flickers like a candle through the trees, casting shadows onto the trail and the underbrush.

The only rumors here are whispered by the wind, the only offering plate passed is a nut from one squirrel to another. Me living fully present in each moment is my oblation even when my wallet is empty.

I imagine every form of creature — every insect and plant — feels as welcome here as I do. This immaculate, messy canopy of raw life doesn’t mind my unshaven legs and muddy tennis shoes.

Judgement rests on my shoulders alone. Here I ask myself if I’m living my highest truth, if I’m inhaling gratitude and exhaling love. I wonder if I respect all life and all people as much as this enchanted cathedral seems to me.

A chipmunk takes its place on a boulder while I find my own pew on a log. I sit reverently awaiting the message I’m bound to hear in such a profundity of silence. The answers to my questions stir deep within, and I feel pangs of remorse for remembered shortcomings and surges of joy for the successful completion of many of life’s lessons.

I listen to the stream gurgle and remember my baptism. As I was being dunked into that cold river water when I was seven, I wondered how water could wash away anything other than the dirt on my feet from running barefoot along the riverbank.

Now, I understand that it can’t. It’s my intention that matters. Mud could wash away my faults just as well as a waterfall could. Absolution begins and ends in my mind.

I sink my hands into the ground beneath me, feeling the grass and the dirt between my fingers, thankful that before the first stone church was built, there was this — the exquisite sanctuary of an ultimately forgiving Nature.

By Michele Zirkle Marcum

Contributing Columnist

Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.

Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.