Saturday, August 24, 2013

May Sheep Safely Graze

Grace happens, but none of us know ahead of time when or how. It shows up unannounced at our doorstep like a dear distant friend paying a surprise visit. Today it happened for me while preparing the music room for the year ahead.

I was sitting on the floor sorting through folders, in company with some of the new interns come to apprentice with us in the music department. They were similarly engaged in those satisfying short-term tasks and I decided to put some music on, i-Pod style. I scrolled randomly to B and listened to Lightning Hopkins singing “Baby Please Don’t Go” while working. Next up was Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze,” with those opening back and forth thirds in the flutes and then the strings beginning the soaring melody like a graceful egret rising over gentle waters.

And that’s when it struck. I was six years old or ten years old or 26 or 40, walking into the school building in the Fall and feeling some palpable but unnameable excitement, some beauty in this venture of gathering children together to find out what they need to know and to know what they need to find out. Mostly we just go through the motions of our secular day, but occasionally each act is filled with deep meaning, preparing a recorder sheet like offering a communion wafer, dusting off a xylophone like unveling a holy relic. We’re deep in the mythology of school, adults coming together to welcome and nurture and guide children alive with life’s beating pulse, filled with quirky perceptions and unbridled curiosity. This was the sacred moment before the children processed through the doors, quiet with adult energy before electrified by young bodies and minds.

I’m failing to capture here that feeling of being wholly there, being holy there, partly because grace is fleeting and has already moved on, and partly because she prefers Bach’s music to my words. Go listen to this song and think about the title. In these last moments of preparing the sacred space of school, it is good to imagine sheep safely grazing in the year to come, roaming freely in verdant fields with abundant food, protected from wolves by the vigilant teachers. Cared for. Content. Peaceful. 

May it be so. May it be so.

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