Of Curiosity and Anomalies

Feb 15 / Susan Anquist
Curiosity. I am a curious person. I have been like this since I was a child. I think it is why I love to travel, to people watch and to observe moss on trees. It is why I wonder a lot about the ways of God. I am curious about why and how things grow, even in hostile environments.

This past week, I re-read and was absorbing a book from my master’s program, Beldon Lane’s, Solace in Fierce Landscapes. Although it was not an easy read, I found it deeply pertinent to life right now. This pandemic is a fierce landscape. It is a collective experience of humankind wrought with isolation, grief, and mystery.

I am curious about many things as I lean into this fierce landscape.

How do I posture myself with honesty and compassion, in places of isolation, grief, and mystery?

In the middle of great disruption, just breathing can become work. Anyone on a journey of grief can affirm this to be true. These are the places where we desire the ruach, the breath of God to gently wash over us.

Could the places of dislodging, or disorientation be the places of experiencing regenerative wind whispered love, places of unexpected grace?

Anomalies. I am also a lover of anomalies. I become lost in nature while observing things that grow in odd or fierce landscapes. My curiosity and imagination peak in the space of what spiritual directors call, “non-sequiturs”, things that don’t seem to fit and feel out of place. These are places where I am tempted to judge or minimize. Yet, if I honour their presence and listen for God, non-sequiturs become important messengers of grace and mercy.

I wonder what enables a tree to grow out of a rock. I wonder why one small flower flourishes in a crack in the pavement. I wonder why some clover springs forth with four leaves. I wonder how tears can heal.

On a walk not so long ago, I encountered a tree, small and gnarled. Beside the tree was a sign stating the tree had been planted in eighteen eighty-nine. I judged this small tree. How could you be so small after all that time?

On my journey back, I was drawn to pause and stood humbled. Instead of judgment this time, I marveled. I stood in awe at the tenacity of this small, gnarled tree and the root system that supported its enduring presence. I also whispered an apology. The tree offered me an important gift that day. The little gnarled tree extended grace to me. I heard the poetry of Mary Oliver washed over me, “Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect?”

In the moment, I connected the fierce landscapes and the anomalies of my life, as enduring roots. Perhaps, in Mary Oliver’s words, “My task is to keep my mind on what matters, to stand still and learn to be amazed”.

The fierce landscape of pandemic becomes a place for me, with boots worn and coat torn to discover grace, mercy and the soft caress of Holy breath.

Maybe that is enough. Maybe that is enough.

Susan Anquist

Susan Anquist lives in British Columbia with her husband Warren. She is the mother of two married children and their spouses. She is a grandmother to three lively, lovely granddaughters one, four, and six years old. For the past 20 years, Susan was a part of the ministry team for OASIS Ministries, a ministry focused on providing a space for ministry leaders to process transitions and deal with the stresses of ministry/personal life. She holds a Masters of Arts in Spiritual Formation and certification for spiritual direction from Portland Seminary. She practices spiritual direction both online and in her community. She loves walking. In 2018, she walked part of the Camino de Santiago. Her plan was to complete more of that journey in May 2020, but due to our current circumstance, she will walk another time. She loves reading, poetry, and finds much joy in writing. She has a spiritual formation blog on Instagram (#Susan.Anquist).