Stay in touch with the coast.
Sign up for our newsletter »

Fledgling - Too Precious to Name

Too Precious to Name

By Marie Malin
It was a Sunday afternoon and I was crawling through the 224 pages of reading assigned for my Christian doctrine class the next afternoon (I recently went back to school). I can appreciate doctrine as an intellectual exercise—and I know it’s important in clarifying what Christians believe and why—but it’s not my favorite way of exploring the divine. I read in my doctrine textbook: The prime concern of systematic theology is to present a clear and ordered overview of the main themes of Christianity. I’m sick of doctrine!” I shouted. I slapped the textbook shut and stalked into the kitchen, suddenly ravenous. “Maybe you should take a break,” my husband suggested from behind the New York Times. As usual, he had a point. Five minutes later I was storming down the road to the local nature preserve. It’s no Baxter or Acadia, the hundred-acre Falmouth Nature Preserve, but it gives me what I need: a quiet place to get out of my head and into my senses, to absorb the purity of dirt, trees, birds. My head spun with doctrine for the first 20 minutes, but it settled down a little when I emerged from the woods into the pocket marsh divided by a twining brackish creek. It’s a special place for me, this modest wetland. It was here that I had the indescribable experience last winter that marked a turning point in my life and put me where I now am, out of the environmental nonprofit world and in graduate school at Bangor Theological Seminary. I don’t know where I stand with Christianity—it has both comforted and scared the daylights out of me—but I do know I have to learn about it before I decide what to do with it. I lay on my back in the grass in the warm sun and fell fast asleep. I dozed for only a few minutes, but I was a new person when I woke up. I noticed a small cloud high in the blue sky, a purple aster inches from my nose. A bumble bee landed among its thin, fringed petals. I sat up and breathed deeply. My mind was quiet, my body relaxed. But still I longed for something. Human beings are always unfulfilled. Longing has been recognized since the dawn of civilization. At least I’m not alone. But what is it that I’m longing for? Is it the God of the Old and New Testament, or is it something different, something more? Am I even allowed, as a seminary student, to ask if there’s something more? I don’t mind longing, I really don’t. It makes me to get up in the morning, seek the truth, write poems. But sometimes I need just a little fulfillment, even if it’s fleeting—a tiny sign that I’m on the right path and there really is a point to the longing. I looked around me at the dry, tan grass and the rustling trees and the milky green stream creeping up its pale banks. “So beautiful,” I said out loud. “So subtle, so pure.” A chickadee called from the forest. Butterflies rose and floated around me. “Am I doing the right thing?” Moments later a delicate red insect landed on my hand. Its long body shimmered in the sun, four lacy wings quivering in the breeze. I bowed my head. It was perfect. I did’t know what it was, nor do I want to know. Some things are too precious to name.

Share this article: