In a large cabin by a small lake
rimmed by cattails and surrounded by brome,
we meet in the sometimes home
of a man whose life has been defined
by broken lines of oil wells and wheat
and lately the wine aged in oak barrels
in a single room.
Walls of glass allow the view to pass through,
acres of grass on this side of a narrowing gravel road
where trucks pass with their loads of harvest
and the occasional car crackles along,
tires grinding limestone and a new tunnel of dust
rising up behind the straight lines of intention.
We are here on a short retreat,
two days of meeting to make plans
for how to keep in hand the purposes
that guide the work of a small college.
We begin by sharing short stories of concerns,
learn that a colleague’s wife has coded twice
during the ambulance ride toward the frantic hope
of an emergency room while we are gathered here.
There is nothing we can do except for prayer.
No amount of worry or care can change the fact
that even if we were there
not even every ounce of strength or energy or skill
could thread the thin line that separates our lives
from finding out what lies beyond.
And yet in faith
we remember that the power of divine solicitation
has moved mountains of fear,
saved sinners from the nearness of destruction,
spared some lives when others died,
and carried us through unimaginable darkness, pain and testing.
And thus we learn the lessons of living,
and realize that we may have the greatest power
in those long agonizing hours of knowing
there is nothing we can do except for prayer
and may find a most comfortable helplessness,
a calm and settling despair in the passing
that may one day become as natural as Kansas dust settling
back onto stone and grass.