Fee Glade: Why I Pray

Among the gifts of summer is my daily morning walk with Chris. In the slower summer season, we walk for 30 minutes before he has to open the Center, and then I continue my walk to Fee Glade where I pray before the rest of the day.

If I were a better person or a more spiritual person, I’d make that meditative visit all year long. Instead, I’m a person who’s doing her best to have herself at work before 7 AM during the school year. So this practice of prayer at Fee Glade remains a summer gift in my life.

Why do I visit Fee Glade?  Because it represents the heart of truth and wildness at the center of our lives. In the very center of a landscaped, planned campus where history uplifts and weighs down, behind a black metal fence lies chaos and utter wildness. No cultivation, no plan, but trees and vines curling among each other in an impenetrable mass.  Wild morning glories twine their way through the fence to catch the line of daylilies cultivated on the side of civilization.

I’m fortunate to inhabit the wild place where it all comes together in Berea, our divided space.  Married to the college but living and working in town, I get to see the best and worst of both. It’s a rare position, and I’m thankful for it but it takes prayer to make sense of this place so informed by an American history of conflict and resistance.

As I look into the glade each morning, I try to hold in my heart all of Berea. A spider casts a 20 foot line of web from tree to tree, and I imagine that web holding us all together. I imagine each of dozens of little churches, each of our neighborhoods, each of our hidden trails as part of one whole, “brothers and sisters in Christ” as our Sunday morning prayer at church reminds us.

I imagine all the factions, all the departments, and all the squabbles at the college and at my school, and I remember that at the heart of our disagreements are our wild hearts. We can try to manicure ourselves into civilisation. We can attend trainings to be better colleagues, and we can work hard to be better together. It’s best not to forget our wild human hearts at our core that bring out emotions and fears we don’t understand. If we can remember that no matter our professional faces, that we each inhabit a different entwined overgrowth of millenia of humanity, then I think we can forgive each other and keep working together for good. Maybe we can learn to love each other’s wildness.

Last week, Chris and I visited the reading room at the Library of Congress. It’s a remarkable monument to learning. It’s gorgeous mosaics and classical statuary surrounding bookshelves and desks with little lamps. The room reminded me that scholarship and learning are glorious pursuits. Besides standards and outcomes, there is value just in finding out something, learning it, and committing it to our shared knowledge.

What moves us to study, though, are our wild hearts, our passion for this life and world. Behind the reading room lies chaos and humanity. Our minds drive us to find a path through the mystifying and dense layers of the vines of history. Just like Fee Glade, that preserved spot of wilderness that reminds us what we are about.

That’s why my feet draw me there daily in June and July.

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