Setting the Inner Compass: June 2022

Juicy and Wet

Reading poetry is one of the ways some of us nourish our faith, a way we set or reset our inner compass and stay focused on the big picture, on the spiritual journey. I know that is true for me. ‘Setting the Inner Compass’, is a column where I share poems that I find meaningful and hope others do as well.

There are a lot of complaints/concerns about Facebook and other types of social media. As I write this, I am reminded that good things can come from-yes-Facebook. Facebook helped me get back in touch with my cousin Ginny. During childhood and adolescence Ginny and I enjoyed being together at family gatherings. In the late 1960’s we lost track of each other. Facebook fixed that. We are back in touch and hope to get together this year. Ginny reads this column. She shared with me the poem that is featured this month. It is written by one of her former students in a sixth-grade class she taught at Folsom Hills School. Thank you, cousin!

The poem, “The Pear”, keys off of a quote by Hildegard of Birgen (1098-1179). Sin is understood and defined in many different ways. This poem helps the reader see one type of sin, the failure to be present to the wonder of living each day, the sin of drying up. I like how the poet celebrates and contrasts: “lavish feasts” and “having sipped black cardamom tea in a gritty one-bedroom apartment”. It is a delicious poem.

As we work, each in our own way, to build a just and inclusive world, as we struggle with immense challenges in our lives and nation, as those within the community called church wrestle with what the future of that community will look like, I believe we need the nourishment that this poem offers. I am reminded of a line by Annie Dillard in her book, A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, “Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try and be there[1].”

I know there are times when I need to be reminded to be present, to “try and be there”, to “not dry up. I need to be reminded, to look up and savor that pear and remember that life is a gift, abundant and juicy. I am not unique, a lot of us, I think, need that reminder.




“The Pear” by Jamie Alm

The only sin in life is drying up.

We have to do everything

to remain green

and juicy and wet.”

 -Hildegard of Birgen

The only

           time, or perhaps the first time, I gluttonously indulged in a meal, there were

         seven courses, paired with wines, poured throughout the evening. Even today,

          this sensuous affair murmurs throughout my imagination. If this is

sin in life,

           then I have sinned greatly. Since that meal, I have lusted over the avocado

           confit, I have been prickled by the mere thought of nettle ravioli. And sometimes

         , nothing will do but a juicy duck.

is drying up

            possible after greedily devouring sable fish swimming in succulent broth?

            Impossible! I say. That day, I learned to float in the grace of a life where

we have to do

            nothing but receive. I might spend this entire day, slowly, slothfully, slicing an

            onion. A wasted day attempting to emulate the great chef who once brought my

            whole body alive with a single meal. I have nothing to lose and


            to gain. The world is full of lavish feasts for anyone hungry enough to sit and eat.

            But, to savor, to slow down in this hurried world, is to receive the wrath of those

            who demand more but are never satisfied. They fabricate fantasies scared and

            staring at scarcity. But I have learned

to remain

           open to the feast appearing in unexpected places. You will envy me. I have

           sipped black cardamom tea in the gritty one bedroom apartment, a guest at the

           banquet table of medical bills multiplying into miracles. I have sat in a throne

           room, cushioned by the leather couch in the mobile home as we beheld the first

           word uttered by the autistic child, invoking joyful laughter heard only in heaven.

           Hungry again today, I gaze at the simple

green and juicy

           pear. Dripping from my backyard tree- the pride of all creation. She too belongs

           in this great feast. I take and eat. Savoring each scandalous bite. I know that I

           belong to a life abundant, juicy

and wet.

“The Pear” © Jamie Alm, is used with the permission of the poet. Jamie Alm lives in Seattle and is a mother to three school-aged daughters. When not working as a speech-language therapist, she carves out time to write poetry and cultivate community. Her work has appeared in several publications including in The Porch Magazine.

NOTE:  There is a new poetry anthology edited by James Crews, who edited How to Love the World. The title is The Path to Kindness: poems of Connection and Joy (Storey publishing). I like it a great deal.

[1] Page 8, A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (Harper & Row, 1974).

Rev. Dave Brown is a writer and the creator/host of Blues Vespers. The Washington Blues Society recognized him with the 2022 Keeping the Blues Alive award. The former pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, WA he serves on the PCUSA Education Roundtable and does programs around interfaith relationships. His most recent poetry collection is, I Don’t Usually but…[email protected]).

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