Beneath the cathedral is a stream, or series of streams, which weakens the stone and is why the cathedral was never built out to its full size. It is currently only about 25% of its design – a picture of the full design one may see in the hallway outside the St. Martin Chapel. During the building of the cathedral, the foundation caved in due to these streams and the money to rebuild was lost to litigation.
Water is a funny thing. It is the source of life, the basis for our induction into our church and the symbol of cleanliness, clarity and life itself. Water can also carry, as it has since the flooding in Colorado, feces and pollutants. It can seep into a flower pot for nourishment or it can upend a house. Water is essential and dangerous. Much like fire. It is no suprise that scripture uses both as metaphors for God’s power through the Holy Spirit.
This piece of public artwork outside the hotel in which Diocesan Convention was held, reminded me of the cathedral’s precarious geological situation. It also reminded me of my own spiritual life full as it is of light and darkness, hard and brittle, God-made and man-made, brown and blue. When I saw this work of art I wanted to touch it. I stood by it for so long that the chapter of clergy stood by the car impatiently and quite rightly screaming at me to get in (their desire for ice-cream on the way home to the cathedral not withstanding.)
It is quite wonderful how water has carved out tunnels and sluices in the rock under Denver and under the mountains and plains of Colorado. I have walked through some of them. And in my own work as a potter I am aware of the conversation being had between water and earth. It is on my hands and runs between my fingers many nights and early mornings. It is no wonder that another regular reference in scripture is that of the potter and the clay. Last night, as the clay rose into the huge 18 inch-cookie jar I made for the cathedral kitchen (clergy, lay leaders and staff need better access to cookies – of this I am now convinced!) I wondered if this was how God felt making the cosmos and ordering it as God does.
The streams of living water in my life are my meditation time, sleep, friendship, corporate worship, study of scripture and creativity (in clay or food or hospitality or writing or home-making.) God seems to be working on my stone foundations as these things flow in my life. The key to life seems to be keeping an eye out for polluted water so that what comes into our lives (people, longings, activities, thoughts) are clean and good and kind. Then these things flow through us, cutting through the stone and calcium deposits – moistening the decaying matter (grief, regret, healthy guilt) so that good clay can be formed and ultimately even carrying away some of the poisons we produce as humans (narcissism, unkindness, lack of mindfulness, attachments.) We are always being formed by a God whose beauty and whose love of beauty is clear if not confusing.
When I look at Colorado’s stone, mountains, rock formations, gems, floods, and fire, I gain a healthy perspective on my own importance and a deeper awareness of God’s beauty – and God’s apparent love of it. And when life gets hard I pray, reach for a cookie and lay my head on Kai’s haunch for a short rest.