Sacred Familiarities – a reflection by David Chorlton

Sacred Familiarities

Where I live, in Arizona, what is held as sacred is invariably a part of nature and the land. Native people here need to constantly be vigilant to protect sites of special significance to them from mining or other destructive projects imposed by the now dominant commercial culture. Travel around the state has brought me to share the native view of sacredness, as the mountains and desert gradually became internalized and I came to see why Baboquivari Peak or Quitobaquito Springs have taken on such significance. Of course, these sites can only become a kind of borrowed reference in my spiritual life, vital as they are, and I turn to what is closer at hand to explore the deeper, personal meaning of being sacred.

Looking out from my windows, front and back, I have a view of hummingbirds and other species at home in city and desert: thrashers, mockingbirds, towhees, a couple of hawk species, goldfinches, woodpeckers and more, whose presence is an accompaniment to my life and routine that has far outgrown the simply aesthetic. There are coyotes too, sauntering down the urban asphalt now and then, bringing a little of the wild with them. And from the back of the house I see South Mountain, a desert mountain that is one of the largest city parks in the world at ca. 17,000 acres, which invites the imagination into a world inhabited by yet more animals. All this may not be spectacular on a scale of global sights, but familiarity has elevated my surroundings to a status I hadn’t expected.

We rely on much that comes from contemporary commerce, and no matter how the conveniences ease our way from day to day, the experience hardly nurtures the spirit. The natural world is the real world, and it is to that I look for deeper significance in everyday life. An occasional visit from an oriole in migration season has immeasurable value, and sharing such moments with my wife made them all the more valuable. The sacred is a force to be shared, whether domestically or within the community.

Invariably, on trips taken around the state, I wrote as we went about what we saw and the poems are in part an effort to heighten the experience and in part a means of telling others how it felt to be in, for example, Madera Canyon or the Chiricahua Mountains. Meanwhile, back at home the same principle applies, as the shifting light or a surprise appearance asks to be recorded because the experience demands it.

Writing itself becomes a close relative of the sacred as the process binds exterior and interior worlds.

David Chorlton lives in Phoenix, close to a large desert mountain city park from which various creatures visit after sundown! He has published several books and performed poetry on occasion with his recently deceased wife, a violinist who brought out extra dimensions in the work with her music. 

1 Comment

  1. Carl Mayfield says:

    Well said, David. You words illuminate the sacred, both interior and exterior. The sacramental relationship you have with nature brightens the path in every direction.

    Liked by 1 person

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