by Laurie Klein
Our prayer group settles into the waiting silence. We inhale more slowly. Exhale fully. The woman guiding our meditation beckons us deeper . . .
“Picture yourself receiving a gift,” she says, “something to support your spiritual journey.”
Secretly, I hope for a jeweled lantern. A stargazer lily. A leaping gazelle.
Not an inchworm.
In my mind’s eye the creature is roughly the length of my fingertip, spineless, yet intrepid, and green as the first lettuce leaves unfurling in May. I flex my hand. The image persists, so vivid it almost tickles.
As if poised for travel down to my palm, my pretend companion raises its head. So, I expect the front end to lead. But the hind legs launch micro-steps and . . . hump! goes the legless, ungainly middle. Then the back feet anchor themselves, giving the front legs their turn.
Seems the inchworm gauges its progress in units, using its own body. A wave of affection stirs me. Here is a small-world Olympian bent on testing its limits.
Is this a prompt to listen more to my body? Or perhaps “Aspire to more” is the message.
Words spoken by 17th century philosopher/theologian Robert Boyle come to mind:
“The book of nature is a fine and large piece of tapestry rolled up,
which we are not able to see all at once,
but must be content to wait for the discovery of its beauty, and symmetry,
little by little, as it gradually comes
to be more and more unfolded, or displayed.”
Perhaps the gift goes deeper, intersecting with patience. Will I accept—even celebrate—my soul’s incremental headway?
In the 1952 movie, Hans Christian Anderson, starring Danny Kaye, local school children glumly intone arithmetic sums in a minor key. Anderson, rebuffed by their crotchety schoolmaster for waving at them, notices a caterpillar moving among the flowers, then sings:
Inchworm, inchworm (two and two are four)
Measuring the marigolds (four and four are eight)
Seems to me, you’d stop and see (eight and eight are sixteen)
How beautiful they are (sixteen and sixteen are thirty-two)
I feel warned. Eager for measurable spiritual growth, I tend to hyper-focus on well-meaning religious regimens or 3-step how-tos. Sometimes I miss the wonders unfolding around me. Rote learning works, but visitations of grace—like the inchworm—endlessly appear, to surprise and instruct me.
Will I pay attention? I long for Spirit-led plans, postures, and gestures, knowing they may be less than dignified.
Inchworms alternately crawl, pause in a looped omega shape, even stand, swaying, on stubby legs. Some species can roll and leap. When danger threatens, they impersonate twigs. Or they spin silken threads and bungee jump into the air; hitchhike on the wind to a juicy new leaf.
Hunger, peril, and beauty evoke diverse actions and postures in me too, as I . . .
Looping and lurching, the journey unfolds: always, those next awkward steps, that tenuous middle ground, then the moment of modest progress. Repeat. And sometimes, a setback, another chance to regroup. And repeat . . .
What a gift! Charming, tender, impelled—the inchworm points the way.
“Inchworm,” by Frank Loesser
Danny Kaye plays Hans Christian Anderson here.
Photo by Ekaterina Shevchenko on Unsplash
Tomorrow! Christine and Lilly will talk about Celtic Christianity, as Lilly has the opportunity to attend a retreat with John Philip Newell! Join Christine Sine and Lilly Lewin on Wednesday, February 23rd 2022 at 9 am PT (check my timezone) for our next FB Live happening on our Godspace Light Community Facebook Group! Can’t make it? No worries–we upload the sessions on our youtube channel so you can still enjoy the lively discussions and interesting topics. And catch us live for the next session–happening here!