The Friends Meetinghouse at McNabb, Illinois
Pamela Timme, Oak Park Monthly Meeting
Geography 101: There is a synergy between people and place.
They build and shape each other.
Their atoms mix, their breath blends;
traditions construct space, form permeates soul.
The old meetinghouse, unadorned, complete,
rests in calm strength on the prairie.
We all feel its radiating peace,
serenity in wood and stone.
Is it possible for the communing of generations
to soak into the walls?
Can a place become a portal
through which elemental magic
bubbles up like spring water?
Quakers are taught to be wary
of outward distractions,
of distinctions between earth and sky.
Windows are unstained,
air is unscented,
But surely it is more than a trick of architecture or setting,
this gift we discern.
We respond with love and sweat equity,
repairing foundations and replacing beams
that termites have turned to lace.
I walk up the steps, cross the wide porch,
and open the screen door,
taking care not to let it slam.
Inside, I join the quiet circle,
facing the center.
Around me I see blue jeans and sundresses,
above me the curve of the high ceiling
overlaid with fan-shaped brush-strokes,
white on white.
Through the gauzy curtains that frame the tall windows
the cornfields gently swell.
A breath of breeze touches my cheek.
We sink down
to find a deep pool
or a leading
or a river of energy
A Friend speaks.
Others remain silent.
We all pull together,
individual spokes seeking the center
to turn the outer wheel.
At rise of meeting we shake hands and smile
and go our separate ways, with useful intention,
carrying the connection with us.
Driving from Chicago down to McNabb
is to go from gray to green,
from jangle to birdsong,
from grit to balm.
The way opens, once I choose to go.
It unfurls from my front door
to the expressway
to the interstate
to the county road.
It runs through all the little towns (population 300)
to the last crossroad,
and then to the grassy turnoff into the campground
under the black walnut trees.
I get out of the car, stretch my legs,
and look across the road to the sweep of lawn
with its contingent of Frisbee players,
and then past the lawn to the old white frame meetinghouse,
its porch and doors open in welcome,
serene in the late afternoon sun,
and I know I have come home.