Cathblog - The Real Presence and the Kangaroos

Kangaroo: Image courtesy of Shutterstock



For the past week or so I have seen them. A mob of kangaroos pass through our property between six and seven in the morning. I am out there doing the watering. It is very dry and the kangaroos are coming into the edge of town looking for feed. 

This morning a big grey buck stopped as I stood by the bore tap.  About thirty or forty metres away, behind the pile of bush cuttings and the old Christmas tree, he just stood there.

He looked and I looked back.  It was magic moment but my head kicked in.  This is the sort of thing the American poet, Mary Oliver does – just looking, being still and totally present.  I’m doing a Mary Oliver!  I thought.  But the thinking didn’t stop there.

It is Sunday morning.  I am catching the train to Sydney this afternoon.  There are bathrooms to be cleaned, watering to be done and Mass at 9:30 am.  I wonder where the dog is.

Then, a smaller kangaroo, possibly a female came up through the scrub, the untameable part, sloping away to the neighbours dam.  She had gone through earlier and now she returned, carefully.  The big fellow had settled on his haunches, if kangaroos have haunches.  The other one, emboldened, moved closer, fossicking.  Then the dog appeared.

Our dog is no fierce hunter, slavering and straining at the leash.  ‘Mate’ is a small Shih Tzu-Silky cross, a bit short-sighted, more interested in kangaroos droppings than kangaroos.  But, by this time, ten minutes or so, I was over it.  I had lost the poetic spirit, the contemplative moment that lingers and sees.  I wanted to get on with it, get some excitement.

Eventually, Mate spotted the kangaroos, after much prompting, and barked and dashed forward.  The magic was over.  Thump, thump, thump off they went.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . . I turned on the taps, made the ritual early cup of tea and settled, with my unsettledness, into the chair for a bit of quiet.  Then the cat came.  I like to think it’s affection that prompts that rubbing of her face over my hands, threatening cup or book and ruining my efforts to pray.  But, it’s more likely cat being cat and imprinting herself on the one who feeds her.  No peace here and the residue of disappointment at my ungracious encounter earlier generated more scattered thoughts.

Presence and absence or being present and not being present were foremost.  One thought was a discussion I had with an Anglican priest about the Real Presence.  ‘What do you think we have?  The Real Absence?’

Then, there was the story Martin Buber used to tell, Martin Buber of I and Thou fame.  As a young boy he loved to visit his uncle’s farm.  He would stand beside the paddock where his prize stallion was kept.  The horse came to know him and would come to the fence and Martin would sit on the railing and stroke it.

One day, he became conscious of this process, the stroking, him stroking the horse, the feeling of his hand on the neck of the horse.  Something happened.  The horse tossed its head and walked away.  It no longer came when he sat on the railing.

All this and more was going through my head as the cat settled on my lap.  The tea was now safe and I could sip it meditatively.  Her purring matched the slowing of my thoughts.  Real presence.  Being still.  Seeing who and what is there.  Being grateful, relaxing. 

Shortly I will be down in that great barn of a church at Mass.  Real Presence or Real Absence?  All I know is that my thoughts are not the measure of reality and that I believe someone is present to me, whether I am present or not. 

There is a Presentness that is constant and faithful, that cares for the sparrows falling to the ground and the kangaroos heading off down the slope.  And, more, those glimpses, like this morning, that meeting and all the other meetings of today and beyond, have in them a nourishing reality that is infinitely stronger than my distractions and busyness.  I do believe this.


Richard White blogs from Cootamundra in southern NSW.

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