advent journal: wake up


    My birthday means I’ve made some additions to both my literary and music libraries. One of the volumes I got to spend a little time with tonight is Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden. The second poem is one by the marvelous Spanish poet, Antonio Machado called “Last Night as I was Sleeping” (translated by Robert Bly). Perhaps because I’m running on fumes and ready for some sleep the title pulled me.

    I was also attracted because I love Machado’s poetry. Even in translation, there is a rhythmic beauty that pulses in ways English cannot on its own. His words are invocation, evocation, and benediction all at once. Housden quotes two small sections from Machado’s “Moral Proverbs and Folk Songs,” one of which says:

    Beyond living and dreaming
    there is something more important:

    waking up

    Machado is a poetic alarm clock calling us to awake, look, and listen. His words are those of a prophet. Here’s the poem:

    Last night as I was sleeping,
    I dreamt—marvelous error!—

    that a spring was breaking

    out in my heart.

    I said: Along which secret aqueduct,

    Oh water, are you coming to me,

    water of a new life

    that I have never drunk?

    Last night as I was sleeping,

    I dreamt—marvelous error!—

    that I had a beehive

    here inside my heart.

    And the golden bees

    were making white combs

    and sweet honey

    from my old failures.

    Last night as I was sleeping,

    I dreamt—marvelous error!—

    that a fiery sun was giving

    light inside my heart.

    It was fiery because I felt

    warmth as from a hearth,

    and sun because it gave light

    and brought tears to my eyes.

    Last night as I slept,

    I dreamt—marvelous error!—

    that it was God I had

    here inside my heart.

    I don’t remember dreams very often. I wake knowing that I dreamed, but with little clue to what they were about. Ginger remembers her dreams with all the detail of a forensic investigator and is able to learn a lot from them. The word dream is more alive to me when it means hope, possibility, or expectation. That one word is used for both is worth noting because I think both kinds of dreams are connected: both speak of our spirit finding voice and sight – waking up. Phillips Brooks must have understood the connection when he wrote:

    the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

    Dreams carry some of both hopes and fears, as well as a good dose of the unknown and the unexplainable. They also chip away at our senses of adequacy and control because they are packed full of paradox. The best thing a dream can do for us is to make us wake up. For Machado, waking was a spiritual act. Speaking to Jesus he said,

    All your words were
    one word: Wake up.

    Wake up to a spring breaking forth, to golden bees, to a fiery sun, to God. Wake up to hard choices and good friends. Wake up to transformation.


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