The quote from which I take this blog’s title is from As You Like It, and I usually edit it to read like this:

And this our life . . .
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

The speaker is an exiled duke, and because he is wandering the forest instead of presiding over his dukedom, he actually says:

And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, etc.

I usually take out those words because I’m very much established in public haunt.  But I soon will be exempt, thanks to the generous and wise practice of granting Unitarian Universalist ministers a sabbatical, one month for each year of full-time service to the congregation.  My first sabbatical begins a week from today, and for several months I will be free to find sermons in stones without actually jotting them down to turn into Sunday sermons, in that devilish way of ministers.  I will be devoting my sabbatical time to making art.

I’m not going to commit to blogging during this time.  This may be a great art journal, but it’s also public, and many of my ideas may need time just to be my ideas, without having to turn into anything interesting to anyone else.  And I will keep comments shut off for the sabbatical period, so that I can tell the members of my congregation about this blog without our continuing to chat all through this time that is supposed to be Away.  They are very interesting people and it would be irresistible.

I have other blogs for keeping in touch with friends and for informing a network of my daughter’s fans what she’s up to.  This space is for theological, spiritual, philosophical, and artistic musings, and as I was musing this morning I knew it was time to wake up the blog and post my first post.

I was thinking that when I start drawing, next week, I want to draw leaves that are eaten away to a skeleton.

Vein skeleton of a leaf

And that got me thinking about the beauty in decay.  Leaves are beautiful that way.  So are cliffs eroded so that you can see the striation of the rock.  And human faces?  Sure.  The very word “decay” implies that the peak, even the normal, state is in the past and that this new state is inferior.  But is that true of the leaf?  Is it less beautiful this way than when it had all its skin?

Is it true of us, that our best time is when we are at our peak of health and strength?  Some elements of our selves grow, not only while other elements decay, but because they decay.  Certainly many of my strengths come directly from loss and the wearing-away of things that used to be essential to me.  I think a series of pieces on this might be one of the projects of the next few months.

The image came to my mind, and only then the idea.  And that, in a nutshell, is what I treasure about the activity my daughter calls “arting.”  What other revelations will my “sabbatical of art” bring?  I’m breathless with wondering.  The only way to find out is to get arting.