By Rev. Anna Blaedel
Lately I have been seeing spirals everywhere.
Shells bearing spirals on the beach.
Stars spiraling into constellations, spiraling into galaxies in the night sky.
Spiral patterns intricately woven into the spider webs glistening anew each morning in the garden.
Leaves of collards and chard and kale and lettuce spiraling out from stalks rooted in dirt, reaching toward sky, offering nourishment.
I am opening to the wisdom being offered, through spirals. This opening is a process of reclaiming, returning differently.
For quite a while, without even quite realizing it, I have been associating spirals with things I fear.
Loss of control.
Shame spirals. Depression spirals. Anxiety spirals.
Spirals of self-doubt and distrust and despair.
But spirals have long been considered pathways to the Sacred, into Wisdom.
Inviting life. Energizing life. Offering life. Ordering life, albeit in patterns hospitable to chaos, and messiness. Spirals expose sacred patterns and rhythms of change, growth, transformation, becoming.
From the sub-atomic to the galactice, spirals shape and pattern life.
Elephant tusks. Beaver teeth. Bird beaks, and patterns of flight.
The coiled cochlea of our inner ears, patterning sounds.
The ventricles of our hearts, circulating blood, moving lifeforce.
Water whirlpooling. DNA double helixing.
Energy’s movement, radiating out, drawing in. Reaching and returning, infinitely.
Fibonacci spirals. Nautilus shells. Fractal repetitions.
The “golden ratio,” expressing the patterns of relating between.
A thing of beauty, underlying aesthetic pleasures.
The foundation of geometry, used to construct sacred structures.
The ancient Egyptians called the golden ratio neb, which can be translated “lord” and also “the spiraling of the universe.”
Spirals invite us to reimagine well traveled routes.
Slowing down. Dreaming. Wondering. Imagining.
Asking the same questions over and over, repeating with the critical difference of going deeper, expanding our awareness and insight. Paying attention to the patterns we participate in, the patterns of thinking and relating that structure our shared life.
Returning to these patterns, differently. Because, our destructive patterns repeat, too. Without interruption and disruption, they too gain momentum, force, intensity.
Emergent strategy is becoming, “in right relationship with change.” Fractals are an element of emergent strategy. Patterns that repeat across scales, infinitely. Small actions and connections spiral outward. Practicing the world we want to see, imagining and enfleshing the collectives we want to become. “Emergence is another way of speaking about the connective tissue of all that exists,” writes adrienne maree brown. “The way, the Tao, the force, change, God/dess, life. Birds flocking, cells splitting, fungi whispering underground.”
Ornithologist Drew Lanham also turns to birds for an otherwise way of being. “As much as I ran from my grandmother’s first Sunday God, I worship every bird that I see. And wildness is a wayward weed, but it’s also worthy of adoration and worship. So each time I see in those things that are flying or that are wild and free, I see a bit of me in that. And then that whole creation story my grandmother used to tell me about, I become a part of that, and I get to evolve through it. So my grandmother never mentioned that word, ‘evolve,’ but part of what she taught me gave me the strength to do it.”
Evolving is spiraling is becoming, and becoming free.
Praying, Mary Oliver teaches us, is a practice of paying attention.
Miracles, a dear friend recently reminded me, are merely that which we cannot fully explain.
We behold, in wonder. Worship. Adoration. Mystery. Awe.
Each bird, and their song.
Each tomato, bursting on the vine.
Each star, worlds that were, that are, that will become.
Each moment, an invitation into life.
In her poem “the becoming,” Nayyirah Waheed writes:
take your time.
you are coming home.
“Becoming is a funny word,” writes Imani Perry, “because it means beautiful and a process of change. Not just a vision to behold, but a doing to arrive at a new state of being.”
Remembering, we return.
Returning, we reclaim.
Reclaiming, we recreate.
Recreating, we redeem, resurrect, revive.
Rev. Anna Blaedel is theologian-in-residence at enfleshed. They bring an attentiveness to the intersections of academic, activist, and ecclesial engagement. Anna nourishes students through campus ministry for the University of Iowa Wesley Center and is enrolled in a PhD program in Theological and Philosophical Studies at Drew University’s Graduate Division.