For about four years, my family lived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where we visited them annually. Usually, we’d get a hotel so we could have our own space and enjoy fancy resort amenities. But one time we stayed with them in their condo, which was across the street from a little bakery called “Pie in the Sky.”
I don’t remember if it was an especially good bakery. But I remember the place because I spent a week making the same dumb joke about its name.
In Spanish, pie is pronounced “pee-ay,” and it means foot. So I thought I was being pretty clever when I asked my 16-year-old daughter why anyone would name a bakery “Foot in the Sky.” She rolled her eyes, unamused, the first time I said it. I was undeterred; I doubled down. When her boyfriend, who didn’t speak much English, came to dinner, I made sure to make a reference to pie en el cielo — “foot in the sky.” Nobody thought it was funny. So of course, I couldn’t let it go — if we needed dessert or breakfast pastries, I’d offer to run over to Foot in the Sky to pick something up. Travis, god love him, would always reward me with a chuckle. But everyone else was totally sick of it by the end of the week.
Eventually, it occurred to me that Foot in the Sky wasn’t just a bad spanglish pun. It became something like a mantra. And I realized that it was an apt description of spiritual practice, and a sweet philosophy of life.
“Pie in the sky” means wishful thinking, pipe dreams — something nice to imagine but which is probably never gonna happen. The sky is always so far away. We’re stuck down here, and way up there are our hopes and dreams drifting amongst the clouds, out of reach.
“Foot in the sky,” though — that suggests that we’re already standing in it. The sky isn’t a distant fantasy, but rather a place in which to take our stand. We can claim our pie right now. Have our pie and eat it.
A few weeks ago, The Washington Post published a short, graphic article about the “height” of the sky. The author pointed out that the sky tends to seem higher in warm, dry climates because of relative cloud elevation. In humid environs, clouds form at lower heights. Where it’s dry, clouds are more sparse and usually much higher, so the sky seems farther away. On the coasts and in the mid-west of the United States, tall buildings are called “skyscrapers” because clouds can form frequently around their rooftops. In the high desert and mountain west, however, buildings would need to be 8 times as tall as the World Trade Center to scrape our sky.
I found this interesting. But also maybe a little contrary to my own experience. Because I remember being deeply touched by the startling accessibility of the sky when I moved to New Mexico over thirty years ago.
After growing up where the clouds were low and heavy and gray most of the year, the New Mexico sky seemed a vast invitation. The sky was both enormous and immediate. The clouds were farther away, sure, but the sky was right here. It’s always right here.
The path to the sky goes through the sky, and all the way to the sky is the sky. The path to our dreams and hopes and fulfillment goes through our dreams and hopes and fulfillment, and all the way to them is them.
One step takes us there. Not all the way, because the way is endless. But if it’s heaven all the way, then one step is enough.
This doesn’t mean that one step solves all our troubles or fixes every woe. It does mean that we might reimagine problem-solving not as an obstacle to happiness but as an essential part of it. The magnificent sky forever calling forth our courage and commitment and creativity. And it begins right where we are — from the top of our head, or maybe it’s already under our feet.
My bakery pun referenced a single foot. Not both feet, but a foot in the sky. Because it is also important to be grounded.
There’s a cliché about keeping our “head in the clouds, feet on the ground,” meaning that it’s great to dream, but we’re advised to mind our practical considerations, not to get ahead of ourselves, to be reasonable about it.
I think I like my version better — with one foot already in the sky.
My head can be all over the place — both dreamy and pragmatic, full of imaginative possibilities as well as the nuts and bolts it’s gonna take to actualize things. My heart can be everywhere at once, too. Head and heart are both really nimble like that. But if our feet are stuck on the ground, and we think that’s the sensible place for feet to be, then where we are is probably going to tend to seem like not where we’d like to be. The sky seems perpetually elsewhere.
I’d much rather have one foot (at least) moving in the direction of my dreams. Recognizing that this, right here right now, is always where sky-heaven-fulfillment begins. If it’s not here, it’s nowhere. But it can begin here and now, simply by us saying so and stepping into it.
I can’t wait to be with you this Sunday, September 24, at 10:00am. With our special musical guests, Simple Truth. XO, Drew
©2023 Drew Groves