~Mary Oliver from “Rain”
~Mary Oliver from “Rain”
…still it’s not death that spends
So tenderly this treasure
To leaf-rich golden winds,
But life in lavish measure.
No, it’s not death this year
Since then and all the pain.
It’s life we harvest here
(Sun on the crimson vine).
The garden speaks your name.
We drink your joys like wine.
~May Sarton, from “The First Autumn”
Is there something finished? And some new beginning on the way?
I cried over beautiful things, knowing no beautiful thing lasts…
~Carl Sandburg, from “Falltime” and “Autumn Movement”
I praise the fall:
It is the human season. On this sterile air
Do words outcarry breath: the sound goes on and on.
I hear a dead man’s cry from autumn long since gone.
I cry to you beyond upon this bitter air.
~Archiblad MacLeish from “Immortal Autumn”
(pansies pictured are above Bellingham Bay on the Performing Arts Center Plaza at Western Washington University)
Nobody can keep on being angry if she looks into the heart of a pansy for a little while.
The world is in sore need of a cure for the grumbles.
Fortunately, it exists right outside in our back yards, along sidewalks and in vacant lots.
A cheerful face is irresistible to all but the crabbiest among us, guaranteed to bring a smile every time.
Beyond the obvious charm exists a depth of heart — roots able to thrive in the thinnest of soil, at home among rocks and weeds, resilient even when tromped on.
We carry its seeds on the tread of our boots in spite of our grumbling and help spread the good news: anger left unfed will dry up and blow away.
Yet the constant heart of the pansy will last. It smiles back.
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness?
Let them be left,O let them be left, wildness and wet,
Long live the weeds and the wildness yet.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins from “Inversnaid”
Maybe I identify with weeds as I too have grown a bit “excessive” in mid-life, growing unnecessarily and a bit fluffier than I need be. Maybe I admire their ability to thrive where they land, resilient through all sorts of trials and deprivation. Certainly they deserve appreciation for their wildly unique characteristics and their perfect imperfections. Once I get to know them, their beauty brings me joy.
I can only hope I too can be left, my over-proliferation shown grace, my greediness granted mercy.
In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.
…if the simple things in nature have a message you understand,
Rejoice, for your soul is alive.
Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.
~A. A. Milne
…make no mistake: the weeds will win; nature bats last.
~Robert M. Pyle
The serene philosophy of the pink rose is steadying. It fragrant, delicate petals open fully and are ready to fall, without regret or disillusion, after only a day in the sun. It is so every summer. One can almost hear their pink, fragrant murmur as they settle down upon the grass: “Summer, summer, it will always be summer.”
~ Rachel Peden
And so it always will be summer when one lets go in the midst of brightness when all is glorious. No cold winds, no unending days of rain, no mildew, no iced walkways, no 18 hours of night every day, no turning brown with rot.
Serene and steadying — with so much brevity.
Let me be strong and serene through all seasons rather than letting go at the height of delicate beauty. Let me thrive steady through the hard times rather than withering at my peak. Let me age, let me turn gray, let me wrinkle.
It may always be summer — someday — but not yet. Not here. Not now.
I let her garden go.
let it go, let it go
How can I watch the hummingbird
Hover to sip
With its beak’s tip
The purple bee balm — whirring as we heard
It years ago?
The weeds rise rank and thick
let it go, let it go
Where annuals grew and burdock grows,
Where standing she
At once could see
The peony, the lily, and the rose
Rise over brick
She’d laid in patterns. Moss
let it go, let it go
Turns the bricks green, softening them
By the gray rocks
That lofted while she lived, stem by tall stem,
Blossom with loss.
~ Donald Hall from “Her Garden” about Jane Kenyon
Some gray mornings
heavy with clouds
and tear-streaked windows
I pause melancholy
at the passage of time.
Whether to grieve over
another hour passed
another breath exhaled
another broken heart beat
Or to climb my way
out of deepless dolor
and start the work of
planting the next garden
It takes sweat
and dirty hands
tears from heaven
to make it flourish
but even so
so carefully planted
might blossom fully
in the soil of loss.
Over the last two weeks, the garden is slowly reviving, and rhubarb “brains” have been among the first to appear from the garden soil, wrinkled and folded, opening full of potential, “thinking” their way into the April sunlight.
Here I am, wishing my own brain could similarly rise brand new and tender every spring from the dust rather than leathery and weather-toughened, harboring the same old thoughts and patterns. Indeed, more wrinkles seem to be accumulating on the outside of my skull rather than the inside.
Still, I’m encouraged by my rhubarb cousin’s return every April. Like me, it may be a little sour that necessitates sweetening, but its blood courses bright red and it is very very much alive.
In trees still dripping night some nameless birds
Woke, shook out their arrowy wings, and sang,
Slowly, like finches sifting through a dream.
The pink sun fell, like glass, into the fields.
Two chestnuts, and a dapple gray,
Their shoulders wet with light, their dark hair streaming,
Climbed the hill. The last mist fell away.
And under the trees, beyond time’s brittle drift,
I stood like Adam in his lonely garden
On that first morning, shaken out of sleep,
Rubbing his eyes, listening, parting the leaves,
Like tissue on some vast, incredible gift.
~ Mary Oliver – from “Morning In a New Land”
Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the soil of freedom, spontaneity and love.
— Thomas Merton from “New Seeds of Contemplation”
May I be receptive soil.
May I become garden and nursery.
May roots reach deep within me.
May I bloom and fruit in God’s time.
The sacred moments, the moments of miracle, are often the everyday moments, the moments which, if we do not look with more than our eyes or listen with more than our ears reveal only…a gardener, a stranger coming down the road behind us, a meal like any other meal. But if we look with our hearts, if we listen with all our being and imagination.. what we may see is Jesus himself.
We can be blinded by the everyday-ness of it. A simple loaf of bread is only that. A gardener crouches in a row of weeds, trying to restore order in chaos. A wanderer along the road engages in conversation.
Every day contains millions of everyday moments that are lost and forgotten, seemingly meaningless.
We would see Jesus if we only opened our eyes and listened with our ears. At the table, on the road, in the garden.
There is nothing everyday about the miracle of Him abiding with us.