Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The barefoot movement is seeing a recent resurgence. There are people who believe it is healthier and more natural to walk about outside without foot coverings, despite increased risk of cuts and embedded thorns and frostbite in the winter. These feet are callous-crusted, leathery and perpetually grimy, arguably spread out wider with less toe deformities and bunion problems. The idea is to walk lightly on surfaces, with less impact, more sensitivity, vulnerability and authenticity, thus removing the barrier between the foot and nature.
In a somewhat opposing philosophy, there have long been cultures where shoes must be removed before touching the surface of the floor inside a residence or temple, in an overt act of leaving the dirt of the world at the door thereby preserving the sanctity and cleanliness of the inner life.
And then there is what God said. He asked that holy ground be respected by the removal of Moses’ sandals. There is no need to be protected from my skin touching holy ground–I must remove any barrier that prevents me from entering fully into His presence, whether it be my attitude, my stubbornness, my unbelief, my centering on self rather than other. No separation, even a thin layer of leather, is desirable when encountering God.
Instead I trample roughshod over holy ground all the time, blind to where my foot lands and the impact it has. If I might shed the covering of my eyes, my mind, my feet, I would see earth crammed with heaven and God on fire everywhere, in every common bush and in every common heart. Even mine.
Burning and burning, never consuming, ever illuminating.
“Morning without you is a dwindled dawn.”
My adjustment to our children being grown and away from home has been slow: I instinctively grab too many plates and utensils when setting the table, the laundry and dishwasher loads seem skimpy but I wash anyway, the tidiness of their bedrooms is frankly disturbing as I pass by. I need a little mess and noise around to feel that living is actually happening under this roof and that all is well.
Now it has been three days since my husband went out of town for a work-related conference and I’m knocking around an empty unbearably oversized house, wondering what to do with myself.
I have a serious case of the dwindles. The cure will be arriving back home tonight, and another fix arrives on an airplane a week from tomorrow, followed by two other remedies arriving for shorter summer visits in a month or so. I realize, like the fading of the dwindled dawn, these are cycles to which I must adapt, appreciate for what they restore in me, and then be willing to let them go.
“Let Him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east.”
― Gerard Manley Hopkins
Too often, the bright light of Easter morning dims over time as I return to my daily routine. In mere days, the humdrum replaces the extraordinary, tragedy overcomes festivity, darkness overwhelms dawn. The world encourages this, and I don’t muster enough resistance. I climb right back into the tomb of my sin, move the huge stone back in place, and lie there waiting for rot to settle in.
I am not alone. I have plenty of company with me behind the stone. There is no excuse for us to be there still.
The stone is pushed aside, the burden shouldered, the debt completely paid.
There are two reliable things that take place on our farm in April besides taxes being due: the Haflingers start serious shedding of their worn winter coats and the huge pink dogwood tree in front of our house bursts into bloom as one consolation over the taxes.
We’re still currying hair from the horses–it will be another 2-3 weeks before it all lets go, as the nights are still cool and that hair feels mighty nice in the cold breezes. The summer undercoat is shining beneath that old winter hair, and glistens as it is revealed–hair flies everywhere, sticks to our sleeves and gets in our noses and mouths. As the horses groom each other they end up with hair-lined teeth and furry tongues.
Our dogwood tree, some 30 feet tall, in silent coordination with every other pink dogwood in our community, is about to bloom, and it seems now that everywhere I go there are brother and sister dogwoods that I notice only this time of year. We neighbors all share this common bond in our pink dogwoods–10 days of show before the leaves come and the pink petals rain down and the trees resume ordinary status.
These brilliant blossoms are profoundly glorious–a feast for the eyes— perfection of colored petals tipped by white, but in the middle, this volcano dome-like center that seems so primitive and out of place in something so beautiful. Yet it is that center that lasts long after the petals have melted into the ground and disappeared. There would be no future blooms otherwise. The petals are transient and soothe my winter-weary eyes, but the knobby core of the blossom is the essence of the dogwood that will be preserved even through the worst ice storm.
Profound is found in the most primitive if we remember our origin. After all, we were once dust. There is nothing more primitive than that.
And the fact we exist is the most profound of all.
A sunny spring day lured us outside for yard and garden prep for the anticipated grass and weed explosion in a few short weeks. We’ve been carefully composting horse manure for over two years behind the barn, and it was time to dig in to the 10 foot tall pile to spread it on our garden plots. As Dan pushed the tractor’s front loader into the pile, steam rose from its compost innards. As the rich soil was scooped, thousands of newly exposed red wiggler worms immediately dove for cover. Within seconds, thousands of naked little creatures had, well, …wormed their way back into the security of warm dirt, rudely interrupted from their routine. I can’t say I blamed them.
Hundreds of thousands of wigglers ended up being forced to adapt to new quarters today, leaving the security of the manure mountain behind. As I smoothed the topping of compost over the garden plot, the worms–gracious creatures that they are–tolerated being rolled and raked and lifted and turned over, waving their little bodies expectantly in the cool air before slipping back down into the dark. There they will begin their work of digesting and aerating the tired soil of the garden, reproducing in their unique hermaphroditic way, leaving voluminous castings behind to further feed the seedlings to be planted.
Worms are unjustly denigrated by humans primarily because we don’t like to be surprised by them. We don’t like to see one in our food, especially only part of one, and are particularly distressed to see them after we’ve digested our food. Once we get past that bit of squeamishness, we can greatly appreciate their role as the ultimate recyclers, leaving the earth a lot better off once they are finished with their work. We humans actually suffer by comparison, so to be called “a worm” is really not as bad as it sounds at first. The worm may not think so.
I hope to prove a worthy innkeeper for these new tenants. May they live long and prosper. May worms be forgiving for the continual disruption of their routine. May I smile the next time someone calls me a worm.