A Perfect Pear

“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

A moment’s window of perfection is so fleeting
in a life of bruises, blemishes and worm holes.
Wait too long and nectar-smooth flesh
softens to mush and rot.

The unknown rests beneath a blushed veneer:
perhaps immature gritty fruit unripened,
or past-prime browning pulp readily
tossed aside for compost.

Our own sweet salvage from warming humus
depends not on flawless flesh down deep inside
but heaven’s grace dropped into our laps;
a perfect pear falls when ripe, tasting like a selfless gift.

“A man watches his pear-tree day after day, impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the process, and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him patiently wait, and the ripe pear at length falls into his lap!”
~ Abraham Lincoln

Autumnal Beginning

 
“That old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing… obligations gathering, books and football in the air … Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.”
~Wallace Stegner in Angle of Repose
 

How is it the same day can be wistful and yet jubilant?  More than New Year’s Day, the beginning of autumn represents so many turned over “leafs”.  We are literally reminded of this whenever we look at the trees and how their leaves are turning and letting go, making joy as they make way, the slate wiped clean and ready to be scribbled on once again.

Tomorrow the school where I’ve worked for nearly a quarter century welcomes back 15,000 students to its halls and classrooms.  We see or are contacted by 2% of those students every day about their health concerns and symptoms.  I am struck anew every autumn when each adult comes to the university with that clean slate, hoping to start fresh, leaving behind what has not worked well for them in the past.  These are patients who are open to change because they are dedicating themselves to self-transformation through knowledge and discipline.

It is a true privilege, as a college health doc, to participate in our students’ transition to become autonomous critical thinkers who strive to better the world as compassionate global citizens.  Their rich colors deepen once they let go to fly wherever the wind may take them.

We who remain rooted in place celebrate each new beginning, knowing we nurture the coming transformation.

photo by Josh Scholten
 

Whispering Scythe

Winslow Homer’s The Veteran in a New Field

To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows…

The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.
~Robert Frost in “Mowing”

I grew up watching my father scythe our hay in our field because he had no mower for his tractor.  He enjoyed physical labor in the fields and woods–his other favorite hand tool was a brush cutter that he’d take to blackberry bushes.   He would head out to the field with the scythe over this shoulder, grim reaper style.  Once he was standing on the edge of the grass needing to be mowed, he would then lower the scythe, curved blade to the ground, turn slightly, positioning his hands on the two handles just so, raise the scythe up past his shoulders, and then in a full body twist almost like a golf swing, he’d bring the blade down.   It would follow a smooth arc through the base of the standing grass, laying clumps flat in a tidy pile in a row alongside the 2 inch stubble left behind. It was a swift, silky muscle movement, a thing of beauty.

This work was a source of his satisfaction and “sweetest dream.”  I know now what he must have felt–there is a contentment found in sweaty work showing visible results.   I understand that “earnest love” that drives us to work, and tangibly leaves the evidence of our labors behind.

Harvest work is not for sissies.   I learned that watching my father’s continual sweep across the field and hearing his whispering scythe.

I wish I too could work with a whisper.

Weeds in the Moonlight

Lyric night of the lingering Indian Summer,
Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing,
Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects,
       Ceaseless, insistent.   

The grasshopper’s horn, and far-off, high in the maples,
The wheel of a locust leisurely grinding the silence
Under a moon waning and worn, broken,
       Tired with summer.   
Let me remember you, voices of little insects,
Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,
Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us,
       Snow-hushed and heavy.   
Over my soul murmur your mute benediction,
While I gaze, O fields that rest after harvest,
As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to,
       Lest they forget them.

Sara Teasdale–September Midnight

Now We Know…

 “How joyful to be together, alone as when we first were joined in our little house by the river long ago, except that now we know each other, as we did not then; and now instead of two stories fumbling to meet, we belong to one story that the two, joining, made. And now we touch each other with the tenderness of mortals, who know themselves…”
Wendell Berry

Thirty one years ago today we became one story, a story still being told.   What joy it is to know you and be known by you!
May our story have many more chapters celebrating the poetry of life together, with a minimum of plot twists and cliffhangers.

We’ll trust the Author who touches us with Words as tenderly as we touch each other.  It is bliss to love and be loved from the first page to the last.

 

Barbarous in Beauty

Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks rise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, willful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

 I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
And, eyes, heart, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world wielding shoulder
Majestic as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet! –
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins “Hurrahing in Harvest”

Reading Hopkins invokes God’s intentional accessibility “stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet” in our daily lives, if we simply open our eyes to see and ears to hear.  The details Hopkins captures in marvelous word pictures, painting with sound and syllable, pull us in.  The “heart rears wings” as we are lifted up to see the Lord manifest in Creation.  We can’t help but be harvested to live obediently as we “glean our Savior” through raised heart and eyes to the glory in the heavens.

As Kathleen Mulhern in her blog “Dry Bones” says in her analysis of “a Christ sighting”:
“There is no point in seeing without responding; there is no way to respond without seeing. Christian life and practice require both faith (the sight of the heart) and works (the lurch of the heart toward him in obedience).”

The gleaning of our Savior is particularly manifest in the sacrament of communion, the earthly meal Jesus invites us to partake of His harvest.  In the bread and wine,  “a barbarous beauty” representing his body and blood,  He lifts us up to taste the glories of heaven.

Our heart “hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him” in response.

What else,  at summer’s end,  can we do?

We walk in faith, raised up, glorious.

Sheaves of Wheat in a Field –Vincent Van Gogh

Ploughing Deep

Field with Plowing Farmer by Vincent Van Gogh
O wet red swathe of earth laid bare,
O truth, O strength, O gleaming share,
O patient eyes that watch the goal,
O ploughman of the sinner’s soul.
O Jesus, drive the coulter deep
To plough my living man from sleep…
Lo, all my heart’s field red and torn,
And Thou wilt bring the young green corn,
And when the field is fresh and fair
Thy blessed feet shall glitter there,
And we will walk the weeded field,
And tell the golden harvest’s yield,
The corn that makes the holy bread
By which the soul of man is fed,
The holy bread, the food unpriced,
Thy everlasting mercy, Christ.
~John Masefield from The Everlasting Mercy

 

My heart land is plowed,
yielding to the plowshare digging deep with the pull of the harness,
the steady teamster centering the coulter.  
The furrow should be straight and narrow. 
I am tread upon yet still bloom; 
I am turned upside down yet still produce bread.
The plowing under brings freshness to the surface,
a new face upturned to the cleansing dew,
knots of worms now making fertile simple dust. 
Plow deep my heart, dear Lord. 
May it grow what is needed
to feed your hungry children.
Painting “Plowing the Field” by Joyce Lapp
photo by Josh Scholten