BriarCroft at Year’s End

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.
— J.R.R. Tolkien

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

applefieldapplemossbranchesdec

“O cruel cloudless space,
And pale bare ground where the poor infant lies!
Why do we feel restored
As in a sacramental place?
Here Mystery is artifice
And here a vision of such peace is stored,
Healing flows from it through our eyes.”
~May Sarton from Nativity

treedecsunset

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

decsuntree“I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

‘We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,’
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.”
–   Oliver Herford, I Heard a Bird Sing

appleeat

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

appletreesdec

weedseeddec

“Come, come thou bleak December wind,
And blow the dry leaves from the tree!
Flash, like a Love-thought, thro’me, Death
And take a Life that wearies me.”
–   Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772-1834, Fragment 3

blackberrywinter

Dechaybarn

pyradec

“That’s no December sky!
Surely ’tis June
Holds now her state on high
Queen of the noon.

Only the tree-tops bare
Crowning the hill,
Clear-cut in perfect air,
Warn us that still

Winter, the aged chief,
Mighty in power,
Exiles the tender leaf,
Exiles the flower.”
–   Robert Fuller Murray (1863-1894), A December Day

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

“This is what I have heard
at last the wind in December
lashing the old trees with rain
unseen rain racing along the tiles
under the moon
wind rising and falling
wind with many clouds
trees in the night wind.”
–  W. S. Merwin

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

“The grim frost is at hand, when apples will fall thick, almost thunderous, on the hardened earth.”
–  D. H. Lawrence

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

catpyrafrostygnome

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

“Give me the end of the year an’ its fun
When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An’ I’ll put soul in my thanksgivin’ prayers.”
–   Edgar A. Guest

mushroomsclothespinfrostdectreehouse

“Through bare trees
I can see all the rickety lean-tos
and sheds, and the outhouse
with the half-moon on the door,
once modestly covered in
summer’s greenery.

Through bare trees
I can watch the hawk
perched on a distant branch,
black silhouetted wings
shaking feathers and snow,
and so can its prey.

Through bare trees
I can be winter’s innocence,
unashamed needfulness,
the thin and reaching limbs
of a beggar, longing to touch
but the hem of the sun.”
–  Lisa Lindsey, Bare Trees

creeperdecdecfrost1queenannedecfrostfir

“There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you …..  In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.”
–  Ruth Stout

decsun

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

harrow

snowberrywintergnomes

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

BriarCroft in Autumn photos

BriarCroft in Winter photos

BriarCroft in Spring photos

BriarCroft in Summer photos

The Mystery of Tears

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.  They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.
~Frederick Buechner

I’m not paying close enough attention if  I’m too busy looking for kleenex.  It seems the last couple weeks I have had more than ample opportunity to find out the secret of who I am, where I have come from and where I am to be next, and I’m loading my pockets with kleenex, just in case.

It mostly has to do with welcoming our children and their friends back home for the holidays to become a full out noisy messy chaotic household again, with lots of music and laughter and laundry and meal preparation.  It is about singing grace together before a meal and choking on precious words of gratitude.  It certainly has to do with bidding farewell again, as we began to do a few hours ago in the middle of the night and will do again in two days and again in two weeks, to gather them in for the hug and then unclasping and letting go, urging and encouraging them to go where their hearts are telling them they are needed and called to be.  I too was let go once and though I would look back, too often in tears, I knew to set my face toward the future.  It led me here, to this farm, this marriage, this family, this work, to more tears, to more letting go, as it will continue if I live long enough to weep again and again with gusto and grace.

This is where I should go next: to love so much and so deeply that letting go is so hard that tears are no longer unexpected or a mystery to me.   They release the fullness that can no longer be contained: God’s still small voice spilling down my cheeks drop by drop.  No kleenex needed.  Let it flow.

 

No Time to Bloom

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

I see buds so subtle
they know, though fat, that this is no time to bloom.
~John Updike from “December, Outdoors”

Our local grocery store garden center does not do a brisk business selling buds. There is no market for the subtlety of potential.

Overnight unsold poinsettias and fresh evergreen wreaths were hauled away with the oddly shaped and drying Christmas trees to make way for containers of unbearably cheerful primroses and early forced narcissus and hyacinth plants.  Now just a week into winter, spring is right in our faces as we wheel past with the grocery cart, a seductive lure to effectively skip a whole season of restorative quiet.  Color and fragrance and lush blooms are handed to us without taking a breather and simply waiting a couple months for them.

Dormant plants and hibernating animals have the right idea this time of year.   Rather than slogging daily through the daily burden of mud, skittering precariously across icy pavement or reaching up out of snow drifts, they are staying busy taking a break.  Well fed and pregnant with potential, they remain alive and well beneath a facade of sleep.  Come out too early and risk frostbite.

It’s no time to bloom right now — being a bud is exactly what is needed, no out of season blossoms need apply.
We can stay busy swelling with potential and dreaming dreams of the glorious growth to come.

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

A Beautiful Dream Died

The mass gravesite at Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota
The mass gravesite at Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota

From today’s  Writers’ Almanac by Garrison Keillor:

Today is the anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee, which took place in South Dakota in 1890. Twenty-three years earlier, the local tribes had signed a treaty with the United States government that guaranteed them the rights to the land around the Black Hills, which was sacred land. The treaty said that not only could no one move there, but they couldn’t even travel through without the consent of the Indians.

But in the 1870s, gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and the treaty was broken. People from the Sioux tribe were forced onto a reservation, with a promise of more food and supplies, which never came. Then in 1889, a native prophet named Wovoka, from the Paiute tribe in Nevada, had a vision of a ceremony that would renew the earth, return the buffalo, and cause the white men to leave and return the land that belonged to the Indians. This ceremony was called the Ghost Dance. People traveled across the plains to hear Wovoka speak, including emissaries from the Sioux tribe, and they brought back his teachings. The Ghost Dance, performed in special brightly colored shirts, spread through the villages on the Sioux reservation, and it scared the white Indian agents. They considered the ceremony a battle cry, dangerous and antagonistic. So one of them wired Washington to say that he was afraid and wanted to arrest the leaders, and he was given permission to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was killed in the attempt. The next on the wanted list was Sitting Bull’s half-brother, Chief Big Foot. Some members of Sitting Bull’s tribe made their way to Big Foot, and when he found out what had happened, he decided to lead them along with the rest of his people to Pine Ridge Reservation for protection. But it was winter, 40 degrees below zero, and he contracted pneumonia on the way.

Big Foot was sick, he was flying a white flag, and he was a peaceful man. He was one of the leaders who had actually renounced the Ghost Dance. But the Army didn’t make distinctions. They intercepted Big Foot’s band and ordered them into the camp on the banks of the Wounded Knee Creek. Big Foot went peacefully.

The next morning federal soldiers began confiscating their weapons, and a scuffle broke out between a soldier and an Indian. The federal soldiers opened fire, killing almost 300 men, women, and children, including Big Foot. Even though it wasn’t really a battle, the massacre at Wounded Knee is considered the end of the Indian Wars, a blanket term to refer to the fighting between the Native Americans and the federal government, which had lasted 350 years.

One of the people wounded but not killed during the massacre was the famous medicine man Black Elk, author of Black Elk Speaks (1932). Speaking about Wounded Knee, he said: “I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.”

The Name of the Room

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.” 
~Frederick Buechner 

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

For Each and Every One

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
Thérèse de Lisieux

To love another person is to see the face of God….
~Victor Hugo from Les Miserables

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

The Mystery Bones of Landscape

 
photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

 

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.
~Andrew Wyeth, artist

How endlessly beautiful is woodland in winter!  Today there is a thin mist; just enough to make a background of tender blue mystery three hundred yards away, and to show any defect in the grouping of the near trees.
~ Gertrude Jekyll, British horticulturalist

There is a stumbling reluctance transitioning from a month of advent expectancy to three months of winter dormancy.  Inevitably there is let-down: the watching and waiting is not over after all.  There is profound loneliness knowing the story continues, hidden from view.

We have been stripped naked as the bare trees right now; our bones, like the trees of the landscape, raising up broken branches and healed fractures of previous winter windstorms.  We no longer have anything to hide behind or among,  our defects are plain to see,  our whole story a mystery as yet untold but impossible to conceal.

Here I am, abundantly flawed with pocks and scars, yet renewed once again.  There are hints of new growth to come when the frost abates and the sap thaws.   I am  prepared to wait an eternity if necessary, for the rest of the story.

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten