The Secret of Seeing

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The secret of seeing is, then the pearl of great price.
If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever
I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts after any lunatic at all.
But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought.

The literature of illumination reveals this above all:
although it comes to those who wait for it,
it is always, even to the most practiced and adept,
a gift and a total surprise.

I return from one walk
knowing where the killdeer nests in the field by the creek and the hour the laurel blooms.
I return from the same walk a day later scarcely knowing my own name.

Litanies hum in my ears;
my tongue flaps in my mouth.
Ailinon, alleluia!
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

 

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Still Leave Footprints

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

An infant is a pucker of the earth’s thin skin; so are we.
We arise like budding yeasts and break off;
we forget our beginnings.
A mammal swells and circles and lays him down.
You and I have finished swelling;
our circling periods are playing out,
but we can still leave footprints in a trail whose end we do know.
~Annie Dillard from For the Time Being

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Broken Things

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God uses broken things.
It takes broken soil to produce a crop,
broken clouds to give rain,
broken grain to give bread,
broken bread to give strength.
It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.
~Vance Havner

 

And I might add:
a snail wandering into sidewalk foot traffic,
crushed, cracked and dying, clinging to the pavement,
its broken shell a gift of metaphor
of our own leaking brokenness.

A Failing Light

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Day after day, day after still day,
The summer has begun to pass away.
Starlings at twilight fly clustered and call,
And branches bend, and leaves begin to fall.
The meadow and the orchard grass are mown,
And the meadowlark’s house is cut down.

The little lantern bugs have doused their fires,
The swallows sit in rows along the wires.
Berry and grape appear among the flowers
Tangled against the wall in secret bowers,
And cricket now begins to hum the hours
Remaining to the passion’s slow procession
Down from the high place and the golden session
Wherein the sun was sacrificed for us.
A failing light, no longer numinous,
Now frames the long and solemn afternoons
Where butterflies regret their closed cocoons.
We reach the place unripe, and made to know
As with a sudden knowledge that we go
Away forever, all hope of return
Cut off, hearing the crackle of the burn-
ing blade behind us, and the terminal sound
Of apples dropping on the dry ground.
~Howard Nemerov from “Summer Elegy’

 

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photo by Harry Rodenberger

Keeping Watch

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I will try.
I will step from the house to see what I see and hear and I will praise it…

But this too, I believe, is a place
where God is keeping watch
until we rise, and step forth again…
~Mary Oliver from “Red Bird”

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Distilled Richness

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…now the cordial clouds have shut all in,
And gently swells the wind to say all’s well;
The scattered drops are falling fast and thin,
Some in the pool, some in the flower-bell.

Drip drip the trees for all the country round,
And richness rare distills from every bough;
The wind alone it is makes every sound,
Shaking down crystals on the leaves below.
~Henry David Thoreau from “The Summer Rain”

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Piecemeal

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Piecemeal the summer dies;
At the field’s edge a daisy lives alone;
A last shawl of burning lies
On a gray field-stone.
~Richard Wilbur from “Exeunt”

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