Invisible at Daybreak

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

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On the tidal mud, just before sunset,
dozens of starfishes
were creeping. It was
as though the mud were a sky
and enormous, imperfect stars
moved across it as slowly
as the actual stars cross heaven.
All at once they stopped,
and, as if they had simply
increased their receptivity
to gravity, they sank down
into the mud, faded down
into it and lay still, and by the time
pink of sunset broke across them
they were as invisible
as the true stars at daybreak.
~Galway Kinnell “Daybreak”

 

We know the stars,
heavenly or terrestrial,
still shine there, though made invisible,
hidden in plain sight at daybreak
yet throwing sparks,
ever eternally lit,
in the dark.

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photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

 

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An Immense Morning Sky

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You are the future, the immense morning sky
turning red over the prairies of eternity…

You are the meaning deepest inside things
that never reveals the secret of its owner.
And how you look depends on where we are:
from a boat, you are shore, from the shore a boat.
~Rainer Maria Rilke,  from Love Poems to God from the Book of Hours

 

 

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Tangled Threads

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Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.

leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs-

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.
~Rainer Maria Rilke “Sunset”

 

We stand, wavering, on the cusp of light and shadow~
struggling to untangle our feet of clay from the earth
to avoid sinking like a stone, mired and stuck.
As darkness begins to claim our days again,
we seek to rise like a star illuminating the long night,
brushing eternity with our branches.

 

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Following His Broad Shadow

I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.
~Seamus Heaney from “Follower”

My father did grow up plowing with horses, and hated every minute of it.  He was overjoyed to one day be able to afford a tractor, and although it was only a little Farmall Cub (in one of the photos below), it teamed up with my dad to do remarkable things.

I’m telling this story again as my Father’s Day tradition since it says a lot about who my dad was, but even more so, it explains much about who I have become having grown up in his shadow.

My father departed this soil twenty years ago, having completed umpteen “projects” in his spare time and leaving just a few unfinished.  This was undoubtedly the most remarkable.   He dove right in to whatever he decided to accomplish and his Farmall tractor was often part of the plan.

These photos chronicle my father’s 1968 backyard project.   This was no ordinary project, but like every other project he took on, it was accomplished during the daylight hours after he got home from his desk job and then consumed most of his weekend waking hours.  He had been dreaming it up for a number of years, and then one day, grabbed a shovel and simply got started and didn’t quit until it was finished.

He was determined to build a full size swimming pool, by himself, with his own two hands.  He did use his little Farmall Cub tractor to blade away the first layer of topsoil, but the rest of the digging was by the shovel-full.   He wanted a kidney shaped pool rather than a rectangular one, so he soaked the wooden forms in water to form the graceful curves. The cement was poured by a cement truck, but the sidewalks were all self-mixed in our own little cement mixer that ran off a small engine.  The tile that lined the top of the pool was all hand grouted and placed, square by square.  The pumphouse/changing room was built alongside.

I was 14 that summer, not truly understanding how extraordinary an effort this was, but simply accepting it as another “dad” project like any other he finished through sheer will, stubbornness and a desire to go on to the next challenge.   Now, 46 years later,  as an adult who is plum tired at the end of an office/clinic work day, I marvel at his energy putting in another four or five hours of physical labor when he came home at night.  No wonder he never suffered from insomnia.

Once the pool was declared finished, a hose ran water for several days, and it took 2 more days to heat it up to a temperature that was survivable.  Then my dad took the first dive in.

Once he had taken that first dive, he was happy.  He swam every once in awhile, but was soon onto another project (reconstructing a steel walled gas station that arrived on our farm in piles of panels on the back of a flat bed truck, so that he could have a full size “shop” to work on indoor projects during the winter).  It was sufficient for him to just to be able to say he had done it himself.

So as I study the look on my father’s face in these photos, I am startled to see my self looking back at me, like a reflection in the water.  I now realize determination and utter stubbornness manifest in different ways.  I have no mechanical skills whatsoever,  but like my father,  I always have a dream I’m pursuing, and I follow his broad shadow in that pursuit.

Thanks to my dad for showing me how to dive right into life and not waste a moment of it.  The water’s still fine.

Each Other’s Harvest

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That time
we all heard it,
cool and clear,
cutting across the hot grit of the day.
The major Voice.

Warning, in music-words
devout and large,
that we are each other’s
harvest:
we are each other’s
business:
we are each other’s
magnitude and bond.
~Gwendolyn Brooks  from “Paul Robeson”

 

We all can hear it now~
the Voices of the Forgiven
forgiving the unforgivable.
They are louder than any gunshot;
penetrate deeper than any bullet.

They are harvesting hearts
with their faith, their obedience,
their tears, their words.

This is how the gospel resounds
through the crushed and broken-hearted.
This is how Christ forgave His enemies
in the midst of His suffering at their hands.
This is His amazing grace in action
with families reaching out in love
to the one who has taken so much from them.

 

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The Colors of Truth

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…I forced to mind my vision of a sky   
close and enclosed, unlike the space in which these clouds move—
a sky of gray mist it appeared—
and how looking intently at it we saw
its gray was not gray but a milky white
in which radiant traces of opal greens,
fiery blues, gleamed, faded, gleamed again,
and how only then, seeing the color in the gray,   
a field sprang into sight, extending
between where we stood and the horizon,
a field of freshest deep spiring grass   
starred with dandelions,
green and gold
gold and green alternating in closewoven   
chords, madrigal field.
Is death’s chill that visited our bed   
other than what it seemed, is it   
a gray to be watched keenly?
Wiping my glasses and leaning westward,   
clearing my mind of the day’s mist and leaning   
into myself to see
the colors of truth
I watch the clouds as I see them   
in pomp advancing, pursuing   
the fallen sun.
 ~Denise Levertov from “Clouds”


Tears fell from heaven last night
after a long dry spell;
not nearly enough tears have watered this parched ground
and surely more will come.
No matter what our color,
we are closewoven in our love for unity
and our hatred for hatred.
No matter how broken, how shattered,
we bind each other together
to be a tapestry
woven in colors of truth.

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What Does Love Look Like?

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What does love look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.
~St. Augustine

So many sighs and sorrows and tears today
for the martyring of Your people in South Carolina
for the color of their skin,
for their faith in You.

When will the hatred end?
When will we all be one people,
united in Your arms?

Only when our love looks like Your Love,
Love that sacrifices Himself for the good of others,
rather than sacrificing others for no good at all.

Lord, come quickly.

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