Best of Barnstorming: Winter/Spring 2016

The last six months of documenting frozen to budding to blossoming to fruiting:

so may it be from the soil and from the heart.

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For more “Best of Barnstorming” photos:

Summer/Fall 2015

Winter/Spring 2015

Summer/Fall 2014

Best of 2013

Seasons on the Farm:

BriarCroft in Summer, in Autumn, in Winter,
at Year’s End

A Hard Time

fidalgobeach2

Wavecrash2
photo by Nate Gibson

It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple as well.
~Ellen Bass from “The World Has Need of You”

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God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going.  No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.
~Rainer Maria Rilke from “Book of Hours”

applehole

For too much of my life I have focused on the future, bypassing the present.  There is always a goal to achieve,  a conclusion becoming commencement of the next phase, a sunset turning right around in a few hours to become sunrise.

When the present is so hard, so overwhelming, so riveting, so tenderly full of life or achingly full of death, I grab hold with all my strength to try and secret it away and keep it forever.   Even if it slips away from me, elusive and evasive, torn to bits by the unrelenting and devastating movement of time, I have felt the earth move, ever so slightly, toward me.

So, whether out of joy or pain, I must write to harvest those times to make them last a little bit longer.  Maybe not forever; they will be lost downstream into the ether of unread words.

Even if unread, I am learning that words, which had the power in the beginning to create all life, can bring tenderness and meaning back to my life.  I embody Him.

How blessed to live the gift twice: not just in the moment itself but in writing words that preserve and treasure it all up.

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Time-bound and Time-ravaged

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leafunfolding

It is easy enough to write and talk about God
while remaining comfortable
within the contemporary intellectual climate.
Even people who would call themselves unbelievers
often use the word gesturally,
as a ready-made synonym for mystery.
But if nature abhors a vacuum,
Christ abhors a vagueness.
If God is love,
Christ is love
for this one person,
this one place,
this one time-bound and
time-ravaged self.

~Christian Wiman from My Bright Abyss

 

lupinepods2

Well aware of all I am not,
my shortcomings and failings,
my temptation to deny self-denial,
my inability to see beyond my own troubles,
forgetting this life is not all about me:

~neglecting to witness first hand
all that God through Christ is:

the beauty in His becoming man,
the joy of His joining up with us,
the love in His gracious sacrifice,
the full promise of His Word that breathes
life back into my dying soul~

and so it becomes all about me
not because of
what I’ve done,
or who I am,
but because of
who He is and was and will be:
He loves me,
this time-bound and time-ravaged me,
no matter what.

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Here is the mystery, the secret, one might almost say the cunning, of the deep love of God: that it is bound to draw on to itself the hatred and pain and shame and anger and bitterness and rejection of the world, but to draw all those things on to itself is precisely the means, chosen from all eternity by the generous, loving God, by which to rid his world of the evils which have resulted from human abuse of God-given freedom.
~N.T. Wright

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God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.
C.S. Lewis

 

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Another Day’s Chalking

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Life is grace.
Sleep is forgiveness.
The night absolves.
Darkness wipes the slate clean,
not spotless to be sure,
but clean enough for another day’s chalking.
~Frederick Buechner

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Today
is the tomorrow
hoped for last night,
a clean slate on which to
leave a mark on a new day
after night’s erasing rest.

No matter what took place the day before,
no matter the misgivings,
no matter what should have been left unsaid,
no matter how hard the heart,
there is another day to make it right.

Forgiveness finds a foothold in the dark,
when eyelids close and leak,
thoughts quietly crack open,
voices hush in prayers
of praise, petition and gratitude.

And so now
sleep on it
knowing his grace
abounds in blameless dreams.

Morning will come
awash in new light,
another chance
freely given.

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Turn the Earth Upside Down

dewyblue
dewyflowers
 There is a treasure in the earth
that is a food tasty and pleasing
to the Lord.
Be a gardener.
Dig and ditch,
toil and sweat,
and turn the earth upside down
and seek the deepness
and water the plants in time.
Continue this labor
and make sweet floods to run
and noble and abundant fruits
to spring.
Take this food and drink
and carry it to God
as your true worship.
~Julian of Norwich
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peasprout

In Summer, in a burst of summertime
Following falls and falls of rain,
When the air was sweet-and-sour of the flown fineflower of
Those goldnails and their gaylinks that hang along a lime;
~Gerard Manley Hopkins from “Cheery Beggar”

Sweet and sour extends far beyond a Chinese menu; it is the daily air we breathe.  Dichotomy is so much of our life and times,  more distinct than the bittersweet of simple pleasures laced with twinges and tears.

We are but cheery beggars in this world, desiring to hang tight to the overwhelming sweetness of each glorious moment — the startling sunrise, the lush green and golden blooms following spring showers, the warm hug of a compassionate word, the house filled with love and laughter.  But as beggars aren’t choosers, we can’t only have sweet alone;  we must endure the sour that comes as part of the package — the deepening dark of a sleepless night, the muddy muck of endless rain, the sting of a biting critique, the loneliness of an home emptying and much too quiet.

So we slog through sour to revel some day, even more so, in sweet.  Months of manure-permeated air is overcome one miraculous morning by the unexpected and undeserved fragrance of apple and pear blossoms, so sweet, so pure, so full of promise of the fruit to come.  The manure makes the sweet sweeter and once again the earth turns upside down.

And we breathe in deeply, content and grateful for a moment of grace and bliss, wanting to hold it in the depths of our lungs forever.

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The Memory of God

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rainyhydrangea

Our memories are, at best, so limited, so finite, that it is impossible for us to envisage an unlimited, infinite memory, the memory of God. It is something I want to believe in: that no atom of creation is ever forgotten by him; always is; cared for; developing; loved.
~Madeleine L’Engle from The Summer of the Great-Grandmother

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lilyyellow

He of strength and hope
loves and knows us down to our atoms ~~
the weak, the broken, the undeserving.
His infinite memory causes us to burst into bloom.

gerbera

wwuyellowrose

The Grey Disguise of Years

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brightnight2

Well-away and be it so,
To the stranger let them go.
Even cheerfully I yield
Pasture, orchard, mowing-field,
Yea and wish him all the gain
I required of them in vain.
Yea and I can yield him house,
Barn, and shed, with rat and mouse
To dispute possession of.
These I can unlearn to love.
Since I cannot help it? Good!
Only be it understood,

It shall be no trespassing
If I come again some spring
In the grey disguise of years,
Seeking ache of memory here.
~Robert Frost from “On the Sale of My Farm”

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From the road, each of the small farms where I grew up look nothing like they did in my childhood.  When I drive past now, the outbuildings are changed and unfamiliar, fences pulled down, the trees exponentially taller, the fields no longer well-tended. Instead the familiarity is in the road to get there, the lean into the curves, the acceleration in and out of dips, the landscape which triggers a comfort and disquiet deep in my cells.

I have never stopped to knock; instead I drive slowly past to sense if I feel what I used to feel in these places.

One clinic day, I glanced at the home address of a young man I was about to see and realized he now lived in my childhood home.  When I greeted him I told him we had something in common: we had grown up under the same roof, inside the same walls, though children of different generations.  He was curious but skeptical — how could this gray-haired middle aged woman know anything about his home?  He told me a bit about the house, the barn, the fields, the garden and how he experienced it felt altogether strange to me.  He and I had shared nothing but a patch of real estate.

I worry for the fearsome ache if someday, due to age or finances, we must sell our current farm ~ this beloved place our children were raised, animals bred and cared for, plants tended and soil turned over. It will remain on the map surely as the other two farms of my past, visible as we pass by slowly on the road, but primarily alive in the words I have harvested here, that sweet ache of seeking it out on the map of my memory.

 

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