Who Are These People?

pondfrog

6200_534794725350_2612954_n
photo by Kate Steensma

hidingout

The snow piles in dark places are gone.
Pools by the railroad tracks shine clear.
The gravel of all shallow places shines.
A white pigeon reels and somersaults.

Frogs plutter and squdge—and frogs beat the air with a recurring thin steel sliver of melody.
Crows go in fives and tens; they march their black feathers past a blue pool; they celebrate an old festival.
A spider is trying his webs, a pink bug sits on my hand washing his forelegs.
I might ask: Who are these people?
~Carl Sandburg “Just Before April Came”

crow

There are no creatures you cannot love.
A frog calling at God
From the moon-filled ditch
As you stand on the country road in the June night.
The sound is enough to make the stars weep
With happiness.
In the morning the landscape green
Is lifted off the ground by the scent of grass.
The day is carried across its hours
Without any effort by the shining insects
That are living their secret lives.
The space between the prairie horizons
Makes us ache with its beauty.
Cottonwood leaves click in an ancient tongue
To the farthest cold dark in the universe.
The cottonwood also talks to you
Of breeze and speckled sunlight.
You are at home in these
great empty places
along with red-wing blackbirds and sloughs.
You are comfortable in this spot
so full of grace and being
that it sparkles like jewels
spilled on water.
~Tom Hennen “A Country Overlooked”

bugged

spiderdrizzle

It is simply too easy to think of others as “those people” — they are not like me, they don’t dress like me, they don’t look like me, they don’t talk like me, they don’t love like me, they don’t act like me, they just aren’t me in any recognizable way.

Yet I’m the blinded one who cannot see how similar we are.

Whether I have eight legs or two, whether I have wings or arms, whether I “plutter and squdge” or sing arias,  whether I am green or brown or speckled, there is no creature I cannot love as brother or sister.

Instead of wondering “who are these people?” I will be comfortable in this spot in the spectrum of life I’m been given, in an act so full of grace and being.

 

prairie2

thistlebugs

fog101954

Green and Glorious

buggedtrillium

trilliumheart

 

I wished to wade in the trillium
and be warmed near the white flames.
I imagined the arch of my foot
massaged by the mosses.
This field immersed in gravity
defying growth.  Green and glorious.
It let me know that out of the
soil came I, and green I shall be.
Whether an unnamed weed or a
wild strawberry I will join in
the hymn.
~Luci Shaw from “Spring Song, Very Early Morning”

 

drizzlemoss

gnomie

Spring is finally in full swing here on the farm.  Grass grows so fast that mowing could be a twice a week activity,  dandelions are dotting the fields in a yellow carpet, the flowering plums and cherries are peaking, the daffodils are spent and the tulips are bursting forth.

 

The koi and goldfish in our pond have decided to surface from underneath all the winter debris and have grown to another 6 inches over the winter and now are busy feasting on mosquito larvae as the insects have awakened as well.   At times I feel so overwhelmed by the accelerated pace of growth and activity that I sheepishly long for the dark quiet gray days of winter, if just for the respite of a nap.

Instead of a nap, I hunt for trillium.  They are the traditional harbinger of spring and without them, it all seems like just so much pretending.  These are somber plants that will only grow in certain conditions of woods and shade, with leafy mulched soil.  Once established, they reliably spring up from their bulbs every spring with their rich green trio of leaves on each stem that are at once soft and slightly shimmery, and at the top the purest of three white petals, one per leaf cluster.  The blossoms last a week or two, then turn purplish and fade away, followed weeks later by the fading of the foliage, not to arise again from the soil until the following year. 

 

Picking a trillium blossom necessitates picking the leaf foliage beneath it, and that in turn destroys the bulb’s ability to nourish and regenerate, and the plant never forms again.  I think I have known this from my earliest childhood days as I was a compulsive wildflower gatherer as a little kid, having devastated more than my share of trillium bulbs until I learned the awful truth of the damage I had done.  I have since treated them as sacrosanct and untouchable.

There are trillium blossoms to be found on our farm, a few steadfast survivors, yet completely vulnerable to someone’s impulse to bring the beauty indoors for a few days in a vase.  What a tenuous grip on life when people are desiring to pluck them, with their resulting oblivion. How unknowingly destructive we are in our blind selfish pursuit of beauty for our own pleasure and purposes.  These pure triad blossoms and leaves, representing all that is preciously drawn from the earth and enriched and nourished by sunlight, can be obliterated, never to return, never to bloom, never to rise again from the dust to be green and glorious.

How much more precious is that which rises again to bloom and flourish forever despite our senseless destructiveness?  And He is here, among us, waiting for us, forgiving us for our thoughtless actions.

I look at the trillium longingly, wanting to touch them, wanting to own them and hold them, and knowing I never will.  They are meant to stay where they are, as I hope to remain, rooted and thriving, yet still fragile in the everlasting soil of life.

winterfish

porchscenenorth

tulip20174

Everbloom: Stories of Living Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives

 

Everbloom JPEG[1]

everbloom

I am so grateful to have one of my farm stories included in this remarkable anthology created by Shayne Moore and Margaret Philbrick.  There are forty  Redbud writers inside this cover who touch the heart and soul with words of encouragement and transformation.

One of the most powerful ways we can know and love the people around us is to ask them to tell their story: how they came to be who they are, how they have been broken, how they persevere, how they have been mended. And we

This book is balm and ballast and I’m so proud to be part of it.

You can find it for purchase at Paraclete Press (our publisher),  Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Books.

From the Paraclete Press website:

A close-knit community of Christian women writers share compelling and courageous personal journeys of transformation and growth toward finding their unique voices and invite other women to join them on the beautiful journey.

From matters of politics to education, from social justice to health and wellness and beyond, this has been a year for the voices of women to ring out, and the Women of Redbud Writers Guild add their voices to the swell: voices of honesty, faith, deep spirituality, and generous wisdom. In their new book, Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives, edited by Shayne Moore and Margaret Ann Philbrick, they speak out on behalf of those women who might not have found their own voices yet, sharing stories of their own personal transformations, discoveries, and overcomings.

In forty stories, from global campaigns against social injustice and poverty, to the most intimate retellings of miscarriages and stillbirths, these Women of Redbud Writers Guild share a clarion call to all women: there is no pain that cannot be redeemed by the grace of God, no God-given voice that should be silenced, no one for whom the love of God through Jesus Christ will ever fall short.

Each of the diverse Women of Redbud Writers Guild — comprised of authors, lawyers, doctors, pastors, journalists, wives, mothers, and more — are as fascinating as the stories they share, for example:

  • Shayne Moore, a founder of Redbud and author of Global Soccer Mom, tells her story of a visit to Kenya to learn more about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and becoming a voice for the voiceless
  • Margaret Ann Philbrick, who began her career advertising Pop-Tarts for Kellogg’s, now plants seeds in hearts, having surrendered her life to the cross of Jesus Christ, and shares her poem “We Write”
  • Emily Gibson, wife, mother, farmer, and family physician, chronicles the heritage of the farm where she and her husband now raise their sons, specifically the woodlot where the trees have been watered with tears after the suicide of a 14-year-old boy
  • Alia Joy, writer, speaker and blogger, shares what it was like growing up Asian American, and how the “sin of omission” – neglecting to show women like her to the rest of America – is one of the worst types of oppression
  • Lindsey W. Andrews, lawyer, blogger and social media maven, exposes the depth of her rage and restoration with God at the suicide of her brother and the untimely, sudden death of her father

But the writers of Everbloom do not stop with the recounting of their own stories: following each is an invitation, prompting the reader to take a moment and find their own voice in a prayer of thanksgiving, grief, doubt, or even rage, and reflect on what she discovers. As the editors so eloquently write, Everbloom is “Dedicated to all women who have yet to find freedom in Christ in order to embrace their story and share it with the world. We believe in you, and we pray this book will help you `Walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.”

“Once I began reading these stories I couldn’t stop. Each writer is a strong woman who has learned much from life and God. Gritty, funny, painful, affirming. No punches are pulled, but grace abounds.”
—Luci Shaw, poet, author of The Thumbprint in the Clay

“Readers will find gold within these pages. Excellent writing often springs from deep sorrow that has softened hearts, widened vision, and pressed its bearer into the Man of Sorrows.”
— Dee Brestin, author of The Friendships of Women

Everbloom 1 (1)

Snail’s Eye

snail2

…who still has a controlled sense of wonder before the universal mystery,
whether it hides in a snail’s eye
or within the light that impinges on that delicate organ.
~Loren Eiseley

snail1

“James gave the huffle of a snail in danger. And nobody heard him at all.”
~A.A.Milne  “When We Were Very Young”

snailshell

A gastropod brave enough
to cross a busy sidewalk
appears in no particular rush~

no hurry toward the grassy expanse
on the other side.
The lawn will still be there
whether an hour from now
or tomorrow.

Its waving little snail eyes
see and smell the future.

To assure it would not be crushed underfoot
I decide to intervene in history
and give it a lift
as Someone did for me
when I felt irrevocably broken.

So today I came,
I saw a snail in danger
and barely heard its huffle.
I didn’t need to hear it cry
to do the right thing.

 

broken

Getting a Grip

dupre010
In the Pasture–Julien Dupre`

 

This painting by French realist Julien Dupre` resonated with me this past week. I know well the feeling of pulling against a momentum determined to break free of the strength I can muster to keep it under control. This is what my life often feels like, both on the farm and at work. It seems I am barely hanging on, at times losing my grip, my feet braced but slipping beneath me.

The full-uddered cow in the painting is compelled to join her herd in a pastoral scene just across the creek, but the milk maid must resist the cow’s escape. For the cow’s benefit and comfort, she must be milked. The cow has another agenda. She has snapped her rope tie, almost pulled up the stake, and in a show of strength and determination, the maid braces to pull a much larger animal around to retie her and restore things to how they were.

The action suggests the maid may succeed, but the cow’s attention is directed far afield. She doesn’t even feel the tug on her halter. We’re not fully convinced the cow won’t suddenly pull loose and break away from the maid’s grip, leaping the stream, tail raised straight in the air like a flag of freedom.

Right now, as spring advances rapidly with grass growing thick in the pastures, our horses can smell that richness in the air. Sometimes this tug of war takes place when my plan is different than the horse’s. The fields are too wet for them to be out full time yet, so they must wait for the appropriate time to be released to freedom. The grass calls to them like a siren song as I feed them their portion of last summer’s uninviting hay. They can pull my shoulders almost out of joint when they are determined enough, they break through fences in their pursuit of green, they push through stall doors and lift gates off hinges. Right now I’m barely an adequate counterbalance to the pursuit of their desires and I struggle to remind them I’m on the other end of their lead rope.

Each day I try too hard to restore order in my life, on the farm, in the house, in my clinic, with my patients and coworkers, with my family. I want to pull that cow back around, get her tied up and relieved of her burden of milk so that it can nurture and replenish others. Sometimes I hang on, only to be pulled along on the ground, roughed up in the process. Sometimes I just let go and have to try to catch that cow all over again.

Once in awhile I successfully get the cow turned around and actually milked without a spill.

I’ve held on. I’ve got a grip.
And maybe, just maybe, I will make cheese….

tony2017

outongrass1

A Little Tepid

tepidpool
I know what my heart is like
      Since your love died:
It is like a hollow ledge
Holding a little pool
      Left there by the tide,
      A little tepid pool,
Drying inward from the edge.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay “Ebb”
babydogwood

peonyrain2

 

I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded;
not with the fanfare of epiphany,
but with pain gathering its things,
packing up,
and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.

— Khaled Hosseini from The Kite Runner

 fidalgobeach
My mother was 58 when my father left her for a younger woman.  For weeks my mother withered, crying until there were no more tears left, drying inward from her edges.
It took ten years, but he returned like an overdue high tide.
She was sure her love had died but somehow forgiveness budded, that dry pool refilled with water somewhat cooler to the touch, yet more amazing, overflowing in its clarity.
sunrisepond22115

The Fringey Edge

aprilmaple3

aprileveninglight

Here is the fringey edge where elements meet and realms mingle, where time and eternity spatter each other with foam.
~Annie Dillard from Holy the Firm

aprilmaple2

aprileveningbarn

aprileveningclouds5

Heaven and earth are only three feet apart,
but in the thin places that distance is even smaller.
A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted
and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God.
~Celtic saying

aprilpoplarevening3

aprileveningclouds2

An April evening of swirling drama in the sunset clouds~
just enough illumination
to witness the fringe of heaven just beyond.

aprileveningnorth

aprilmaplepoplar

aprileveningnorth5

aprileveningclouds