He loved mountains, or he had loved the thought of them marching on the edge of stories brought from far away; but now he was borne down by the insupportable weight of Middle-earth. He longed to shut out the immensity in a quiet room by a fire. ~J.R.R Tolkien from Lord of the Rings
I am so high in the windy sun, On the rock-boned back of the highest thing, That the mountains under me, every one, Are but wrinkled gestures …. westering. ~Thomas Hornsby Ferril from “One Mountain Hour”
Surrounded as we are in the northwest by so much raw and rugged beauty, I’m easily overwhelmed. My breath catches when I turn my face to these monoliths of stone and ice.
There is no sound up there except my heartbeat. No birds. Even breezes are silent with no trees or leaves to rustle. Twenty foot walls of snow.
I am content to gaze at these peaks from afar, now and again to visit awed at their feet, to listen for their stories of near-eternity.
It is at the edge of a petal that love waits…
The fragility of the flower
penetrates space ― William Carlos Williams from Spring and All
It is too easy to look for love deep in the heart of things, up front and center, at once showpiece and show off. We think of love as reverberating from within, loud enough for all the world to see and hear and know it is so.
But as I advance on life’s road, I have found love is quietly waiting at the periphery of people: so fragile and too easily bruised and torn – clinging to the very edge of our lives. It is ever-present as it protects and cherishes our core, fed by fine little veins of grace which branch out to feed our tenderest margins.
Love dwells on that delicate edge of us – that exquisite, ethereal and eternal edge of who we are.
There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice. ~John Calvin
It is too easy to become blinded to the glory surrounding us if we perceive it to be routine and commonplace.
I can’t remember the last time I celebrated a blade of grass, given how focused I am mowing it into conformity.
Too often I’m not up early enough to witness the pink sunrise or I’m too busy to take time to watch the sun paint the sky red as it sets or to witness the ever-changing cloud formations above.
I didn’t notice how the light was illuminating our walnut tree until I saw the perfect reflection of it in our koi pond — I had marveled at a reflection instead of the real thing itself.
I miss opportunities to rejoice innumerable times a day. It takes only a moment of recognition and appreciation to feel the joy, and in that moment time stands still. Life stretches a little longer when I stop to acknowledge the intention of creation as an endless reservoir of rejoicing. If a blade of grass, if a palette of color, if a chance reflection, if a movement of clouds — if all this is made for joy, then maybe so am I.
Even colorless, plain and commonplace me, created an image-bearer and intended reflector of light.
“May the hair on your toes never fall out!” — J.R.R. Tolkien in The Hobbit (Thorin Oakenshield addressing Bilbo Baggins)
It’s a safe bet my toes and your toes have never been subjected to a blessing. But I like the idea of being blest starting from the bottom up, encompassing my most humble and homely parts first.
The world would be a better place if we rediscovered the art of bestowing blessings–those specific prayers of favor and protection that reinforce community and connection to each other and to something larger than ourselves. They have become passé in a modern society where God’s relationship with and blessing of His people is not much more than an after-thought. Benedictions can extend beyond the end of worship services to all tender partings; wedding receptions can go beyond roasting and toasting to encompass sincere prayers for a future life together.
But let’s start at the very beginning: let’s bless our hairy toes.
May you always have…
Walls for the winds
A roof for the rain
Tea beside the fire
Laughter to cheer you
Those you love near you
And all your heart might desire
May those who love us, love us;
and those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts;
and if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles
so we’ll know them by their limping. Traditional Irish Blessing
I find my greatest freedom on the farm.
I can be a bad farmer or a lazy farmer and it’s my own business.
A definition of freedom:
It’s being easy in your harness. ~Robert Frost in 1954, at a news conference on the eve of his 80th birthday
The past was faded like a dream; There come the jingling of a team, A ploughman’s voice, a clink of chain, Slow hoofs, and harness under strain. Up the slow slope a team came bowing, Old Callow at his autumn ploughing, Old Callow, stooped above the hales, Ploughing the stubble into wales. His grave eyes looking straight ahead, Shearing a long straight furrow red; His plough-foot high to give it earth To bring new food for men to birth.
O wet red swathe of earth laid bare, O truth, O strength, O gleaming share, O patient eyes that watch the goal, O ploughman of the sinner’s soul. O Jesus, drive the coulter deep To plough my living man from sleep…
At top of rise the plough team stopped, The fore-horse bent his head and cropped. Then the chains chack, the brasses jingle, The lean reins gather through the cringle, The figures move against the sky, The clay wave breaks as they go by. I kneeled there in the muddy fallow, I knew that Christ was there with Callow, That Christ was standing there with me, That Christ had taught me what to be, That I should plough, and as I ploughed My Saviour Christ would sing aloud, And as I drove the clods apart Christ would be ploughing in my heart, Through rest-harrow and bitter roots, Through all my bad life’s rotten fruits.
As happens every day, as she sang to me, her arm reached past my perch through the open cage door, to pour fresh water in my bowl. Just beyond her, overhead near the barn, were clusters of glistening red cherries bouncing in invitation in the morning breeze.
So I heeded, flapping clumsily over her arm as she spilled the water, her mouth an “O”.
I escaped my cage, my first time flying more than a few feet, awkward and careening. I made it to a high branch and grabbed hold tightly, staring down at her asking me to come back. Instead I listened to the cherries next to me, their sweet song of red juice pouring over the sides of my beak.
I ate more than my fill of freedom.
When the breeze picked up in the darkening hours, I missed the comfort of my indoor loft nest lined with cedar shavings and horse hair, with snug walls where I have spent many wintry nights, and soft summer twilights. My mournful evening anthem was hushed by the wing swoop overhead of a clicking owl, anxious for dinner. I listened to the chorus of coyotes nearby and tucked my head in fear, with no wire enclosure to protect me. I fell silent, barely sleeping.
At dawn, she found me picking at cat food in the dish near the back porch, with an ancient feline crouched a few feet away, tail twitching, ready for instant breakfast. I fluttered off, returning to relative safety of the orchard treetops, alert for hawks. For two days I explored the trees surrounding my little home, its door still open as a standing invitation. She filled my water bowl and brought my seeds just as she always did, singing. I listened carefully to the familiar tune, twisting my neck one way and then another to hear her better.
The cherry song no longer seemed as sweet.
The next morning, she found me in my little nest inside my dove house, the door still wide open. She filled my bowl with fresh water and brought me new seeds, closed the door, latching it snug and safe.
The cherries still beckoned but not to me.
Today, joyful at dawn, I woke her with my mourning song.