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.
The frugal snail, with forecast of repose, Carries his house with him where’er he goes; Peeps out,—and if there comes a shower of rain, Retreats to his small domicile again. Touch but a tip of him, a horn, – ’tis well, – He curls up in his sanctuary shell. He’s his own landlord, his own tenant; stay Long as he will, he dreads no Quarter Day. Himself he boards and lodges; both invites And feasts himself; sleeps with himself o’ nights. He spares the upholsterer trouble to procure Chattels; himself is his own furniture, And his sole riches. Wheresoe’er he roam, – Knock when you will, – he ’s sure to be at home. ~Charles Lamb — “The Housekeeper”
I like to think of myself as carefully self-contained and safe from whatever threatens – not dependent on others, able to bear my own burdens, completely sufficient unto today.
The reality is far different. As sturdy and solid as I may seem on the outside, I’m nothing but soft and a bit mushy on the inside. And I have a tendency to retreat and hide inside my shell when the going gets rough.
Yet even shells can and will be broken. I know it’s my home only for a little while.
So knock when you will: I’ll be here.
For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Hebrews 13:14
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.