I know for a while again,
the health of self-forgetfulness,
looking out at the sky through
a notch in the valley side,
the black woods wintry on
the hills, small clouds at sunset
passing across. And I know
that this is one of the thresholds
between Earth and Heaven,
from which I may even step
forth from myself and be free.
~ Wendell Berry, Sabbaths 2000
I was told once by someone I respected that my writing reflected “sacramental” living — touching and tasting the holiness of everyday moments, as if they are the cup and bread that sustains us daily.
I have allowed that feedback to sit warmly beside me, like a welcome companion during the many hours I struggle with what to share here.
It is now apparent to me it is all too tempting to emphasize sacrament over the sacrifice it represents. As much as I love the world and the beauty in the moments I find here, my search should be for the entrance to the “thin places” between heaven and earth, by forgetting self and stepping forth through a holy threshold into something far greater.
There is a scary freedom in the sacrificial life, a wonderful terrifying illuminating freedom, still far beyond my grasp.
I may even step
forth from myself and be free.
Light wakes us – there’s the sun
climbing the mountains’ rim, spilling across the valley,
finding our faces.
It is July,
between the hay and harvest,
a time at arm’s length from all other time…
It is the time
to set aside all vigil, good or ill,
to loosen the fixed gaze of our attention
as dandelions let seedlings to the wind.
Wake with the light.
Get up and go about the day and watch
its surfaces that brighten with the sun.
~Kerry Hardie from “Sleep in Summer”
Saying good-bye to July
is admitting summer is almost half-baked
and so are we
not nearly done enough.
The rush to autumn is breathless
and we want to hold on tight
to our longish days
and our sweaty nights
for just a little while longer,
Please, oh please
grant us light
just a little while longer.
The darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.
- A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth
- Turns and twindles over the broth
- Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,
- It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.
- Degged with dew, dappled with dew,
- Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
- Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
- And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.
- What would the world be, once bereft
- Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
- O let them be left, wildness and wet;
- Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins “Inversnaid”
- There is despair in the wilderness of untamed hearts.
Such wildness lies just beneath the surface;
it rounds and rounds, almost out of reach.
- How are we spared drowning in its pitchblack pool?
How can we thrill to the beauty rather than be sucked into the darkness?
- He came not to destroy the world’s wildness,
but to pull us, gasping,
from its unforgiving clutches as we sink in deep.As weeds surviving in the wilderness,
we must grow, flourish, and witness to a wild world bereft.
- O let us be left.
Let us be left.
Just past dawn, the sun stands
with its heavy red head
in a black stanchion of trees,
waiting for someone to come
with his bucket
for the foamy white light,
and then a long day in the pasture.
I too spend my days grazing,
feasting on every green moment
till darkness calls,
and with the others
I walk away into the night,
swinging the little tin bell
of my name.
~Ted Kooser “A Birthday Poem”
all is green~
every square inch
and every misty mythical moment.
So I feast while I can,
knowing soon the darkness descends
and I too am called
to come home,
the bells I bear
swinging and ringing.
The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”
And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.
We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.
And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.
~Rainer Maria Rilke “Autumn” translated by Robert Bly
Sometimes I wake from my sleep
with a palpitating start:
dreaming of falling,
my body pitching and tumbling
yet somehow I land,
~oh so softly~
in my bed,
my fear quashed and cushioned by
I feel caught up,
rescued amid the fall
we all will do,
like leaves drifting down
from heaven’s orchard,
like seeds released like kisses
into the air,
the earth rises to meet me
and Someone cradles me there.
turns white with our ripening
as though to fly away in some
coming wind, bearing the seed
of what we know…
the bitter way to better prayer, we have
the sweetness of ripening.
~Wendell Berry in “Ripening”
My husband and I walk our country road together on a warm late summer evening, breathing in the smell of ripening cornstalks and freshly mowed grass lined up in windrows, much like the walks we took together thirty six years ago when we were newly married. Just down the road, we pass the smaller farm we first owned having left the city behind for a new life amid quieter surroundings. The seedling trees we planted there are now a thick grove and effective windbreak from the bitter howling northeasters we endured. The fences need work after 30 years, the blackberries have swallowed up the small barn where our first horses, goats, chickens and cows lived, the house needs painting, nevertheless there is such sweetness recalling the first home we owned together.
On this road, our children were conceived and raised, strolling these same steps with us many times, but now they are flown far away for their life’s work. My husband and I are back to walking together again, just the two of us, wondering how each child is doing at this very moment, pondering how the passage of time could be so swift that our hair is turning white and we are going to seed when only yesterday we were so young.
We ripen before we’re ready.
It is bitter sweetness relinquishing what we know, to face what we can never know.
It is the mystery that keeps us coming back, walking the same steps those younger legs once did, admiring the same setting sun, smelling the same late summer smells. But we are not the same as we were, having finally come to the fruitfulness intended all along.
Ripening and readying.
our thirty sixth wedding anniversary today
We sleep, but the loom of life never stops and the pattern which was weaving when the sun went down is weaving when it comes up tomorrow.
~Henry Ward Beecher (clergyman in the 19th century and nephew of Harriet Beecher Stowe)
Now burn, new born to the world,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Mid-numbered he in three of the thunder-throne!
Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came;
Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released shower, let flash to the shire, not a lightning of fíre hard-hurled.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins from “The Wreck of the Deutschland”
We tend to forget we are heaven-flung and God-woven;
each of us plain and ordinary and numerous as the weeds of the field
until the Light comes upon us from the shadows,
illuminated dazzling rays of gold,
fire-awakened, hard-hurled and reclaimed as His own.He calls us each by name,
knows each slender thread of hair on our heads.We may wander, oh do we wander,
but are not lost
as long as our faces remain turned toward Him.