Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow; Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued Elations when the forest blooms; gusty Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights; All pleasures and all pains, remembering The bough of summer and the winter branch.
But in contentment I still feel The need of some imperishable bliss. ~Wallace Stevens from “Sunday Morning”
Earthly contentment~ whether a full stomach or adequate bank account or a covering of snow~ these don’t last.
May I not settle into comfort, but seek to fill my continual need with what will never perish, even as the latest snow melts and the late afternoon light fades.
Rest assured, simply knowing there comes imperishable bliss someday, I too am transformed.
Usually, after turning out that forgotten barn light, I sit on the edge of the tractor bucket for a few minutes and let my eyes adjust to the night outside. City people always notice the darkness here, but it’s never very dark if you wait till your eyes owl out a little….
I’m always glad to have to walk down to the barn in the night, and I always forget that it makes me glad. I heave on my coat, stomp into my barn boots and trudge down toward the barn light, muttering at myself. But then I sit in the dark, and I remember this gladness, and I walk back up to the gleaming house, listening for the horses. ~Verlyn Klinkenborg from A Light in the Barn
My favorite thing about walking up from the barn at night is looking at the lights glowing in our house, knowing the lives that have thrived there, even though each child has flown away to distant cities.
There is love there as we have rediscovered our “alone” life together.
There are still future years there, as many as God grants us to stay on the farm. It is home and it is light and if all it takes is a walk from a dark barn to remind me, I’ll leave the lights on in the barn at night more often.
‘May you live in interesting times.’ Chinese curse
If you ask me ‘What’s new?’, I have nothing to say Except that the garden is growing. I had a slight cold but it’s better today. I’m content with the way things are going. Yes, he is the same as he usually is, Still eating and sleeping and snoring. I get on with my work. He gets on with his. I know this is all very boring.
There was drama enough in my turbulent past: Tears and passion – I’ve used up a tankful. No news is good news, and long may it last. If nothing much happens, I’m thankful. A happier cabbage you never did see, My vegetable spirits are soaring. If you’re after excitement, steer well clear of me. I want to go on being boring.
I don’t go to parties. Well, what are they for, If you don’t need to find a new lover? You drink and you listen and drink a bit more And you take the next day to recover. Someone to stay home with was all my desire And, now that I’ve found a safe mooring, I’ve just one ambition in life: I aspire To go on and on being boring. ~Wendy Cope “Being Boring”
Four days snowed in might be boring to some folks.
It was wonderful, especially when I’m snowed in with a special someone who I love to stay home with, who is my safe mooring.
Today I’m heading back out on slushy roads, back to the life of all-but-boring clinic work, full of non-stop drama.
But my ambition is to go back to that boring life on the farm with that someone I want to stay home with. Soon.
…Then how his muffled armies move in all night And we wake and every road is blockaded Every hill taken and every farm occupied And the white glare of his tents is on the ceiling. And all that dull blue day and on into the gloaming We have to watch more coming.
Then everything in the rubbish-heaped world Is a bridesmaid at her miracle. Dunghills and crumbly dark old barns are bowed in the chapel of her sparkle. The gruesome boggy cellars of the wood Are a wedding of lace Now taking place. ~Ted Hughes from “Snow and Snow”
I wish one could press snowflakes in a book like flowers. ~James Schuyler from “February 13, 1975”
It’s true that three snow days in a row is unprecedented in our part of the world. Being snowbound by driveway-blocking drifts has its advantages until it isn’t fun any longer and means even more work to be done both on and off the farm, especially for a physician stranded from her closed clinic.
I’ve been doing my best taking care of our clinic’s patients via messaging, text and other media, but there is a limit to my virtual reach: I can’t palpate a tender belly, or feel swollen lymph nodes or listen to someone’s palpitations, though it is a little easier to discern despair, anticipate anxiety and work out someone’s worries from afar.
But I do have a view of the wedding lace of our woods and the sparkling chapels made of our tired old barns and buildings on the farm. I’m reminded that even I can be dressed up with a covering as white as snow. So lovely to look at, if only to be preserved for the long summer days that lie ahead — a wilting snowflake pressed into a book like a flower remembered, its fragrance still attached.
To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world. ~Karl Barth
There is much shouting and gnashing of teeth going on in our country right now. Some from the streets, some from computer keyboards and screens, and some from inside the halls of government and a certain White House.
We need to stop shouting and clasp hands in prayer.
Prayer is always easier for the youngest among us. It can be amazingly spontaneous for kids — an outright exclamation of joy, a crying plea for help, a word of unprompted gratitude. As a child I can remember making up my own songs and monologues to God as I wandered alone in our farm’s woods, enjoying His company in my semi-solitude. I’m not sure when I began to silence myself out of self-conscious embarrassment, but I stayed silent for many years, unwilling to put voice to the prayers that rattled in my head. In my childhood, prayer in public schools had been hushed into a mere and meaningless moment of silence, and intuitively I knew silence never changed anything. The world became more and more disorderly in the 60’s and 70’s and in my increasingly indoctrinated mind, there was no prayer I could say that would make a difference either.
How wrong could I and my education be? Nothing can right the world until we are right with God through talking to Him out of our depth of need and fear. Nothing can right the world until we submit ourselves wholly, bowed low, hands clasped, eyes closed, articulating the joy, the thanks, and the petitions weighing on our hearts.
An uprising is only possible when our voice comes alive, unashamed, unselfconscious, rising up from within us, uttering words that beseech and thank and praise. To rise up with hands clasped together calls upon a power needing no billions and no weapons and no walls ~ only the Word ~ to overcome and overwhelm the shambles left of our world.
Nothing can be more victorious than the Amen, our Amen, at the end.
…horses whose bellies are grain-filled, whose long-ribbed loneliness can be scratched into no-longer-lonely. ~Jane Hirshfield from The Love of Aged Horses
(originally written ~20 years ago)
Settling down into the straw, I am grateful for this quiet moment after a 12 hour workday followed by all the requisite personal conversations that help mop up the spills and splatters of every day life. My family has verbally unloaded their day like so much stored up laundry needing to be washed and rinsed with the spin cycle completed before tomorrow dawns. I moved from child to child to child to husband to grandmother, hoping to help each one clean, dry, fold and sort everything in their pile. Not to be outdone, I piled up a little dirty laundry of my own as I complain about my day.
By that time I’m on “spent” cycle myself and seeking a little “alone” time. I retreat to the barn where verbal communication isn’t necessary. Instead, I need to just sit quietly, watching what happens around me.
A new foal and his vigilant mama watch my every move.
This colt is intrigued by my intrusion into his 12′ x 24′ world. His mother is annoyed. He comes over to sniff my foot and his mother swiftly moves him away with a quick swing of her hips, daunting me with the closeness of her heels. Her first instinct insists she separate me from him and bar my access. My mandate is to woo her over. I could bribe her with food and sweet talk, but, no, that is too easy.
A curry comb is best. If nothing else will work, a good scratching always does. Standing up, I start peeling sheets of no longer needed winter hair off her neck, her sides, her flank and hindquarter. She relaxes in response to my efforts, giving her baby a body rub with her muzzle, wiggling her lips all up and down from his back to his tummy. He is delighted with this spontaneous mommy massage and leans into her, moving around so his hind end is under her mouth and his front end is facing me. Then he starts giving his own version of a massage too, wiggling his muzzle over my coat sleeve and wondrously closing this little therapeutic triangle, all of us “scratched into no-longer-lonely.”
Here we are, a tight little knot of givers/receivers with horse hair flying in a cloud about us. One weary human, one protective mama mare and one day-old foal, who is learning so young how to contribute to the well being of others. It is an incredible gift of trust they bestow on me like a blessing. I realize this horse family is helping me sort my own laundry in the same way I had helped with my human family’s load.
Too often in life we confine our lonely selves in painful triangles, passing our kicks and bites down the line to each other rather than providing nurture and respite. We find ourselves unable to wrench free from continuing to deliver the hurts we’ve just received. What strength it takes to respond with kindness when the kick has just landed on our backside. How chastened we feel when a kindness is directed at us, as undeserving as we are after having bitten someone hard.
Instead of biting, try a gentle scratching. Instead of kicking, try tickling. Instead of fear, try acceptance. Instead of annoyance, try patience. Instead of piling up so much laundry of your own, try washing, folding and sorting what is dumped on you by others, handing it back all ready for the next day.
Just settle into the straw to watch and wait – amazing things will happen.