The mares go down for their evening feed into the meadow grass. Two pine trees sway the invisible wind— some sway, some don’t sway. The heart of the world lies open, leached and ticking with sunlight For just a minute or so. The mares have their heads on the ground, the trees have their heads on the blue sky. Two ravens circle and twist. On the borders of heaven, the river flows clear a bit longer. ~Charles Wright “The Evening is Tranquil, and Dawn is a Thousand Miles Away”
When I stroll in the fields on summer evenings,
the horses raise their heads in greeting,
still chewing, they walk up slowly from pasture
to follow me inside for the night.
They could choose not to leave the field,
to enjoy freedom all night under the stars outside,
yet they choose the walls and doors of the barn,
and joining with me when I call.
Come and go gently, my friends. Come and go gently.
And so will I.
Underneath the stars I’ll meet you Underneath the stars I’ll greet you There beneath the stars I’ll leave you Before you go of your own free will
Underneath the stars you met me Underneath the stars you left me I wonder if the stars regret me At least you’ll go of your own free will
Here beneath the stars I’m mending I’m here beneath the stars not ending Why on eartham I pretending? I’m here again, the stars befriending They come and go of their own free will
Go gently Go gently
Underneath the stars you met me And underneath the stars you left me I wonder if the stars regret me I’m sure they’d like me if they only met me They come and go of their own free will
Go gently ~Kate Rusby “Underneath the Stars”
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I see buds so subtle they know, though fat, that this is no time to bloom. ~John Updike from “December, Outdoors”
Yesterday, our farm trees and bushes filled with buds of ice reflecting a bright and crisp Christmas sunlight. It was a crystalline wonderland celebrating the subtle beauty of winter.
Yet even today at the local grocery store garden centers, there will no longer be buyers for “winter” products — overnight, Christmas completely disappears except for the “remainder” and “two-for-one” tables. Unsold poinsettias and fresh evergreen wreaths are hauled away along with the oddly shaped and drying Christmas trees to make way for containers of unbearably cheerful primroses and early forced narcissus and hyacinth plants. Barely a week into winter, Valentine’s Day and spring will be right in our faces as we wheel past with the grocery cart, a seductive lure to effectively skip a whole season of restorative watch-and-wait. Color and fragrance and lush blooms are handed to us without even taking a breather.
Dormant plants and hibernating animals have the right idea this time of year: “already, but not yet.” Rather than slogging daily through the burden of mud, skittering precariously across icy fields or reaching up out of snow drifts, they quietly rest up. Well fed and pregnant with potential, they are alive and well beneath a facade of sleep. Come out too early and risk starvation and frostbite.
So it’s not yet time to bloom — being a subtle bud is exactly what is needed. Out-of-season blossoms need not apply.
We swell with potential to dream dreams of a glorious growth to come.
The Word became flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed. Incarnation. It is not tame. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light. Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space, time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself. You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God… who for us and for our salvation,” as the Nicene Creed puts it, “came down from heaven.” Came down. Only then do we dare uncover our eyes and see what we can see. It is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her arms. It is the bitterness of death he takes at her breast. ~Frederick Buechner from Whistling in the Dark
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2: 6-8
[The Incarnation is like] a wave of the sea which, rushing up on the flat beach, runs out, even thinner and more transparent, and does not return to its source but sinks into the sand and disappears. ~Hans Urs von Balthasar from Origen: Spirit and Fire
O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum.
O great mystery and wondrous sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord lying in their Manger!
Blessed is the Virgin
whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, hard-trying, it seems I cannot pray– For doubt, and pain, and anger, and all strife. Yet some poor half-fledged prayer-bird from the nest May fall, flit, fly, perch–crouch in the bowery breast Of the large, nation-healing tree of life;– Moveless there sit through all the burning day, And on my heart at night a fresh leaf cooling lay. ~George MacDonald from Diary of an Old Soul
There can be no response today but to bow in earnest prayer, waiting for the hatch of a healing peace among the diverse peoples and opinions of our nation.
Our lives are half-fledged, not yet fully delivered nor understood, doubt burning into our flesh like thorns on fire. We are an angry and hurting nation — today becoming those who won and those who lost. The gloating bloats who we are, beyond recognition.
May our prayers rise like a dove from hearts in turmoil, once again to soar on the wings of eagles.
Peace, come quickly.
Be no longer moveless.
Move us to higher ground.
Plow deep our hearts.
Now a red, sleepy sun above the rim Of twilight stares along the quiet weald, And the kind, simple country shines revealed In solitudes of peace, no longer dim. The old horse lifts his face and thanks the light, Then stretches down his head to crop the green. All things that he has loved are in his sight; The places where his happiness has been Are in his eyes, his heart, and they are good. ~Siegfried Sassoon from “Break of Day”
Move away from reading morning headlines
or being crushed in the masses at rush hour,
ignore the politics of power
or striving for market share~
instead, come home to this:
the reality of peace brought to earth.
A day breaks fresh each morning
and folds gently and quietly each evening.
And we are glad,
that it is good.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn. —John Muir
The Pacific Northwest has been anticipating a “historic” windstorm for the past four days, comparable to the west coast “Columbus Day” storm of 1962. I remember that storm vividly as an eight year old in Olympia, as the wind gusts were clocked at over 140 mph. Large fir trees toppled over like toothpicks in the woods all around our house. The root balls stood 15 feet tall, headstones over a mass of tree graves. We lived without power for at least a week, losing all our stored food in our freezer and depending on canned goods, a camp stove and kerosene lights and hot dogs roasted over our fireplace.
When the predictions came for a similar strength storm last week, like millions of others in the region, I dutifully prepared by storing up water, getting a battery operated radio ready and counting up my canned goods. We waited, en masse, for the monster to storm into our yards.
The lights flickered a few times, but the winds were meager in comparison to our usual storms.
Some people were disappointed, having geared up for “the big one.”
I’m among the relieved this morning, having aged past the desire for an adventure without power, and today my cares have dropped away like the leaves that let go to settle silent for the winter.