Just as a painter needs light
in order to put the finishing touches to his picture, so I need an inner light, which I feel I never have enough of in the autumn. ~Leo Tolstoy
Let’s go I said.
I need to find some light, but not just any light I said — now.
Sure he said.
He loves to drive winding roads to breathe chill alpine air.
We headed east an hour before sunset to try to make it in time.
The highway so empty going up.
Gas tank nearing empty with no time to fill up.
Only tripod photographers still there, waiting for a full moon rise.
What we see from our backyard forty miles away overwhelms
when standing awestruck in its front yard.
My tank nearing empty slowly filled part-way.
This intentional overdose of light should last me until next autumn.
I am overcome even when it is never enough.
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“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” ~J.R.R. Tolkien as Samwise Gamgee wakes to find his friends all around him in The Lord of the Rings
“The answer is yes. And the answer of the Bible is yes. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue.” ~Pastor Tim Keller’s response in a sermon given in an ecumenical prayer service memorial in Lower Manhattan on the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11.
In our minds, we want to rewind and replay the sad events of a tragedy in a way that would prevent it from happening in the first place.
We want those in a broken relationship to come back together, hug and forgive. The devastating diagnosis would be proven an error, only a mere transient illness. When a mass casualty event happens, we want the dead and injured to rise up again. The destructive earthquake becomes a mere tremor, the flooding tsunami is only one foot, not over thirty feet tall, the hijackers are prevented from ever boarding a plane, the shooter changes his mind at the last minute and lays down his arms, the terrorist disables his suicide bombs and walks away from his training and misguided mission.
We want so badly for it all to be untrue. The bitter reality of horrendous suffering and sadness daily all over the earth is too much for us to absorb. We plead for relief and beg for a better day.
Our minds may play mental tricks like this, but God does not play tricks. He knows and feels what we do. He too wants to see it rewound and replayed differently. He has known grief and sadness, He has wept, He has suffered, He too has died. And because of this, because of a God who came to dwell with us, was broken, died and then rose again whole and holy, we are assured, in His time, everything sad is going to come untrue.
Our tears will be dried, our grief turned to joy, our pain nonexistent, not even a memory. It will be a new day, a better day–as it is written, trustworthy and true.
May it come.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. Revelation 21: 4-5
How beautiful the things are that you did not notice before! A few sweetclover plants Along the road to Bellingham, Culvert ends poking out of driveways, Wooden corncribs, slowly falling, What no one loves, no one rushes towards or shouts about, What lives like the new moon, And the wind Blowing against the rumps of grazing cows. ~Robert Bly from “Like the New Moon I Will Live My Life”
Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. …to get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. ~Abraham Joshua Hershel
Simply driving to work becomes a sacramental act. This is not the hour long dense traffic commute I tolerated in the city thirty years ago – this is thirty minutes of noticing the expanse of the land against the sky, the light as it banishes the darkness, the harmony of animals existing on the soil.
It is a sacrament to notice “what no one loves, no one rushes towards or shouts about” and never take it for granted. It is all gift; it is all grace.
He found himself wondering at times, especially in the Autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams. He began to say to himself ‘Perhaps I shall cross the river myself one day.’ To which the other half of his mind always replied ‘Not yet.’ ~J.R.R. Tolkien — Frodo in Fellowship of the Rings
When you live in Whatcom County, as we do, it is possible to cross the river (several times) over 90 minutes of two lane highway switchbacks to arrive in these wild lands, breathless and overcome by majesty.
Visions of mountains from our dreams become an overwhelming 360 degree reality.
God touches every square inch of earth as if He owns the place, and He does, but these square inches are particularly marked by His artistry. It is a place to feel awed by His magnificence.
As we crossed the river to return home last night, I was left to wonder, much like Tolkien’s Frodo pondering of wild land dreams, what bridges God is building to bring us back home to Him.
(these are photos I took yesterday of Mt. Shuksan from Heather Meadows and Picture Lake, as well as Mt. Baker and Table Mountain from Artist Point)
What follows the light is what precedes it: the moment of balance, of dark equivalence.
But tonight we sit in the garden in our canvas chairs so late into the evening – why should we look either forward or backwards? Why should we be forced to remember: it is in our blood, this knowledge. Shortness of the days; darkness, coldness of winter. It is in our blood and bones; it is in our history. It takes a genius to forget these things.
~Louise Glück from “Solstice”
Today we stand, wavering,
on the cusp of light and shadow~
this knowledge of what’s to come
rests in our bones as we struggle
to untangle our feet of clay
from sinking like a stone, mired and stuck.
As darkness begins to claim our days again,
we seek to rise like a full moon illuminating the long night,
burnishing our readiness for eternity.
How often do we miss the fainter note Or fail to see the more exquisite hue, Blind to the tiny streamlet at our feet, Eyes fixed upon some other, further view. What chimes of harmonies escape our ears, How many rainbows must elude our sight, We see a field but do not see the grass, Each blade a miracle of shade and light. How then to keep the greater end in eye And watch the sunlight on the distant peak, And yet not tread on any leaf of love, Nor miss a word the eager children speak? Ah, what demand upon the narrow heart, To seek the whole, yet not ignore the part. ~Philip Britts “Sonnet 1”
О Greater Light, we praise Thee for the less; The eastern light our spires touch at morning, The light that slants upon our western doors at evening. The twilight over stagnant pools at batflight, Moon light and star light, owl and moth light, Glow-worm glowlight on a grassblade. О Light Invisible, we worship Thee! ~T.S. Eliot from “O Light Invisible”
We are given the eyes to see the part in the whole
We are given the ears to hear the note within the chord
We are given voice to rejoice alone or in a chorus
We are given a rain-bowed promise to witness it all
About living in the country? …peace can deafen one, beauty surprise No longer. There is only the thud Of the slow foot up the long lane At morning and back at night. ~R.S. Thomas “The Country”
I must not forget my
at the beauty around me
even on the grayest of days,
trudging the barnyard path
on dark nights to exhausted chores.
If ever I fail to see
what is right in front of me,
this grace-given gift
to my eyes and ears,
I do not deserve to put on boots
or hold a pitchfork.