Just Too Much on a June Morning

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Every spring
I hear the thrush singing
in the glowing woods
he is only passing through.
His voice is deep,
then he lifts it until it seems
to fall from the sky.
I am thrilled.
I am grateful.
Then, by the end of morning,
he’s gone, nothing but silence
out of the tree
where he rested for a night.
And this I find acceptable.
Not enough is a poor life.
But too much is, well, too much.
Imagine Verdi or Mahler
every day, all day.
It would exhaust anyone.
~Mary Oliver from “A Thousand Mornings”

birdonpostrodenberger
photo by Harry Rodenberger

 

What does it say about me that in the darkness of December mornings, I yearn for the early sunrises of June but once I’m firmly into the June calendar, it no longer is so compelling?  It confirms my suspicion that I’m incapable of reveling in the moment at hand, something that would likely take years of therapy to undo.  I’m sure there is some deep seated issue here, but I’m too sleep deprived to pursue it.

My eyes popped open this morning at 4:17 AM, spurred by vigorous birdsong in the trees surrounding our farm house.  There was daylight sneaking through the venetian blinds at that unseemly hour as well.  Once the bird chorus starts, with one lone chirpy voice in the apple tree by our bedroom window, it rapidly becomes a full frontal onslaught symphony orchestra from the plum, cherry, poplar, walnut, fir and chestnut.   Sleep is irretrievable.

I remember wishing for early morning birdsong last December when it seemed the sun would never rise and the oppressive silence would never lift.  I had conveniently forgotten those mornings a few years ago when we had a flock of over a dozen young roosters who magically found their crows very early in the morning a mere 10 weeks after hatching.  Nothing before or since could match their alarm clock expertise after 4 AM.  No barbecue before or since has tasted as sweet.

So I remind myself how bad it can really be and backyard birdsong is a veritable symphony in comparison.

Even so, I already need a nap.

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To See the Field and the Grass Blade

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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”

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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”

rainbowfarm
photo by Nate Gibson

We are given the eyes to see the part in the whole
or not
We are given the ears to hear the note within the chord
or not
We are given voice to rejoice alone or in a chorus
or not
We are given a rain-bowed promise to witness it all
or not.

So why ever not?

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All the Things That Got in the Way

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In all the woods that day I was
the only living thing
fretful, exhausted, or unsure.
Giant fir and spruce and cedar trees
that had stood their ground
three hundred years
stretched in sunlight calmly
unimpressed by whatever
it was that held me
hunched and tense above the stream,
biting my nails, calculating all
my impossibilities.
Nor did the water pause
to reflect or enter into
my considerations.
It found its way
over and around a crowd
of rocks in easy flourishes,
in laughing evasions and
shifts in direction.
Nothing could slow it down for long.
It even made a little song
out of all the things
that got in its way,
a music against the hard edges
of whatever might interrupt its going.
~John Brehm “Passage”

mejierwaterfall

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.
~Wendell Berry “The Real Work”

waterfall

Who among us knows with certainty each morning
what we are meant to do that day
or where we are to go?
So we make our best guess by
putting one foot ahead of the other as we were taught
until the day is done and it is time to rest.

For me, I wake baffled each day
that I am allowed
to eavesdrop on heartbeats,
touch tender bellies,
sew up broken skin,
listen to tears.

I wake humbled with commitment
to keep going even when too tired,
to offer care even when rejected.
to keep trying even if impeded.

It is only then I learn
thing that get in the way
slow but cannot stop
the flow of time,
overflowing its banks with music
of uncertain certainty–
my real work and journey
through life.

May I wade in deep~ listening~ready to sing along.

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Where We Wander

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And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.
~Anne Porter from “Music”

 

as cold days linger in interminable gray
when energy wanes
sleep as refuge
instead of restoration

to wander this wintry path
alongside the One who
readies us for radiance
of bird song and sleigh bell frog chorus

a remembrance
of a promise kept~
this is not all there is

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The Shadows of a Moment

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I hated waiting.
If I had one particular complaint,
it was that my life seemed composed entirely of expectation.
I expected —
an arrival, an explanation, an apology.
There had never been one,
a fact I could have accepted,
were it not true that,
just when I had got used
to the limits and dimensions of one moment,
I was expelled into the next
and made to wonder again
if any shapes hid in its shadows.

Memory is the sense of loss,
and loss pulls us after it.

~Marilynne Robinson from Housekeeping

 

Winter weather has a way of exacerbating loss, reminding us over and over what it is we’ve lost and still waiting for — the sun’s warmth on our cheeks, the feel of cool breezes in our hair on a sweaty day, the presence of color when numbed by the sky’s constant weeping of whites and grays.  We keep waiting for that next moment, and then the next, looking for when we may settle down and stay, however briefly, content.

We are pulled through the shadows of each emerging moment, losing what we just had to mere memory:

Last night, my husband and I attended our children’s former high school’s winter musical production, as we had done for over a decade while our three children were among the actors and actresses on stage.  I sat in the audience for two hours, emerged in the music, the singing and the dancing, the beautiful costumes and sets,  allowing each wonderful make-believe moment to carry me to the next and the next.

Only after the bows had been taken, the applause and whistles quieted, and we made our way to the lobby to greet the performers, did I realize my loss.  My memory of our children overwhelmed me:  not as they acted a role in the lights and shadows of the stage, but after the production, in the lobby as themselves, albeit costumed and overly made up, greeting grateful audience members.  But where were they last night?  Not here, I realized through my tears, not where I was so used to seeing them stand a bit apart from the crowd, smiling and laughing, waiting my turn to hug them.

Gone and moved on to other roles and other stages, far far away.

They have each left the magic and the hard work of high school musical productions into the magic and hard work of real life.
And we are left waiting for each next moment, remembering and accepting, filling and emptying,  wintering within our hearts again and again.

 

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Reconciled Trembling

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because Death’s note wants to climb over—
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
they stay there trembling.
And the song goes on, beautiful.”
Rainer Maria Rilke from “My Life is Not This Steeply Sloping Hour”

On Mondays I often feel I’m the spot in the middle between discordant notes. There is on one side of me the pressure of catch-up from what was left undone through the weekend and on the other side is the anticipated demand of the coming week. Before I arrive to work, I’m uneasily in dead center, immobilized by the unknown ahead and the known behind.

This moment of rest in the present, between the trembling past and future, is my moment of reconciliation, my Sabbath extended. This morning I allow myself an instant of silence and reflection before I surge ahead into the week, knowing that on my journey I’ll inevitably hit wrong notes, but it can be beautiful nevertheless.

Even the least harmonious notes find reconciliation within the next chord. I now move from the rest of my Sabbath back into the rhythm of my life.

Trembling, still trembling.

Solemn Silence

photo by Josh Scholten http://www.cascadecompass.com

The moment of waning night before
the first bird sings-
a solemn silence holds its breath
about to be broken

Like a full breast tingles
with readiness to flow until empty-
a wave rises highest before
toppling forward to withdraw

Like a nose tickles and builds
to uncontrolled sneeze-
a conductor’s baton raises to
ready the chorus

The anticipation rises
for unrealized potential-
cascades tonight’s stillness
into tomorrow’s dawn