The fragility of the flower unbruised penetrates space ~William Carlos Williams from Spring and All (1923)
It is common to look for love only inside the heart of things, pulsing front and center as both showpiece and show off. We think of love reverberating from deep within, loud enough for all the world to hear and know it is so.
But as I advance on life’s road, I have found the love that matters lies quietly waiting at the periphery of our hearts, so fragile and easily torn as a petal, often drenched in tears – clinging to the edges of our lives and barely holding on through storms and trials.
This love remains ever-present , both protects and cherishes, fed by fine little veins which branch out from the center of the universe to the tender margins of infinity.
It is on that delicate edge of forever we dwell, our thirst waiting to be slaked and we stand ready, trembling with anticipation.
Sometimes I’d get mad because things didn’t work out well, I’d spoil a flapjack, or slip in the snowfield while getting water, or one time my shovel went sailing down into the gorge, and I’d be so mad I’d want to bite the mountaintops and would come in the shack and kick the cupboard and hurt my toe.
But let the mind beware, that though the flesh be bugged, the circumstances of existence are pretty glorious. ~Jack Kerouac from The Dharma Bums
Little things can bug us. In fact, like a thistle covered with aphids which entices ants, we can be bugged on top of bugged.
Yet we still bloom. We are on notice there is joy to be found. What solace is this?
Though bugs exult in irritating us, flaunting our flawed flesh, it is a reminder of our vulnerability during our short stay on this good earth, bugs and all.
The rest is all glorious, right down to the thirsty roots that hold us fast.
Light splashed this morning on the shell-pink anemones swaying on their tall stems; down blue-spiked veronica light flowed in rivulets over the humps of the honeybees; this morning I saw light kiss the silk of the roses in their second flowering, my late bloomers flushed with their brandy. A curious gladness shook me.
So I have shut the doors of my house, so I have trudged downstairs to my cell, so I am sitting in semi-dark hunched over my desk with nothing for a view to tempt me but a bloated compost heap, steamy old stinkpile, under my window; and I pick my notebook up and I start to read aloud the still-wet words I scribbled on the blotted page: “Light splashed . . .”
There are days we live as if death were nowhere in the background; from joy to joy to joy, from wing to wing, from blossom to blossom to impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom. ~Li-Young Lee from “From Blossoms”
These are impossible mornings of color and cool breezes. A hope of immortality extends across the sky as far as the eye can see. Impossible — because we know it won’t last; these ordinary days, this precious time is ephemeral. Still I revel in it, moving from joy to joy to joy, from tulip to tulip to tulip, rising up so vividly alive from mere dirt, eventually to sink back down to dust so gently, ~oh so gently~ to rest in the promise, that vibrant living promise that spring someday will last forever.
To what purpose, April, do you return again? Beauty is not enough. You can no longer quiet me with the redness Of little leaves opening stickily. I know what I know. The sun is hot on my neck as I observe The spikes of the crocus. The smell of the earth is good. It is apparent that there is no death. But what does that signify? Not only under ground are the brains of men Eaten by maggots. Life in itself Is nothing, An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs. It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, April Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers. ~Edna St. Vincent Millay “Spring”
I know that we cannot depend on the return of Spring to heal us~ it is balm not cure.
I know that none of its beauty can bloom without it dying before~ it is a shroud thrown over to cover our decay.
I know I cannot be transformed by the warmth of the sun~ it is not enough for my skin to sweat when my heart lies still and cold.
I know I must dig deeper in holy ground for the truth~ it does not lie in perfumed blossoms and sweet blue skies.
I know what I know~ life in itself is nothing unless death is overcome yet again and our hearts, once broken, begin to pulse red once more.
.…you mustn’t be frightened … if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don’t know what work these conditions are doing inside you? ~Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet
…difficulties are magnified out of all proportion simply by fear and anxiety. From the moment we wake until we fall asleep we must commend other people wholly and unreservedly to God and leave them in his hands, and transform our anxiety for them into prayers on their behalf: With sorrow and with grief… God will not be distracted. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Letters from Prison
Every day I see college students who are so consumed by anxiety they become immobilized in their ability to move forward through the midst of life’s inevitable obstacles and difficulties. They become so stuck in their own overwhelming feelings they can’t sleep or eat or think clearly, so distracted are they by their symptoms. They self-medicate, self-injure and self-hate. Being unable to nurture themselves or others, they wither like a young tree without roots deep enough to reach the vast reservoir that lies untapped beneath them. In epidemic numbers, some decide to die, even before life really has fully begun for them.
I grieve for them in their distress. My role is to help find healing solutions, whether it is counseling therapy, a break from school, or a medicine that may give some form of relief. My heart knows the ultimate answer is not as simple as the right prescription.
We who are anxious must depend upon a Creator who does not suffer from attention deficit disorder and who is not distracted from His care for us even when we turn away in worry and sorrow. We magnify our difficult circumstances by staying so tightly into ourselves, unable to look beyond our own eyelashes. Instead we are to reach higher and deeper, through prayer, through service to others, through acknowledging there is power greater than ourselves.
So we are called to pray for ourselves and for others, disabling anxiety and fear and transforming it to gratitude and grace. No longer withering, we just might bloom.
I imagine the dead waking, dazed, into a shadowless light in which they know themselves altogether for the first time. It is a light that is merciless until they can accept its mercy; by it they are at once condemned and redeemed.
It is Hell until it is Heaven.
Seeing themselves in that light, if they are willing, they see how far they have failed the only justice of loving one another; it punishes them by their own judgment. And yet, in suffering that light’s awful clarity, in seeing themselves in it, they see its forgiveness and its beauty, and are consoled. In it they are loved completely, even as they have been, and so are changed into what they could not have been but what, if they could have imagined it, they would have wished to be. ― Wendell Berry, A World Lost
When the merciless light contains a rainbow, we know we will be all right.
Even if we deserve no mercy Even if the heaven we have reached for feels unattainable Even if it is unimaginable we can be changed to what we wish we could be