Some sings of the lily, and daisy, and rose, And the pansies and pinks that the Summertime throws In the green grassy lap of the medder that lays Blinkin’ up at the skyes through the sunshiney days; But what is the lily and all of the rest Of the flowers, to a man with a hart in his brest That was dipped brimmin’ full of the honey and dew Of the sweet clover-blossoms his babyhood knew? I never set eyes on a clover-field now, Er fool round a stable, er climb in the mow, But my childhood comes back jest as clear and as plane As the smell of the clover I’m sniffin’ again; And I wunder away in a bare-footed dream, Whare I tangle my toes in the blossoms that gleam With the dew of the dawn of the morning of love Ere it wept ore the graves that I’m weepin’ above.
And so I love clover–it seems like a part Of the sacerdest sorrows and joys of my hart; And wharever it blossoms, oh, thare let me bow And thank the good God as I’m thankin’ Him now; And I pray to Him still fer the stren’th when I die, To go out in the clover and tell it good-bye, And lovin’ly nestle my face in its bloom While my soul slips away on a breth of purfume
~James Whitcomb Riley “The Clover Poem”
Lightly it flew to the pleasant home Of the flower most truly fair, On Clover’s breast he softly lit, And folded his bright wings there. ‘Dear flower,’ the butterfly whispered low, ‘Long hast thou waited for me; Now I am come, and my grateful love Shall brighten thy home for thee; Thou hast loved and cared for me, when alone, Hast watched o’er me long and well; And now will I strive to show the thanks The poor worm could not tell. Sunbeam and breeze shall come to thee, And the coolest dews that fall; Whate’er a flower can wish is thine, For thou art worthy all. ~Louisa May Alcott from “Clover-Blossom”
Can anything be as plain to the eye as one of a million clover blossoms?
Then you look up close.
There is nothing quite as lovely — each individual little bloom of the clover ball is a part of a greater whole.
Here is a place to tangle our toes and nestle our nose.
Here we roll over.
Here we find the sacredest sorrow and joy of our heart.
Here is a place to get lost and be found.
Because you are only a seed, chestnut tree, autumn, earth, water, heights, silence prepared the germ, the floury density, the maternal eyelids that buried will again open toward the heights the simple majesty of foliage, the dark damp plan of new roots, the ancient but new dimensions of another chestnut tree in the earth.
~Pablo Neruda from “Ode to a Chestnut on the Ground”
Each May the horse chestnut tree in our front yard transforms for a week into a Renoir painting. It explodes into hundreds of bright clusters of delicate orchid-like blossoms, forming cone shaped floral candles illuminating the spreading branches. However, its setting is more peasant than romantic, as the tree stands in common company between a pine tree and a poplar lining the rural driveway into our barnyard. This is an exceedingly humble spot for a tree bedecked with such majestic lighting, its tender broad leafed branches brushed and broken by passing hay wagons and shavings trucks.
Although its graceful beauty seems more appropriate along the Seine River, during the summer it fits perfectly in its spot near our haybarn. Its verdant foliage provides deep cooling shade during hot sweaty days. The branches that were once lit up with scores of pink and white blossoms become leafy respite for a dusty hay crew gulping lemonade in between loads. Horses snooze in the paddocks under its shadow. Birds nest well hidden. The tree becomes sanctuary within and below.
By fall, the tree forms its fruit within unpretentious capsules covered with spines and prickles, visually spiked yet actually soft and pliable. There are few natural things so plain and homely as the buckeye horse chestnut husk. These are shed by the hundreds in autumn wind and rainstorms, and they shower down, cobbling the driveway, eventually to break apart underfoot.
Only by leaving the tree can the deep brown nut be revealed from its hiding place, its richness exposed. From exquisite bloom to shady haven to prickly husk to mahogany harvest, this chestnut tree’s changing palette needs no canvas, no frame, no museum gallery showcase. Instead it’s a year round exhibition is for free, right in our front yard.
I know from experience that when I allow busy little doings to fill the precious time of early morning, when contemplation might flourish, I open the doors to the demon of acedia. Noon becomes a blur – no time, no time – the wolfing down of a sandwich as I listen to the morning’s phone messages and plan the afternoon’s errands.
When evening comes, I am so exhausted that vespers has become impossible. It is as if I have taken the world’s weight on my shoulders and am too greedy, and too foolish, to surrender it to God. ~Kathleen Norris from The Quotidian Mysteries
These are days with no breathing room,
no time to stop and appreciate each moment
as a bud about to burst into bloom.
And it is my fault
that I’m not breathing deeply enough~
simply skimming the surface
in my race to the end of the day
as time’s petals, so open, so brilliant, so eternal
close up unseen and unknown.
If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars? —G.K. Chesterton
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus,it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. Isaiah 35:1-3
We are mere seeds lying dormant, plain and simple, with nothing to distinguish us one from the other until the murmurs of spring begin, so soft, so subtle. The soil shakes loose frosty crust as the thawing warmth begins. Sunlight makes life stir and swell, no longer frozen but animate and intimate.
We will soon wake from our quiescence to sprout, bloom and fruit. We will reach as far as our tethered roots will allow, beyond earthly bounds to touch the light and be touched.
There is renewed hope seeded in the heart of man, ready and waiting to unfurl, with a precious fragrance that lingers, long after the petal has dried, loosened, and fallen to freedom.
~Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) from “Antiphon for the Virgin”
translation by Barbara Newman
It must have been extraordinary for a young woman to be told by an angel she was to bear the Son of God. She is troubled despite his reassurance, completely perplexed about what it all meant. She asks because she needs to know: how will this happen?
We too are puzzled when God intervenes in our lives in ways that are completely unexpected and sometimes downright inconvenient. We are touched in ways we have never been touched before, as His power “overshadows” us so deeply that we can never possibly be the same. A transformation takes place, we are swollen with the breath of God and new life begins to grow in us.
We are all virgins before God touches our lives, filling us with the light and the Words of His spirit, despite our being sullied by the mire of the world. What makes Mary unique is her complete and total surrender to His will for her life: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”
Let it be for us as well. May our hearts be made ready to bloom.
“Like Mary, we have no way of knowing… We can ask for courage, however, and trust that God has not led us into this new land only to abandon us there.” ~Kathleen Norrisfrom God With Us
The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. ~Frederick Buechner from Wishful Thinking