They sit together on the porch, the dark
~Wendell Berry “They Sit Together on the Porch”
Knowing, yet not knowing.
Minus the pipe…
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
~from the hymn “The Love of God”
by Frederick Lehman, derived from Jewish poem Haddamut,
written in Aramaic in 1050 by Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai
We try to wrap our arms and minds around that which is so immense, so infinite, so eternal, so mysterious, so unimaginable — in the hope we can hold it in our consciousness, even if momentarily.
We can try with metaphor and parable and poetry and our finite imagination.
Yet God’s love permeates everything from the empty space between tiny atomic particles to the clinging/flinging forces of the galaxies in the vast universe. It is impossible to fathom or describe.
We may try but we can’t — and simply be the image bearers we were created to be.
This has been a wild weather month on the outside:
heavy winds at times, damaging hale storms, snowfall covering the foothills, sweaty sunny middays, torrential unpredictable showers, ankle-deep mud.
And inside my cranium:
words that flew out too quickly, anxiety mixed with a hint of anger, too easy tears, searing frustration, feeling immobilized by the daily muck and mire.
The unpredictable month of May needs no explanation for acting like October, December and August within a span of a few hours. I am not so easily forgiven or unburdened. I end up lying awake at night with regrets, composing apologies, and wanting to hide under a rock until the storm blows over.
But in the midst of all the extremes, while the storm is raging, a miracle takes place:
it can only happen when brilliant light exposes weeping from heavy laid clouds, like the rainbow that dropped from heaven last week to touch the earth right in our backyard, only a few feet from our barn.
God cries too. His wept tears have lit up the sky in a promise of forgiveness.
He assures us: this storm too will pass.
He assures us because He knows we need it.
And by and by Christopher Robin came to the end of things,
and he was silent,
and he sat there, looking out over the world,
just wishing it wouldn’t stop.
~A.A. Milne from The House at Pooh Corner
Yes, long shadows go out
from the bales; and yes, the soul
must part from the body:
what else could it do?
…These things happen … the soul’s bliss
and suffering are bound together
like the grasses …
The last, sweet exhalations
of timothy and vetch
go out with the song of the bird;
the ravaged field
grows wet with dew.
~Jane Kenyon from “Twilight: After Haying”
Bliss and suffering are bound together like the grasses; we are like the grasses withered and ravaged by time, released reluctant to the wind.
Tears flow today as they must, wetting the stubble left behind, clinging and sparkling like dew.
We weep in sorrow for those we have lost;
we weep for joy each time we’re able to wake to another day.
For what else can a soul do but weep at parting and weep at welcoming?
These things happen, oh yes, they happen. I just wish it wouldn’t cut us so.
Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
~Psalm 103: 15
One day, something very old
happened again. The green
came back to the branches,
settling like leafy birds
on the highest twigs;
the ground broke open
as dark as coffee beans.
The clouds took up their
positions in the deep stadium
of the sky, gloving the
bright orb of the sun
before they pitched it
over the horizon.
It was as good as ever:
the air was filled
with the scent of lilacs
and cherry blossoms
sounded their long
whistle down the track
It was some glad morning.
~Joyce Sutphen “Some Glad Morning”
Amazing that it happens yet again each May:
the ground yields up a rich
and blinding verdancy,
the clouds strewn and boiling over on the horizon.
It is enough to overwhelm and enchant us
into waking up yet another day
just to see what lies in store.
Her fate seizes her and brings her
down. She is heavy with it. It
wrings her. The great weight
is heaved out of her. It eases.
She moves into what she has become
sure in her fate now
as a fish free in the current.
She turns to the calf who has broken
out of the womb’s water and its veil.
He breathes. She licks his wet hair.
He gathers his legs under him
and rises. He stands, and his legs
wobble. After the months
of his pursuit of her now
they meet face to face.
From the beginnings of the world
his arrival and her welcome
have been prepared. They have always
known each other.
~Wendell Berry “Her First Calf”
Seized, brought down, wrung from, heaved out, pursued, then eased:
there is nothing gentle in what it takes to be birthed a mother;
once emptied, mothering becomes sweetness
as never tasted before,
a filling back up
in a face to face meeting
destined from the beginnings of time.
I have known you,
I knew each of you,
you have known me all along,
born in covenant promise
and set free at birth.
I was your rebellious son,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.
So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,
prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,
and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it
already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,
where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.
-Wendell Berry “To My Mother”
…and to think we enter this world screaming,
begging to be held and fed,
already needing forgiveness that sometimes,
comes from our entangled imperfect parents
who worry over and juggle and guide us
and who themselves, once prodigal,
weep too with the burden
of feeling unforgiven,
dismayed because they won’t get it right
no matter how hard they try
Thank God for the promise
of this Heaven of which we have heard
where Love freely given, never earned,
rises resplendent, in full bloom,
from earth’s fallen ashes.