Bedewed With Tears

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“The Snow-drop, Winter’s timid child,
Awakes to life, bedew’d with tears.”
–  Mary Robinson

 

The past few weeks have been particularly dark and dank.  February often feels like this: the conviction winter will never be finished messing with us. Our doldrums are deep; brief respite of sun and warmth too rare.

I feel it in the barn as I go about my daily routine.   The Haflingers are impatient and yearn for freedom, over-eager when handled, sometimes banging on the stall doors in their frustration at being shut in,  not understanding that the alternative is  to stand outside all day in cold rain and wind.  To compensate for their confinement, I do some grooming of their thick winter coats, urging their hair to loosen and curry off in sheets over parts of their bodies, yet otherwise still clinging tight.  The horses are a motley crew right now, much like a worn ’60s shag carpet, uneven and in dire need of updating.  I prefer that no one see them like this and discourage visitors to the farm, begging people to wait a few more weeks until they (and I) are more presentable. Eventually I know the shag on my horses will come off, revealing the sheen of new short hair beneath, but when I look at myself, I’m unconvinced there is such transformation in store for me. Cranky, I  put one foot ahead of the other, get done what needs to be done, oblivious to the subtle renewal around me, refusing to believe even in the possibility.

It happened today.  Dawn broke bright and blinding.  I heard the fields calling, so I heeded, climbing the hill and turning my face to the pink painted eastern light, soaking up all I could.  It was almost too much to keep my eyes open, as they are so accustomed to gray darkness. And then I stumbled across something extraordinary.

A patch of snowdrops sat blooming in an open space on our acreage, visible now only because of the brush clearing that was done last fall. Many of these little white upside down flowers were planted long ago around our house and yard, but  I had no idea they were also such a distance away, hiding underground. Yet there they’ve been, year after year, harbingers of the long-awaited spring to come in a few short weeks, though covered by the overgrowth of decades of neglect and invisible to me in my self-absorbed blindness.  I was astonished that someone, many many years ago, had carried these bulbs this far out to a place not easy to find, and planted them, hoping they might bless another soul sometime somehow.  Perhaps the spot marks a grave of a beloved pet, or perhaps it was simply a retreat of sorts, but there the blossoms had sprung from their sleep beneath the covering of years of fallen leaves and blackberry vines. I wept to see them thriving there.

It was if I’d been physically hugged by this someone long dead,  now flesh and blood beside me, with work-rough hands, and dirty fingernails, and broad brimmed hat, and a satisfied smile.  I’m certain the secret gardener is no long living, and I reach back across those years in tearful gratitude, to show my deep appreciation for the time and effort it took to place a foretaste of spring in an unexpected and hidden place.

I am thus compelled to look for ways to leave such a gift for someone to find 50 years hence as they likewise stumble blindly through too many gray days full of human frailty and flaw. Though I will be long gone,  I can reach across the years to grab them, hug them in their doldrums, lift them up and give them hope for what is to come.

What an astonishing thought that it was done for me and in reaffirming that promise of renewal,  I can do it for another.

(repost from 2004 — published in Country Magazine in 2007)

 

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To Exult in Monotony

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Because children have abounding vitality,
because they are in spirit fierce and free,
therefore they want things repeated and unchanged.
They always say, “Do it again”;
and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead.
For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.
But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.
It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun;
and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.
It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike;
it may be that God makes every daisy separately,
but has never got tired of making them.
It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy;
for we have sinned and grown old,
and our Father is younger than we.
~G.K. Chesterton from Orthodoxy

 

The idea of sin making us older than our Maker catches me by surprise, but it makes sense.   Weary as we may become with routine, our continual search for the next new thing costs us in time and energy.   We age every time we sigh with boredom or turn away from the mundane, becoming less and less like our younger selves.
Who among us exults in monotony and celebrates predictability and enjoys repetition?

God does on our behalf.  He is consistent, persistent and insistent because we are no longer are.

Do it again, God.  Please, please do it again.

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Shades of Graying

Featuring fifty shades of farm gray

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I could weep for a quiet love like this, the kind of love they don’t write movies about, but the Maker writes down in a book of His own.
It’s not the kind of flashy that makes any red carpet, but it’s the kind of unforgettable love that runs red.
It doesn’t matter one iota what the checkout glossies tout: Sacrifice is the most attractive of all.
And boring love is what touches the deepest– our lives boring down deep into each other’s hearts.
And I have loved you as the hero-of-few-words who has rescued me day in and day out, without any fanfare or flash.
You have lived and bore the weight of it —- I am far worse than I ever dreamed.
And yet you have loved me beyond what I could ever dream.
You have lived Gospel to me.
~Ann Voskamp  from aholyexperience.com

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On a day celebrated for honoring Love,
I grieve that women — mothers and daughters
who know nothing of slavery,
who know nothing but freedom,
seek out and pay out
for a fantasy of seduction,
blinded and bound by books and movie
that have nothing to do
with honor or love.

Give me boring gray love rich in so many shades:
love that bores deep into the other’s heart
and stays,
enduring,
before, throughout and beyond the gray.

The shades of gray in my life
will not be covered with dye and make believe,
but celebrated as reflecting
love not forsaken,
not for any one
or any reason.

We declare it to all who are to come after.

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Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.
Psalm 71:18

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Ordinary Sunday

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Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday.
It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain.
You can feel the silent and invisible life.
~Marilynne Robinson from Gilead

 

As I am covered with Sabbath rest
quiet and deep
as if being planted in soil
just warming from a too long winter~
I know there is nothing ordinary
about what is happening.

I am called by the Light
to push out against darkness,
reaching to the sky
touched by the Source of all
that makes me thrive.

Nothing more extraordinary
than an ordinary Sunday.

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Shatter Me

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As through a long-abandoned half-standing house
only someone lost could find,

which, with its paneless windows and sagging crossbeams,
its hundred crevices in which a hundred creatures hoard and nest,

seems both ghost of the life that happened there
and living spirit of this wasted place,

wind seeks and sings every wound in the wood
that is open enough to receive it,

shatter me God into my thousand sounds.

~Christian Wiman “Small Prayer in a Hard Wind”

 

May I,
though sagging and graying,
leaning perilously,
be porous enough
to allow life’s gusts
through me
without being pushed over
in a heap.

So the wind
makes me sing
filling my every crack
and defect,
shattered into pieces,
a mosaic of praises.
~E Gibson

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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Embarking on a Voyage

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new year’s eve-
in the echo of fog horns
another voyage starts
–  Keiko Izawa

I grew up on a small farm located about two miles from a bay in Puget Sound.  When I awoke in the morning, I knew it was foggy outside even before looking out my bedroom window.  The fog horns located on coastal buildings and bobbing buoys scattered throughout the inlet would echo mournful moans and groans to warn freighter ships away from the rocky or muddy shallows.   The resonant lowing of the horns carried miles over the surrounding landscape due to countless water particles in the fog transmitting sound waves so effectively.  The louder the foghorn moan heard on our farm, the thicker the mist in the air.  The horn voices would make me unspeakably sad for reasons I could never articulate.

Embarking on a voyage in blinding foggy conditions, like starting the second month of a new year,  portends both potential adventure and risk.  Of course I’d prefer to see exactly where I am headed, carefully navigating with precise information and expert knowledge,  eventually winding up exactly at my intended destination.

The reality is that the future can be a murky mess.

We cannot see what lies ahead: we navigate by our wits, by our best guess, but particularly by listening for the low-throated warnings coming from the rocky shores and shallows of those who have gone ahead of us.

I am still too easily lost in the fog of my fears of the unknown – disconnected, afloat and circling aimlessly, searching for a touch point of purpose and direction.  The isolation I sometimes feel may be my own self-absorbed state of mind, sucking me in deep until I’m soaked, dripping and shivering from the smothering gray.   If only I might trust the fog horn voices, I could charge into the future undaunted, knowing there are others out there in the pea soup prepared to come alongside me as together we await the sun’s dissipation of the fog.

Now, almost sixty years into the voyage,  I recognize the fog does eventually clear so the journey continues on.

Even so, I will keep listening for the resonant voices of wisdom from shore, and raise my voice to join in, not to echo the moans and groans of my  misty childhood mornings,  but to confidently sing an anthem of hope and promise.

 

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