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.
Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’:
aim at Earth and you will get neither.
~ C.S. Lewis from The Joyful Christian
The night sky was still dim and pale.
There, peeping among the cloud wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains,
Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.
The beauty of it smote his heart,
as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.
For like a shaft, clear and cold,
the thought pierced him that in the end
the Shadow was only a small and passing thing:
there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.
~J.R.R. Tolikien, The Return of the King
We long for a heaven that feels so elusive;
we who are so weary
and with so much need
seek out Light so seemingly
beyond our reach.
Yet by reaching beyond the here and now
we find heaven descended to us
in His incarnate earthliness.
No shadow cast in this worldly darkness,
and no iron nails
can quell the beauty
of His everlasting brilliance.
Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
that witnessing presence.
~Denise Levertov “Witness”
Even on the days like today when the mountain is hidden behind a veil of clouds, I have every confidence it is there. It has not moved in the night, gone to another county, blown up or melted down. My vision isn’t penetrating enough to see it through cloud cover today, but it will return to my line of sight, if not tomorrow, perhaps the next day. I know this and have faith it is true.
On the days when I am not bothering to look for it, too preoccupied so walk right past its obvious grandeur and presence, then it is reaching out to me and calling me back. There are times when I turn a corner on the farm and glance up, and there it is, a silent and overwhelming witness to beauty and steadfastness. I literally gasp at not noticing before, at not remembering how I’m blessed by it being there even at the times I can’t be bothered.
It witnesses my lack of witness and still stays put to hold me fast yet another day. And so I keep coming back to gaze, sometimes just at clouds, yearning to lift the veil, and lift my veil, just one more time.
Here is the fringey edge where elements meet and realms mingle, where time and eternity spatter each other with foam.
~Annie Dillard from Holy the Firm
Heaven and earth are only three feet apart,
but in the thin places that distance is even smaller.
A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted
and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God.
An April evening of swirling drama in the sunset clouds~
just enough illumination
to witness the fringe of heaven just beyond.
The sun-dipped isle was suddenly a sheep
Lost and stupid, a dense wet tremulous fleece.
~George Mackay Brown “Fog” from The Weather Bestiary
When I was young, fog felt oppressive,
as mournful as the fog horns sounding continually in the nearby bay.
Now in late middle age,
I appreciate fog for slowing me down
when life compels me to rush too fast.
When forced to take time,
I begin to notice what I missed before:
clouds descend to hug and kiss the ground
to bejewel everything they touch.
The dead and dying
become glorious in subtle beauty,
the farm all gossamer garland and transparent pearls…
What seemed to be the end proved to be the beginning…
Suddenly a wall becomes a gate.
~Henri Nouwen from Gracias! A Letter of Consolation
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
~T.S. Eliot from “Little Gidding” The Four Quartets
Every once in awhile we are blessed with a few minutes of a rare sunrise where a wall of clouds opens up to become a gateway to heaven. Darkness becomes pricked full of holes and incredible light leaks out. It can only happen when the clouds become canvas backdrop on which the color is able to be painted– sometimes these clouds create havoc, floods, winds, power outages.
Startling, wondrous magnificence beyond imagination. Grace that brings us to our knees, especially when we are mired in our gray troubled ordinariness and plainness.
Drink deeply of this. Hold it, savor it and know that to walk through the gate of any sunrise is to witness the face of God.
The world is mud-lucious and puddle-wonderful.
…he sought the privacy of rain,
the one time no one was likely to be
out and he was left to the intimacy
of drops touching every leaf and tree in
the woods and the easy muttering of
drip and runoff…
~Robert Morgan from “Working in the Rain”
There is plenty of muttering, both private and public, since the rain started yesterday. And not all of it is from dripping and runoff into puddles. Anytime a holiday weekend is predicted to be rained out, plenty of people mutter too.
I’m celebrating as it has been weeks — no, months — since we have had a decent rain and everything, including me, has been far too tinder-dry.
Rain is what makes this part of the world special, but like Camelot, most would prefer it never fall till after sundown. To them we live not in a more congenial spot — than Camelot.
I may be an oddity, though somewhat typical of northwest-born natives. I celebrate rain whenever it comes, whether before sundown or after sunrise, as I grew up working outside in the intimacy of a drenching shower. Yet rain, this falling weather, gives me an excuse to stay indoors to putter around instead of mutter.
He could not resist the long
ritual, the companionship and freedom
of falling weather, or even the cold
drenching, the heavy soak and chill of clothes
and sobbing of fingers and sacrifice
of shoes that earned a baking by the fire
and washed fatigue after the wandering
and loneliness in the country of rain.
~Robert Morgan, conclusion of “Working in the Rain”