Going to Pieces

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Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
~Martin Luther
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 …as the land around turns rocky and hollow…
I’d never suspected: every day,
Although the nation is done for,
I find new flowers.
~Donald Revell from “Election Year”
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…the heart of this country does not beat in Washington, DC, nor does its soul lie in a seat of power, nor does its destiny lie in which party occupies which section of government.

No, those things all lie with… people like you and me, people who get up and go to work and love their tiny plot of Earth and whose hands are rough and hardened by loving and giving.
~Billy Coffey from “The Heart of this Land”

 

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There is Meaning

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Of course, in life there are moments of darkness.
There are periods of discouragement.
There are times when we lose sight of the beauty of the sky for all the clouds.
You may have to bear severe sickness,
or deal with tremendous pain,
or you may be disappointed in this or that.
But remember, whatever difficulty you have to face,
it will not last.
It is only a cloud.
For God has made each of us with a purpose.

We are made for joy.
But this joy can never be fully experienced here on earth.
God’s joy is ultimately realized in eternity.
To be a Christian is to understand that the cross,
and the suffering of the cross, has meaning,
and that suffering is part of our state on this earth.
Don’t expect paradise on earth.
Don’t.
But there is meaning,
and this meaning is the love of God
and gratitude for life on this earth.
Whatever your state,
whatever your situation,
whatever your purpose,
always remember that you are made for joy.

~Alice Von Hildebrand

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It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo.
The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were.
And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end…
because how could the end be happy?
How could the world go back to the way it was
when so much bad had happened?
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow.
Even darkness must pass.”
~J.R.Tolkien

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When we feel overwhelmed and discouraged,
when it seems all is in shadow,
we know we are part of a great story and the plot progression is a mystery.

We are promised light and joy at the end, no question about it.
We pass through the shadows, the clouds clear
and the darkness will pass through us.

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When to be Glad

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Well I know now the feel of dirt under the nails,
I know now the rhythm of furrowed ground under foot,
I have learned the sounds to listen for in the dusk,
the dawning and the noon.

I have held cornfields in the palm of my hand,
I have let the swaying wheat and rye run through my fingers,
I have learned when to be glad for sunlight and for sudden
thaw and for rain.

I know now what weariness is when the mind stops
and night is a dark blanket of peace and forgetting
and the morning breaks to the same ritual and the same
demands and the silence.
~Jane Tyson Clement from No One Can Stem the Tide

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Soon to arrive, a wave of 15,000 young people
with such potential to grow,
their health needs entrusted to us
as if we tend them as gardeners:
most thriving and flourishing,
yet some already withering,
their roots thirsting.

As the winds of time bring
new thousands to our care,
blown in from places unknown,
I weary weep for those who may not bloom,
wondering if I will fail to water or care enough~

or is it me with thirst unceasing,
my roots drying from each new morning’s
same ritual and same demands unceasing,
as if I’ve forgotten how to be glad for this work,
being met with the silence
of my own gardeners.

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Bitter Sweet

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Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear
one more friend
waking with a tumor, one more maniac

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
has come
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumbled through it,
for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving

someone or something, the world shrunk
to mouth-size,
hand-size, and never seeming small.

I acknowledge there is no sweetness
that doesn’t leave a stain,
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet.

Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don’t care

where it’s been, or what bitter road
it’s traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.
~Stephen Dunn from “Sweetness”

 

Even when the softness of a lovely day lingers long,
reminding me to “remember this, this moment, this feeling”
I realize that it will be lost, slipping away from me
in mere moments, its sweetness fading into the fog of time
and daily distractions so quickly
that I barely remember the taste,
all that’s left is the bitterness of its loss.

Walking this path,
sometimes guessing,
more often not knowing where it leads,
I ponder the sweetness,
treasure it up,
knowing I would never miss it
if I didn’t taste it to begin with.

photo by Joel DeWaard
photo by Joel DeWaard

 

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Dust to Dust

Over the last several weeks on the farm we have been running low on wood shavings, the absorbent bedding we use to cover the horse stall floors in the barns. In the winter, the animals, due to the cold and rainy weather, spend a significant part of the week indoors, so their bedding is important for their comfort and for the ease of cleaning every night after we get home from work. The large truck load of shavings we had delivered into our shavings shed last summer was rapidly diminishing to the last few wheelbarrow loads so I called the shavings company we’ve happily dealt with for twenty years to request a new delivery. As is the case when local sawmills are slow in the winter due to less demand for lumber, I knew there would be a wait but it is worth it to get the perfect load: large fluffy shavings with no dust for a feather light and cushiony bed for our horses.

It arrived today while we were at work and I hurried outside in the dark after dinner to admire the shavings shed once again filled to the brim. As I got closer and turned on the barnyard vapor light, my heart sank. This was no load of shavings–typically aromatic curly remnant wood flakes. This was a building full of sawdust powder–way too fine, heavy in the shovel and extremely dusty. In short, it was several tons of a mess that I could not undo or send back and now have to deal with. What the sawmill had cast off as leftover waste product has become my ten foot high mountain of recycled regret.

This pulverized stuff is not fit for man nor beast. It gets into noses and lungs, irritates eyes and gets swallowed down with hay. I’m sick with disappointment. It was all I could do to haul it into the barn and watch the dust clouds go airborne as I spread it in the stalls. My poor horses wonder why I’ve condemned them to eat from a dust bowl. It is bitter irony that I’m paying good money for something that was to help me keep things clean when the reality is that it will make things so much harder to keep clean.

After shoveling a few hundred pounds of dust, I came back to the house covered in a veil of powder, my eyes itchy, my nose running, my throat burning. I can look forward to six months of this daily aggravation, but at least I won’t have to sleep in it like my animals. I can climb in the bathtub with water up to my ears and soak it off, at least until tomorrow’s chores.

Like times in my life when I must cope with being let down, sometimes those I have always depended on just don’t come through. Disappointment may cover me like a shroud, but I must wear it gently, not angrily. I’ll try not to stir up clouds of it wherever I go, eating and breathing disillusionment so much it hurts others as well. I can be perpetually grimy and disgruntled from wallowing in the stuff but that is not who I want to be.

Instead, I can seek out fresh air, breathe deeply, put on protective equipment and dive back in to do what needs to be done. Someday the mountain of misery will be made miniscule.

There will always be a bath to look forward to at the end of the day.