Turn Aside and Look: An Apparition of Petals

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All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the Lord endures forever.
1Peter 1:24-25

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The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
~Ezra Pound “In a Station of the Metro”

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During our visit here in Japan, particularly at the train stations, we are met by a sea of faces — each man, woman and child with a place to go to work or school, a place to return home to, a bed to rest upon. It can be overwhelming to think of the millions who pass through the same place in a day and to wonder at how each person, each hair on their head, is cared for and counted by God.

Yet, like the transience of flowers, we are mortal, each of us, except in our clinging like petals to a wet bough –the word of the Lord, our Creator. Only then we become more than apparition.  We bloom where we are planted.

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Woman Admiring Plum Blossoms at Night, Suzuki Harunobu, 18th century
(the print that inspired Ezra Pound’s poem)

 

Turn Aside and Look: What Shall I Cry?

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“I alternate between thinking of the planet as home
– dear and familiar stone hearth and garden –
and as a hard land of exile in which we are all sojourners.”
~Annie Dillard from Teaching a Stone To Talk

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A voice says, “Cry out.”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass,
    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
    Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.”
~Isaiah 40:6-8

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And what shall I cry?

I find it very difficult to admit I am as temporary as a rain drop a flower, a mere mirrored reflection of this incredible place where I dwell.  I want so badly for it to last, I want it etched in stone, I want to be remembered beyond the next generation, I want not to be lost to the ether.

Yet I, like everyone, am sojourner only, not settled and certainly not lasting.   As a garden flourishes and then dies back, so will I.  This is exile in the wilderness until I am led back home.

Home.  Really home. No longer fading and withering.

Forever etched on His heart, held fast in His Hand,
His Word enduring far beyond my flesh.

 

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All flesh is like the grass
The grass withers and fades away.
All flesh is like the grass
The grass withers and fades away.
The glory of man like a flower
That shrivels in the sun and falls.
The glory of man like a flower
That shrivels in the sun and falls.
But the Word of the Lord
Endures forever.
~Fernando Ortega

Pressed Like a Flower

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I wish one
could press snowflakes
in a book
like flowers.
~James Schuyler from “February 13, 1975”

 

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More snow predicted before winter is done with us.
Despite my fervor for spring, lit by the appearance of a snow drop here and a crocus there, I still want to acknowledge this winter for the adventure it has been:

like a momento snowflake preserved between two pages, it fades quickly from memory but the damp spot remains behind.  It is not lost — simply a mere wrinkle in time.

 

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Licking a Wound

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Now wind torments the field,
turning the white surface back
on itself, back and back on itself,
like an animal licking a wound.

A single green sprouting thing
would restore me . . .

Then think of the tall delphinium,
swaying, or the bee when it comes
to the tongue of the burgundy lily.
~Jane Kenyon from “February: Thinking of Flowers”

 

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Turning the page on the calendar today doesn’t fix anything.  The arctic wind is blasting frozen again, snow is in the forecast, the skies practically crackle cold.

I’m like a dog tormented by my own open and raw flesh, trying my best to lick it healed, unable to think of anything or anyone else, going over it again and again:  how tired I feel, how bruised I am, how high the climb I must make, how uprooted I feel, how impossibly long it will be until I’m warm again.

Even now green sprouts try to push up even while molested by ice.  Soon fresh blooms will grace the barnyard and I will be distracted from my own wound licking.

It’s February and it’s a northeaster.

<*sigh*>

The cold never bothered me anyway…

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A Floral Symphony

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What a pity flowers can utter no sound! —A singing rose, a whispering violet, a murmuring honeysuckle… on, what a rare and exquisite miracle would these be!
~Henry Ward Beecher

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One last floral symphony before the blooms are gone with the wind and burned by the frost.

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A Pathway of Flowers and Thorns

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We are to follow in His steps; and can we wish, if it were possible, to walk in a path strewed with flowers when His was strewed with thorns?
John Newton

A few years ago, our family made the necessary decision to have one of our two older dogs, just diagnosed with inoperable cancer, euthanized at home. The vet came on a blustery winter evening after his clinic appointments were done; my husband and son had worked in the cold wind preparing the grave on a little hill overlooking the barnyard. This peaceful but unmarked spot has become a pet cemetery over the years, now with three dogs and at least that many cats lying under the apple trees.

It was difficult for our family that night to think of our dog’s still warm body tucked into that cold ground. That bare patch of dirt stared at me as I walked past and our other aging dog paused there a few times, as if knowing where his old friend lay, and where within a year, he too would join him. Then a couple months later, still in the midst of wintry weather, with passing storms of hale, frozen rain and snow showers, I was astonished to see that plot of bare ground transforming.

Snowdrop flowers had appeared from nowhere. They had not been there before and I have no idea where they would have come from. Possibly disturbing the ground brought previously hidden bulbs closer to the surface. No matter how they found their way there, they were a breath of relief and promise after a dark winter. They were bright and clean and pure in the midst of otherwise unadorned mud, embraced overhead by stark bare orchard branches, their little white bells stirred by winter breezes.

These flowers became a brave and insistent symbol that life does goes on, thriving over the top of death.

So we are encouraged to follow in His steps, one slow difficult step at a time. The going is painful much of the time, strewn as life can be with thorns and tears. Yet, because He walked there first, going ahead of us, His footprints through the thorns fill with flowers, cushioning and adorning our path with unsurpassed grace and beauty.

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Glimpses of God

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…writing was one way to let something of lasting value emerge
from the pains and fears of my little, quickly passing life.
Each time life required me to take a new step into unknown spiritual territory,
I felt a deep, inner urge to tell my story to others–
Perhaps as a need for companionship but maybe, too,
out of an awareness that my deepest vocation
is to be a witness to the glimpses of God I have been allowed to catch.

~Henri Nouwen

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“Last forever!” Who hasn’t prayed that prayer? You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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For too much of my life I have focused on the future, bypassing the present in my headlong rush to what lies ahead.  There is always a goal to achieve,  a conclusion becoming commencement of the next phase, a sunset turning right around in a few hours to become sunrise.

Yet the most precious times occur when the present is so overwhelming, so riveting, so tenderly full of life that I see a brief glimpse of God.  I must grab hold with all my strength to try and secret it away and keep it forever.  Of course the present still slips away from me, elusive and evasive, torn to bits by the unrelenting movement of time.

Even if I was able to take a photo to lock it to a page or screen, it is not enough.  No matter how I choose to preserve the canvas of the present, it is passed, ebbing away never to return.

I must wonder at the present by focusing less on the foreshortening future.

So I write to harvest those times to make them last a little bit longer.  Maybe not forever; they will inevitably be lost downstream into the ether of unread words.

Even if unread, I am learning that words, which had power in the Beginning to create life,  bring tenderness and meaning back to my life.   How blessed to live the gift twice: not just in the moment itself but in writing words that preserve and treasure it all up, if only for a moment.

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