Light splashed this morning on the shell-pink anemones swaying on their tall stems; down blue-spiked veronica light flowed in rivulets over the humps of the honeybees; this morning I saw light kiss the silk of the roses in their second flowering, my late bloomers flushed with their brandy. A curious gladness shook me. So I have shut the doors of my house, so I have trudged downstairs to my cell, so I am sitting in semi-dark hunched over my desk with nothing for a view to tempt me but a bloated compost heap, steamy old stinkpile, under my window; and I pick my notebook up and I start to read aloud and still-wet words I scribbled on the blotted page: “Light splashed…”
I can scarcely wait till tomorrow when a new life begins for me, as it does each day, as it does each day. ~Stanley Kunitz “The Round”
It is too easy to be ground to a pulp by the little things, those worries that never seem to wane, sucking the gladness out of the day. They become four dimensional and soon we’re enveloped within, losing all perspective on what got us out of bed to begin the day.
God is in these intricate details, whether the splash of light on a petal or the smell of rotting refuse and it is our job to notice. It is tempting to look past His ubiquitous presence in all things, to seek out only the elegant grandeur of creation. Yet even what lacks elegance from our limited perspective, is still worthy of His divine attention.
The time has come to be refreshed and renewed
even when surrounded by decay.
His care is revealed in the tiniest way.
He is worthy of my attention.
A new life begins for me, as it does each day, as it does each day.
Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming,
….an emerging fullness,
a greater sense of grace and elegance,
a deeper sense of depth,
and also a kind of homecoming
for the enriched memory of your unfolding life. ~John O’Donohue from an “On Being” interview
Whenever we wander from home,
witnessing beauty in far flung places,
I find I yearn even more for the homecoming
of memories unfolding
from where they are so neatly stored,
so deep and so wide, so full and filling.
In Summer, in a burst of summertime Following falls and falls of rain, When the air was sweet-and-sour of the flown fineflower of Those goldnails and their gaylinks that hang along a lime;
~Gerard Manley Hopkins from “Cheery Beggar”
Sweet and sour extends far beyond a Chinese menu; it is the daily air we breathe. Dichotomy is so much of our life and times, more distinct than the bittersweet of simple pleasures laced with twinges and tears.
We are but cheery beggars in this world, desiring to hang tight to the overwhelming sweetness of each glorious moment — the startling sunrise, the lush green and golden blooms following spring showers, the warm hug of a compassionate word, the house filled with love and laughter. But as beggars aren’t choosers, we can’t only have sweet alone; we must endure the sour that comes as part of the package — the deepening dark of a sleepless night, the muddy muck of endless rain, the sting of a biting critique, the loneliness of an home emptying and much too quiet.
So we slog through sour to revel some day, even more so, in sweet. Months of manure-permeated air is overcome one miraculous morning by the unexpected and undeserved fragrance of apple and pear blossoms, so sweet, so pure, so full of promise of the fruit to come. The manure makes the sweet sweeter and once again the earth turns upside down.
And we breathe in deeply, content and grateful for a moment of grace and bliss, wanting to hold it in the depths of our lungs forever.
Every spring I hear the thrush singing in the glowing woods he is only passing through. His voice is deep, then he lifts it until it seems to fall from the sky. I am thrilled. I am grateful. Then, by the end of morning, he’s gone, nothing but silence out of the tree where he rested for a night. And this I find acceptable. Not enough is a poor life. But too much is, well, too much. Imagine Verdi or Mahler every day, all day. It would exhaust anyone. ~Mary Oliver from “A Thousand Mornings”
What does it say about me that in the darkness of December mornings, I yearn for the early sunrises of June but once I’m firmly into the June calendar, it no longer is so compelling? It confirms my suspicion that I’m incapable of reveling in the moment at hand, something that would likely take years of therapy to undo. I’m sure there is some deep seated issue here, but I’m too sleep deprived to pursue it.
My eyes popped open this morning at 4:17 AM, spurred by vigorous birdsong in the trees surrounding our farm house. There was daylight sneaking through the venetian blinds at that unseemly hour as well. Once the bird chorus starts, with one lone chirpy voice in the apple tree by our bedroom window, it rapidly becomes a full frontal onslaught symphony orchestra from the plum, cherry, poplar, walnut, fir and chestnut. Sleep is irretrievable.
I remember wishing for early morning birdsong last December when it seemed the sun would never rise and the oppressive silence would never lift. I had conveniently forgotten those mornings a few years ago when we had a flock of over a dozen young roosters who magically found their crows very early in the morning a mere 10 weeks after hatching. Nothing before or since could match their alarm clock expertise after 4 AM. No barbecue before or since has tasted as sweet.
So I remind myself how bad it can really be and backyard birdsong is a veritable symphony in comparison.
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom. ~Li-Young Lee from “From Blossoms”
These are impossible evenings of color and cool breezes.
A sense of immortality extends across the sky as far as the eye can see.
Impossible — because I know they won’t last; this precious time is ephemeral.
Still I revel in it,
moving from joy to joy to joy,
from buttercup to buttercup,
lifted up like petals loosened
and set down gently,
oh so gently,
to rest in the sweetness of line-dried sheets
that promise spring someday will last forever.
If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, 6 how much less a mortal, who is but a maggot— a human being, who is only a worm!” Job 25:5-6
A sunny spring day lured us outside for yard and garden prep for the anticipated grass and weed explosion in a few short weeks. We’ve been carefully composting horse manure for years behind the barn, and it was time to dig in to the 10 foot tall pile to spread it on our garden plots. As Dan pushed the tractor’s front loader into the pile, steam rose from its compost innards. As the rich soil was scooped, thousands of newly exposed red wiggler worms immediately dove for cover. Within seconds, thousands of naked little creatures had, well, …wormed their way back into the security of warm dirt, rudely interrupted from their routine. I can’t say I blamed them.
Hundreds of thousands of wigglers ended up being forced to adapt to new quarters, leaving the security of the manure mountain behind. As I smoothed the topping of compost over the garden plot, the worms–gracious creatures that they are–tolerated being rolled and raked and lifted and turned over, waving their little bodies expectantly in the cool air before slipping back down into the dark. There they will begin their work of digesting and aerating the tired soil of the garden, reproducing in their unique hermaphroditic way, leaving voluminous castings behind to further feed the seedlings to be planted.
Worms are unjustly denigrated by humans primarily because we don’t like to be surprised by them. We don’t like to see one in our food, especially only part of one, and are particularly distressed to see them after we’ve digested our food. Once we get past that bit of squeamishness, we can greatly appreciate their role as the ultimate recyclers, leaving the earth a lot better off once they are finished with their work. We humans actually suffer by comparison, so to be called “a worm” is really not as bad as it sounds at first. The worm may be offended by the association.
I hope to prove a worthy innkeeper for these new tenants.
May they live long and prosper.
May the worm forgive my rake and shovel.
May I smile appreciatively the next time someone calls me a mere worm.
Like a mad red brain the involute rhubarb leaf thinks its way up through loam. ~Jane Kenyon from “April Chores”
Over the last few weeks, our garden is slowly reviving, and rhubarb “brains” have been among the first to appear from the garden soil, wrinkled and folded, opening full of potential, “thinking” their way into the April sunlight.
Here I am, wishing my own brain could similarly rise brand new and tender every spring from the dust rather than leathery and weather-toughened, harboring the same old thoughts and patterns.
Indeed, more wrinkles seem to be accumulating on the outside of my skull rather than the inside.
Still, I’m encouraged by my rhubarb cousin’s return every April. Not unlike me, it may be a little sour necessitating some sweetening, but its blood courses bright red and it is very very much alive.