Best of Barnstorming Photos Summer/Fall 2018

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I walked

on New Year’s Day

beside the trees

my father now gone planted

evenly following

the road

Each

            spoke

~Lorine Niedecker (1967)

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With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

~W.S. Merwin “To the New Year”

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The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul.
~G.K. Chesterton
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No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference.
It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left.
It is the nativity of our common Adam.

~Charles Lamb 

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We come to this new year
naked as dormant branches
in the freezing night.

Mere potential barely budded,
nothing covered up,
no hiding in shame.

A shared and common birthday of renewal,
a still life nativity in a winter garden,
a roaring fire refining what is no longer of use,
another chance to make it right.

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Grant, O Lord,
that as the years change,
I may find rest in Your eternal changelessness.

May I meet this new year bravely,
secure in the faith that,
while we come and go,
and life changes around us,

You are always the same,
guiding us with Your wisdom,
and protecting us with Your love.
Amen.

~William Temple (1881–1944)

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Becoming the Disturbance

photos by Nate Gibson
photos by Nate Gibson

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No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference.
~Charles Lamb

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
~T.S. Eliot  “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

This New Year’s Day, like so many that have come before, arrives with the ordinary revelry,  yet a lingering odor remains.  All is not as it appears and is faintly disturbing.  Like a dog joyfully rolling in something stinky simply because it was there,  2015 may look squeaky clean but reeks of what has come before.  It can’t be ignored and, even brand new, is already badly in need of a bath.

I too tend to prefer things familiar, safe and routine, even if that means I roll about where I shouldn’t, still smelling like yesterday, if not last month.   It’s time I stop being indifferent to the passage of time and the change that it brings.  There is no turning back or staying stubbornly with how things used to be.  Time leads irrevocably forward, with me in tow, and I must follow,  acutely aware more of my life has been lived out than lies ahead of me.

Do I dare disturb my own comfortable universe?  Or continue to disturb others with that lingering odor?

Perhaps this new year I will try walking a slower walk, stay clear of the stinky stuff, take time to look at all things with new eyes, breathe each cleansing breath appreciatively, keenly aware it was not my last.

Then others near me might breathe more freely.

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A New Year Born

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All days are sacred days to wake
New gladness in the sunny air.
Only a night from old to new;
Only a sleep from night to morn.
The new is but the old come true;
Each sunrise sees a new year born.
~Helen Hunt Jackson from “New Year’s Morning”

 

We awake glad,
breathe deeply of the sacred around us
glistening in the light of a soft sunrise.
Each day is a fresh start,
a gift from beyond,
content to renew covenant
with God and one another.

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The Object of a New Year

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul.
– G.K. Chesterton

We hoped for some timely snow for a white Christmas but had to be content with a brief flurry that didn’t stick.  Then there was more hope yesterday on New Year’s Eve with more flurries and a few little skiffs left behind here and there, but nothing much.  Instead of snow that stuck, we were stuck with the same old muddy bare ground and dead grass and weary frost-bitten plants.

It is natural to desire an easy transformation of the old and dirty to something new and beautiful:  an all clean pristine white cottony sheet covering thrown over everything, making it look completely different than before.  Similarly, at the tick of the clock past midnight on New Years’ Eve, we hope for just such an inner transformation as well, a fresh start, a leaving behind of the not-so-good from the past and moving ahead to the surely-it’ll-be-better in the future.

But it doesn’t stick, even if there is a flurry of good intentions and a skiff of newness plopped down here and there.  Even if we find ourselves in the midst of blizzard conditions, unable to see six inches ahead and immobilized by the furious storms of life,  that accumulation eventually will melt, leaving behind even more mud and raw mess.

It isn’t how flawless, how clean, or how new this year will be, but rather how to ensure our soul transformation sticks tight, unmelting from within, even when the heat is turned up and the sweat drips.  This is not about a covering thrown over the old and dirty but a full blown overhaul in order to never to be the same again.

I lift my eyes to the hills where the snow stays year round: sometimes more,  with a few hundred new inches over several weeks, or sometimes less,  on the hottest days of summer.  Our new souls this new year must be built of that same resiliency, withstanding what each day may bring, cold or hot.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…within my soul.

A Quickening Pace or A Slower Walk

As a horse keeper, I know how important a predictable routine is to my animals.  They thrive on a schedule, with meal times at the same time every day and familiar people feeding and handling them.  But it doesn’t always work out to keep things comfortably identical day to day.

Some days I have to feed early due to my work schedule, so I’m flipping lights on in the barn when it is still night outside.  The horses blink in their adjustment to the sudden light, leaping up from their shavings beds to shake off the sawdust remnants that cling to their coats.  Some days I don’t get out to the barn quite when I’m expected, and I can hear them bouncing their empty water buckets and knocking the sides of their stalls with their hoofs, declaring their impatience at my tardiness.

On the days when the weather is terribly windy, wet and cold, the routine of going outside for the day is changed, and the horses must adapt to a day inside their stalls.  After several days of establishing their indoor routine, the weather brightens and they are able to go back outside again.  I vary their stalls so they become used to going in and out of any stall I ask them to use.    I vary the walk to their outdoor enclosures as much as I’m able, to get them accustomed to a new path with unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells, and to trust me that I will get them safely to their destination even if it isn’t the way we took yesterday.

And I expect obedience even if things aren’t the same.  Sometimes there is a subtle change in the scenery that I haven’t noticed but the horses always do.  If something is a bit out of place from the previous day, or there is something new that wasn’t there before, the horse I’m leading often stops, gives a soft snort, and takes in the new configuration, trying to absorb it and accept it.  Once settled, then the horse will move on, satisfied that all is well, even if everything is not the same.

One day, I moved one of our garden gnomes to a new outpost in the yard.  The horses were not amused.  In their minds, she was not where she belonged and seeing her someplace unfamiliar undid them one by one.  Once they accepted her in her new home, it was no longer a problem for them–until I moved her again just to keep them on their toes.

On this New Year’s Day, I feel I’m too often like my horses in my reluctance to gracefully accept change.  I prefer things familiar, safe and comfortable.  Life rarely serves that up tidily, and in fact, most days are a jumble of coping with the unexpected.  I’m not always sure the path I’m on is the straightest one, or the one with the fewest potholes, nor am I that confident that I’ve chosen the best path.   I may stop, pull back, try to turn around, even snort a bit.  Sometimes I may refuse to take another step.

But there is no turning back.  Time leads irrevocably forward, with us in tow, and we must follow, however reluctant we may be.   I’m grateful for the gentle flow of the hours and days into years, all too aware of the quickening pace as more of my life has been lived out than lies ahead of me.

Perhaps what I’m needing most this new year is a slower walk, taking the time to look at all things with new eyes, and to breathe each breath appreciatively, keenly aware it was not my last.