A Gate We Enter

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The juncture of twig and branch,
Scarred with lichen, is a gate
We might enter, singing.”
~Jane Kenyon, “Things”

 

I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for over 60 years, and on this farm for 25 years.  The grandeur of the snow-capped mountains to the north and east and the peaceful shore to the west overwhelms everything in between.  I’ve walked past these bare antique apple trees autumn after autumn, but had never stopped to really look at the landscape growing on their shoulders and arms.  There is a whole other ecosystem on each tree, a fairy land of earth bound dryland seaweed, luxuriant in the fall rains, colorful in the winter, dried and hidden behind leaves and fruit in the hot summer.

This is the world of lichen, a mixed up cross between mold and fungus, opportunistic enough to thrive on rock faces, but ecstatic on absorbent bark.

I had never really noticed how proudly diverse they are.  I had, for year, blindly walked right by their rich color and texture.

Yet it hasn’t bothered them not to be noticed as they are busy minding their own business.  As John McCullough writes:

“It is merely a question of continuous adjustment, of improvising a life. When I’m far from friends or the easing of a wind against my back, I think of lichen—
never and always true to its essence, never and always at home.”

Instead of lifting my eyes to the hills for a visual feast, I need only open the back gate to gaze on this landscape found on the ancient branches in my own back yard.

It’s a rich life indeed.

 

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The lichen raised its fragile cup,
and rain filled it, and in the drop
the sky glittered, holding back the wind.

The lichen raised its fragile cup:
Now let’s toast the richness of our lives.
~Helvi Juvonen  “Lichen Cup”

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Blooming into Flame

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All the love you will ever feel
you have always carried within you

The pellet you think love is
blooms into stone,
into flame, into glass
~Hannah Stephenson from “Sap Season”

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The last remaining cherry tree on this farm, a Royal Anne, has stood between house and barn for over ninety years, bearing well some years, and other years yielding only a hand full of fruit.  This spring was a bumper crop but followed by a hot dry summer, the old tree looks stressed, its branch joints oozing resin in response.  These amber-like secretions are hard and glass-like but change subtly day by day.

It is this tree’s troubles made manifest.  Its sap blood bursts with crystalline flame, blooming with a hidden love from its buried roots. Such love has always been there, deep inside, but in its thirsty anguish, the tree weeps to reflect the sun.

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Just So You Know, You Are Forgiven

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I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
~William Carlos Williams “This is Just to Say”

Who needs an icebox
when the plums
hang heavy
in the night-cooled orchard

dotted with dew
glistening
in the spare pink light
of dawn

so ripe
and so ready
their golden flesh
warming in the sun.
~EPG

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For This Is Love

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photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten

 

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts at night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid-air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.
~Robert Frost

 

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Burning Bush Bounty

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Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye.
~Christina Rossetti
This spring the fruit ripens early,
reddening flames that leap up
from branches and leaves,
in some way ignited
like the burning bush
speaking to us
of holy ground.
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Wither Me to Within

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Wither me to within me:
Welt me to weal me common again:
Withdraw to wear me weary:
Over me to hover and lover again:

Before me to form and perform me:
Round me to rill me liquid incisions:
Behind me to hunt and haunt me:
Down me to drown indecision:

Bury me to seed me: bloom me
In loam me: grind me to meal me
Knead me to rise: raise me to your mouth

Rive me to river me:
End me to unmend me:
Rend me to render me:
~Philip Metres “Prayer”

 

The truth is:
though we prefer to gaze on fresh beauty,
to ponder smooth youthful perfection
rather than the pocked and wrinkled
the used-up and weary,
our prayer desires His everlasting love
even when we fall in frailty.
We wither from the first day,
readying for fruit to burst forth
as we, torn and buried,
are sown to rise again.

 

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
Isaiah 40:8

 

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Shedding the Earth

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You come to fetch me from my work to-night
When supper’s on the table, and we’ll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea);
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.
~Robert Frost “Putting in the Seed”

I need not cling to soil so tightly~
Instead ready myself to sprout boldly,
reaching to touch the sky.

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