A Rest Between Two Notes

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I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because Death’s note wants to climb over—
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
they stay there trembling.
And the song goes on, beautiful.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke from “My Life is Not This Steeply Sloping Hour”

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photo by Josh Scholten

 

At the end of this past Sunday’s Easter worship, while playing a complicated version of the Doxology on the piano in our church, I hit some wrong notes.  Usually I can recover from such mistakes but I lost my way in the music on the page, struggling to recover in time to finish with the undaunted congregation, my fingers trembling to find the right keys.

Waking yesterday, I felt my usual Monday morning uneasiness but even more so: I’m the spot in the middle between discordant notes. There is on one side of me the pressure of catching up from what was left undone through the weekend and on the other side the anticipated demands of the coming week.

Before I even arrive at work, I find myself uneasy in dead center, immobilized by the unknown ahead and the known messiness I’ve left behind.

This moment of rest in the present, between the trembling past and uncertain future, is a precious moment of reconciliation, my Sabbath extended. I must allow myself an instant of silence and reflection and forgiveness before I surge ahead into the week, knowing that on my continuing journey I’ll inevitably hit wrong notes.

But it can be beautiful nevertheless.

Even the least harmonious notes find reconciliation within the next chord. I move from the rest of my Sabbath back into the rhythm of my life, renewed and forgiven.

But trembling, still trembling.

 

staghorn

aprileveningtrees

 

A Lingering Season

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sunset114171

 

Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.
~  John Boswell

 

treehousewinter

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As temperatures rose 40 degrees from a snowy/icy first half of January to a balmy third week, it feels like our winter isn’t going to linger long after all.  As much as my frozen fingers appreciate the reprieve while during barn chores, I am wistful that winter may have already decided to pack up and move on for another year. It seems its departure was a bit hurried from the scattered reminders left behind — a bejeweled owl feather here, a molding leaf there, crusts of melting ice everywhere.

We need a little more of this season of bare bones and stark landscapes, of time for remembrance and restoration.  I won’t bid goodbye yet, hoping it may yet linger a while longer.

sublimation

icypasture

winterleaf2

 

A narrow pond would form in the orchard, water clear as air covering grass and black leaves and fallen branches, all around it black leaves and drenched grass and fallen branches, and on it, slight as an image in an eye, sky, clouds, trees, our hovering faces and our cold hands.
~Marilynne Robinson from Housekeeping

 

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Hardly a Waste

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“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur
of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.”
– John Lubbock

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As a child I liked to go out far into our hay field and find the tallest patch of grass.  There, like a dog turning circles before a nap,  I’d trample down the tall waving stems that stretched up almost to my eyes, and create a grass nest, just cozy enough for me.  I’d sit or lie down in this green fortress, gazing up at the blue sky, and watch the clouds drift lazily by.  I’d suck on a hollow stem or two, to savor the bitter grass juice.  Scattered around my grassy cage, looking out of place attached to the broad grass stems, would be innumerable clumps of white foam.  I’d tease out the hidden green spit bugs with their little black eyes from their white frothy bubble encasement.   I hoped to watch them spit, to actually see them in action, but they would leap away.

The grassy nest was a time of retreat from the world by being buried within the world.  I felt protected, surrounded, encompassed and free –at least until I heard my mother calling for me from the house, or a rain shower started, driving me to run for cover, or my dog found me by following my green path.

It has been years since I hid in a grass fort or tried to defoam spit bugs.   I am overdue, I’m sure. It is hardly a waste to rest encased in the bubble wrap of the world.

grassmay15

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Life is Not an Emergency

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photo by Philip Gibson
photo by Philip Gibson

On pretty weekends in the summer, the riverbank is the very verge of the modern world…
On those weekends, the river is disquieted from morning to night by people resting from their work.

This resting involves traveling at great speed, first on the road and then on the river.
The people are in an emergency to relax.
They long for the peace and quiet of the great outdoors.
Their eyes are hungry for the scenes of nature.
They go very fast in their boats.
They stir the river like a spoon in a cup of coffee.
They play their radios loud enough to hear above the noise of their motors.
They look neither left nor right.
They don’t slow down for – or maybe even see – an old man in a rowboat raising his lines…

~Wendell Berry in Jayber Crow

It’s Labor Day, the last of our summer holiday weekends and people are desperate to relax from their labors.  They drive long distances in heavy traffic to get away, wait in long lines for ferry or border passage, park their RVs/tents within 6 feet of another RV/tent, all to end up coping with other people’s noise and hubbub.

I too feel urgency to rest, the need to get away from every day troubles sticking to me like velcro.  But any agenda-filled escape would be too loud, too fast, too contrived instead of a time of winding down, slowing, quieting, observing and wondering.

Life is not an emergency so I must stop reacting as if someone just pulled an alarm.  I seek the peace and quiet of simply being, settling myself into rhythms of daylight and nightfall, awake and asleep, hungry and filled, thirsty and sated.

I breathe deeply, and remember in my bones:

we all need Sabbath, even if today happens to be a Monday.

 

SAMhammerman

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What Will Always Be

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Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to its rest.

Within the ongoing havoc
the woods this morning is
almost unnaturally still.
Through stalled air, unshadowed
light, a few leaves fall
of their own weight.

                                       The sky
is gray. It begins in mist
almost at the ground
and rises forever. The trees
rise in silence almost
natural, but not quite,
almost eternal, but
not quite.

                      What more did I
think I wanted? Here is
what has always been.
Here is what will always
be. Even in me,
the Maker of all this
returns in rest, even
to the slightest of His works,
a yellow leaf slowly
falling, and is pleased.
~Wendell Berry “VII”

 

yellowleaf
yellowleaf3

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Hardly a Waste of Time

northcounty2

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur
of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.”
– John Lubbock

pinknight1

 

As a child I liked to go out far into our hay field and find the tallest patch of grass.  There, like a dog turning circles before a nap,  I’d trample down the tall waving stems that stretched up almost to my eyes, and create a grass nest, just cozy enough for me.  I’d sit or lie down in this green fortress, gazing up at the blue sky, and watch the clouds drift lazily by.  I’d suck on a hollow stem or two, to savor the bitter grass juice.  Scattered around my grassy cage, looking out of place attached to the broad grass stems, would be innumerable clumps of white foam.  I’d tease out the hidden green spit bugs with their little black eyes from their white frothy bubble encasement.   I hoped to watch them spit, to actually see them in action, but they would leap away.

The grassy nest was a time of retreat from the world by being buried within the world.  I felt protected, surrounded, encompassed and free –at least until I heard my mother calling for me from the house, or a rain shower started, driving me to run for cover, or my dog found me by following my green path.

It has been years since I hid in a grass fort or tried to defoam spit bugs.   I am overdue, I’m sure. It is hardly a waste to rest encased in the bubble wrap of the world.

grassmay15

northcounty4

pinkbaker4

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grassmay16

Impossible Blossom

junesunsetbasket
orange sherbet farm sunset
orange sherbet farm sunset
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
~Li-Young Lee from “From Blossoms”
These are impossible June evenings of color and warm 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.
Yet I may revel in it, moving from joy to joy to joy, from buttercup to buttercup,
lifted up and set down gently,
oh so gently,
to rest in the sweetness of line-dried sheets
that promise summer someday will last forever.
buttercup

marshmallow fields forever
marshmallow fields forever