For years I was convinced that vapor lights turning on at dusk had no place on our farm.
Light pollution and all that.
Then I got older and awkward enough to stumble in the dark on uneven ground while walking to the barn — I needed a light to help me avoid a face plant.
We now have motion detection lights that turn on when I approach. They provide illumination just long enough to get me where I need to go and once I’m safely inside, they fade out and allow the sleeping barnyard the cover of darkness it needs.
The sun itself is a kind of motion detector in reverse – a motion activator/deactivator. When it is time, it turns on to get us moving and we are spurred to the work of the day. When it is time to rest, it shuts off and we become still as chickens in a roost.
It is the rhythm of work and sleep that we need in our lives – a cycle of activity and rest.
And today is Sabbath – the Light is On us.
Even so, we are to stop and listen, cease work and rest.
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”
On Sunday evenings I often feel I’m the spot in the middle between discordant notes. There is on one side of me the pressure of catch-up from what was left undone through a too-brief weekend and on the other side is the anticipated demand of the coming week. As I prepare to sleep at the end of a Sabbath day, I feel uneasily in dead center, immobilized by the unknown ahead and the known behind.
This moment of rest in the present, between the trembling past and uncertain future, is my moment of reconciliation: my Sabbath extended.
This evening, I will allow myself a steeply sloping hour of silence and reflection before I surge ahead into the week, knowing that on my journey I’ll inevitably hit wrong notes, yet beautiful nevertheless.
Even the least harmonious notes resolve within the next chord. I will move from the rest of my Sabbath back into the rhythm of my life.
Trembling, still trembling, always trembling at what is to come.
There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much I cannot give that you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within reach, is joy. Take joy! There is radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see; and to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look. Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy, or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power.
~Fra Giovanni , a late 15th century monk and scholar, fromSeeking Peace
We are reminded each day, as the night overtakes the light, that we have only to look and take what is gifted to us: the splendor and glory lies under the cover of darkness.
Each of us dwell in shadow, unwilling to be exposed and naked for all to see our failings, our blemishes and our weaknesses. We hide who we are, missing the offering up of this day, this moment.
Find rest today, this Sabbath, and take what is so freely given:
take heaven, take peace, take joy, take life on fully.
This moment, even when shrouded in darkness, never comes again.
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 Rilkefrom “My Life is Not This Steeply Sloping Hour”
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.
Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour. ~ John Boswell
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.
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
“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
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.
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.