Just past dawn, the sun stands with its heavy red head in a black stanchion of trees, waiting for someone to come with his bucket for the foamy white light, and then a long day in the pasture. I too spend my days grazing, feasting on every green moment till darkness calls, and with the others I walk away into the night, swinging the little tin bell of my name. ~Ted Kooser “A Birthday Poem”
all is green~
every square inch
and every misty mythical moment.
So I feast while I can,
knowing soon the darkness descends
and I too am called
to come home,
the bells I bear
swinging and ringing.
I do not know what gorgeous thing the bluebird keeps saying, his voice easing out of his throat, beak, body into the pink air of the early morning. I like it whatever it is. Sometimes it seems the only thing in the world that is without dark thoughts. Sometimes it seems the only thing in the world that is without questions that can’t and probably never will be answered, the only thing that is entirely content with the pink, then clear white morning and, gratefully, says so. ~Mary Oliver “What Gorgeous Thing” from Blue Horses by Penguin Press
We are experiencing a short reprieve this week from gray and drear and rain and typical April chill temperatures. It is suddenly fantastically spring, all in a big headlong rush toward summer. Our windows are wide open, there are apple-blossom breezes wafting through the house, the bees are busy, the birds singing at the top of their lungs as soon as daylight appears at 5:15AM.
What gorgeous thing it is to see and hear and smell and taste this glory if only for a day or two. So full of promise and potential.
Even if, as predicted,
the rain returns this weekend,
even if the grey clouds come back hovering heavily on our shoulders,
even if the air no longer carries forth this incredible perfume,
it did happen
and for the moment,
just a moment,
the world felt entirely content to simply be.
It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work.
Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall,
driving horses, sweeping, scouring,
everything gives God some glory if being in his grace
you do it as your duty.
To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dung fork in his hand,
a woman with a slop pail,
give him glory too.
He is so great that all things give him glory
if you mean they should. So then, my brethren, live.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins fromSeeking Peace
Thanks in large part to how messy we humans are, this world is a grimy place. As an act of worship, we must keep cleaning up after ourselves. The hands that clean the toilets, scrub the floors, carry the bedpans, pick up the garbage might as well be clasped in prayer–it is in such mundane tasks God is glorified.
I spend over an hour every day year round through all seasons and weather, carrying dirty buckets and wielding a pitchfork and moving manure down this barnyard lane because it is my way of restoring order to the disorder inherent in human life. It is with gratitude that I’m able to pick up one little corner of my world, making stall beds tidier for our farm animals by mucking up their messes.
In so doing, I’m cleaning up a piece of me at the same time.
I never want to forget the mess I’m in and the mess I am. I never want to forget to clean up after myself. I never want to feel it is a mere and mundane chore to worship our God with dungfork and slop pail and wheelbarrow.
It is my privilege. It is His gift to me.
It is Grace that comes alongside me, helping me to live out each day, pitching the muck and carrying the slop and making me clean again – spring, summer, fall and winter.
Of winter’s lifeless world each tree Now seems a perfect part; Yet each one holds summer’s secret Deep down within its heart. ~ Charles G. Stater
Enduring the dark and quiet winter months, the trees appear to doze deep while standing stark naked against the sky, roused only by the whipping of the winds and when breaking under a heavy coat of ice.
It is uneasy sleep.
When I look close now, I can tell:
they conceal summer secrets under their skin, the sap flows thick and sluggish, there is a barely palpable pulse in those branches.
…Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting- over and over announcing your place in the family of things. ~Mary Oliver from “Wild Geese”
Snow geese are populating the Skagit valley and farm land, as numerous as the scores of colorful tulips which soon will fill nearby fields. The din of the flocks as they land and feed, then rise again in the air is astounding: a symphony of honks and hollers carried from one goose family to another in a ruckus of joyful abandon.
The Skagit flats become the New York City of snow geese for a few weeks, never sleeping.
Over the past few years, more snow geese wander up north closer to home here in Whatcom County to pepper our surrounding dormant cornfields like salt, sprinkled half a dozen here and there across the Nooksack river valley. When there are only a few together, their calling seems so melancholy, almost a disconsolate cry of abandonment carrying over the lonely countryside.
So too am I ensconced away from the clamorous masses, preferring always to be part of an out-of-the-way rural landscape. There may be moments of melancholy, to be sure. Yet here, as nowhere else, I know my place in the family of things — of gray clouds, owl hoots, swampy wetlands, frog choruses, orange sunsets, pink sunrises, warm pony muzzles, budding snowdrops, and steaming manure piles.
I give myself up to wild abandon in a world offering itself up to my imagination instead of leaving nothing to the imagination.
Let the cities clamor and clang in their excitement. They do just fine without me.
Instead I celebrate the relative silence that allows me to seek words to fit the music singing in my soul.
…and there was once, oh wonderful, a new horse in the pasture, a tall, slim being–a neighbor was keeping her there– and she put her face against my face, put her muzzle, her nostrils, soft as violets, against my mouth and my nose, and breathed me, to see who I was, a long quiet minute–minutes– then she stamped her feet and whisked tail and danced deliciously into the grass away, and came back. She was saying, so plainly, that I was good, or good enough. ~Mary Oliverfrom “The Poet Goes to Indiana”
Our farm has had many muzzles here over the years–
nondescript not-sure-what-color noses,
noses that have white stripes, diamonds, triangles,
or absolutely no marks at all.
Hot breath that exudes warm grassy fragrance
better than any pricey perfume,
lips softer than the most elegant velvet.
Noses that reach out in greeting to:
breathe me in
and breathe for me,
smudge my face and
I’m just good enough
such a baptism blessing.