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.
There is a fragrance in the air, a certain passage of a song, an old photograph falling out from the pages of a book, the sound of somebody’s voice in the hall that makes your heart leap and fills your eyes with tears.
Who can say when or how it will be that something easters up out of the dimness to remind us of a time before we were born and after we will die?
God himself does not give answers. He gives himself. ~Frederick Buechner from Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale
“Let Him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east.”
― Gerard Manley Hopkins
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born. ~William Butler Yeats from “Easter, 1916”
It has been a slow coming of spring this year, seeming in no hurry whatsoever. Snow remains in the foothills and the greening of the fields has only begun. The flowering plum and cherry trees finally have burst into bloom despite a continued chill. It feels like winter at night yet the perfumed air of spring now permeates the day. Such extreme variability is disorienting, much like standing blinded in a spotlight in a darkened room.
Yet this is exactly what eastering is like. It is awakening out of a restless sleep, opening a door to let in fresh air, and the stone that locked us in the dark rolled back.
Lined with light the twigs are stubby arrows. A gilded trunk writhes Upward from the roots, from the pit of the black tentacles.
In the book of spring a bare-limbed torso is the first illustration.
Light teaches the tree to beget leaves, to embroider itself all over with green reality, until summer becomes its steady portrait and birds bring their lifetime to the boughs.
Then even the corpse light copies from below may shimmer, dreaming it feels the cheeks of blossom. ~May Swenson “April Light”
In April we wait for the corpse light~
a mysterious illumination which comes alive
on a bright Sabbath Easter morning,
taking bare stubs of people,
begetting them green,
bursting them into blossom,
their cheeks pink with life,
in promise of faithful fruitfulness.
It is not enough to offer a silent thank you, looking down at dark mums and the garden’s final offerings of autumn—late-planted greens, their small leaves fragile and pale. And bright orange peppers, the odd liveliness of their color signaling an end. To see the dense clouds drop into its depths and know who placed them there. It is not enough to welcome God into every small fold of the day’s passing. To call upon some unknown force to let the meat be fresh, the house not burn, the evening to find us all here again. Yet, we are here again. And we have witnessed the miracle of nothing. A slight turning of empty time, bare of grief and illness and pain. We have lived nondescript this season, this day, these sixty-minutes. But it is not enough. To bow our heads in silence. To close our eyes and see in each moment of each second the uneventful wonder of none. ~Pamela Steed Hill from “The Miracle of Nothing”
Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life. ~Marilynne Robinson from Gilead
I am covered with Sabbath rest
quiet and deep~
planted, grown, and harvested in soil
warmed from a too long winter,
now readying for sleep again.
I know there is nothing ordinary
in this uneventful wonder of none.
I am called by such Light
to push out against darkness,
to be witness to the miracle of nothing
Can there be nothing more eventful
than the wonder of an ordinary Sunday?
Life has loveliness to sell, All beautiful and splendid things, Blue waves whitened on a cliff, Soaring fire that sways and sings, And children’s faces looking up Holding wonder like a cup.
Life has loveliness to sell, Music like a curve of gold, Scent of pine trees in the rain, Eyes that love you, arms that hold, And for your spirit’s still delight, Holy thoughts that star the night.
Spend all you have for loveliness, Buy it and never count the cost; For one white singing hour of peace Count many a year of strife well lost, And for a breath of ecstasy Give all you have been, or could be. ~Sara Teasdale “Barter”
Some days I wish to keep hold forever:
when the light is just right in the trees,
the breezes filled with blossom fragrance,
the congregation sings with joy as I play accompaniment,
a smiling child climbs up on my lap just because,
a meal is enjoyed by all who join together.
I know I barter for these moments
by giving up some piece of me,
knowing the sowing of self
will reap rich harvest in an overflowing heart.