Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow; Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued Elations when the forest blooms; gusty Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights; All pleasures and all pains, remembering The bough of summer and the winter branch.
But in contentment I still feel The need of some imperishable bliss. ~Wallace Stevens from “Sunday Morning”
Earthly contentment~ whether a full stomach or adequate bank account or a covering of snow~ these don’t last.
May I not settle into comfort, but seek to fill my continual need with what will never perish, even as the latest snow melts and the late afternoon light fades.
Rest assured, simply knowing there comes imperishable bliss someday, I too am transformed.
When I pull open the barn doors, every morning and each evening, as my grandparents did one hundred years ago, six rumbling voices rise in greeting. We exchange scents, nuzzle each others’ ears.
I do my chores faithfully as my grandparents once did– draw fresh water into buckets, wheel away the pungent mess underfoot, release an armful of summer from the bale, reach under heavy manes to stroke silken necks.
I don’t depend on our horses’ strength and willingness to don harness to carry me to town or move the logs or till the soil as my grandparents did.
Instead, these soft eyed souls, born on this farm almost three long decades ago, are simply grateful for my constancy morning and night to serve their needs until the day comes they need no more.
I depend on them to depend on me to be there to open the doors; their low whispering welcome gives voice to the blessings of living on a farm ripe with rhythms and seasons, as if today and tomorrow are just like one hundred years ago.
The woods is shining this morning. Red, gold and green, the leaves lie on the ground, or fall, or hang full of light in the air still. Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes the place it has been coming to forever. It has not hastened here, or lagged. See how surely it has sought itself, its roots passing lordly through the earth. See how without confusion it is all that it is, and how flawless its grace is. Running or walking, the way is the same. Be still. Be still. “He moves your bones, and the way is clear.” ~Wendell Berry “Grace”
If I’m confused (as I often am)
about where I’ve been, where I am, where I’m going,
I look to the cycles of the seasons to be reminded
all things (and I) come round
what is barren will bud
what buds will grow lush and fruit
what flourishes will fade and fall,
and come to rest and stillness
All things come round
making the way clear.
Grace forges a path
I need to follow.
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long. ~William Shakespeare — Sonnet 73
May I remember
with each passing season,
as my outer self fades and fails,
wrinkles and withersI am consumed wholly
by glowing embers of love
received and thereby shared;
no warmth compares
to such a grace freely given.
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.