Quiet Eyes

photo by Josh Scholten

I will be the gladdest thing
     Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
     And not pick one.

photo by Josh Scholten

I will look at cliffs and clouds
     With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
     And the grass rise.

photo by Josh Scholten

And when lights begin to show
     Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
     And then start down!

-Afternoon on a Hill by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

photo by Josh Scholten
Thanks to Mr. Ryan Smit and the Concert Choir who introduced an appreciative audience to this poem set to music by Eric Barnum during last night’s Lynden Christian High School music concert


Knocked Breathless

photo by Josh Scholten

I saw the tree with lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where. the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance.
~Annie Dillard

“I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.”
~Annie Dillard

photo by Josh Scholten

So much of my time is spent fixated on what I control (or don’t):
what I see/hear/taste/feel/do/want/need.
It is all too much about me.

Instead how must I appear to my Maker as I begin each day:
my utter astonishment at waking up,
true gratitude for each breathless moment,
surely awed by how resonant I peal when struck senseless

by life.

Frightening Silence

photo by Josh Scholten

The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.”
― Blaise Pascal

On the opposite coast of our nation from where we live, a storm is spiraling forward in a relentless course to bring well over a foot of rain and upwards of 90 mile an hour winds to the front doors of millions of our people.  There will be nothing silent about it.  It will roar through, like a hungry lion seeking whom it may devour.

Our nephew, who works on power lines in California, is part of a caravan of trucks and power crews from all over the nation heading east to try to help restore power and order over the next few weeks of recovery.

What is more frightening than the surge of the storm itself would be the potential of utter silence in its aftermath.  The silence following a storm would be hopelessness beyond our ability to grasp and hold.  If there is one cry, one call for help,  any sound at all, then there is still hope of rescue.

As the billows of clouds and waves roll in to shore with tumultuous howl and din, may they retreat quickly without leaving a trace behind.  And may all the people sing loud over the rumble of the storm, lifting their voices together to keep silence forever at bay.

photo by Josh Scholten

Cozy Rain

The best kind of rain, of course, is a cozy rain. This is the kind … of rain that falls on a day when you’d just as soon stay in bed a little longer, write letters or read a good book by the fire, take early tea with hot scones and jam, and look out the streaked window with complacency.
~ Susan Allen Toth

Cozy rains simply don’t happen on weekdays.  There are always things to do, places to be, people to impress, rain or shine.  On weekdays rain tends to be a drag us down,  smotheringly gray inconvenience of wet shoes, damp jackets, impossibly limp hair in school and work place.

But Saturday?  The same drops from the same cloudy skies become a comfy, tuck-me-in-once-again and snuggle down kind of rain.  There is no schedule to follow, no structured day, no required attendance, no need to even poke our nose out the door (unless living on a farm with hungry animals in the barn).

This is why most northwest natives are rainyphilics, anticipating this quiet time of year with great longing.  We are granted permission by precipitation to be complacent, slowed down, contemplative, and yes, even lazy…
Okay, enough of that.  Gotta get up, get going, laundry to do, house to clean, barn to muck out, bills to pay, meals to prepare.
Maybe tomorrow the rain will still be falling and there will be a chance to sit with hot tea cup in hand, gazing through streaked windows.
Cozy rain on a Sabbath Sunday.  With scones.  And jam.

photo by Lea Gibson

Perfected Stare

Of all the beasts that God allows
In England’s green and pleasant land,
I most of all dislike the Cows:
Their ways I do not understand.
It puzzles me why they should stare
At me, who am so innocent;
Their stupid gaze is hard to bear —

To country people
Cows are mild,
And flee from any stick they throw;
But I’m a timid town bred child,
And all the cattle seem to know.
~from “Cows” by T.S. Eliot, published long after his death

Raised with cows
outside my back door,
I sat dreamily
on their bony backs
while dad milked,
the rhythmic
swoosh swoosh
filling the metal pail
as barn cats circled and purred.

The perfected stare of the cow;
I love
their unblinking interest
in the absurdity
of people and
what we do.

I fall
into the deep pool
of their brown eyes
and drown
there willingly,
by their curious gaze
and why they should care
about me
at all.

The Turning Point

photo by Josh Scholten
Desire change. Be enthusiastic for that flame  
in which a thing escapes your grasp 
while it makes a glorious display of transformation. 
That designing Spirit, the master mind of all things on earth 
loves nothing so much in the sweeping movement of the dance 
as the turning point.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
I do not like change; I am usually dragged kicking and screaming through every transition into something new and unfamiliar.  Even a haircut can be traumatic.  I’m not into retail therapy because the tried and true in my closet is just fine, thank you very much.  A new food whose name I can’t pronounce (what exactly is quinoa anyway?) becomes highly suspect.  The disappearance of a favorite coffee from the store is cause for mourning.
Most people would call it “stuck in a rut.”
I prefer to think of it as “constancy” in an unstable world.
I do know better though.  I acknowledge every moment is transformational, nothing remains as it is, all is changing so quickly I can’t keep it in my grasp, hard as I try.
It is time I give myself over to the dance of life, allowing myself to be dipped and whirled about, spun dizzy, carried by the momentum of the Spirit.
Every day is a turning point that I can and will navigate despite my reticence; “like Ginger Rogers who does everything Fred Astaire does, but backwards and in high heels”  (Bob Thaves).
Except for the part about high heels.

Leave a Trail

photo by Josh Scholten

Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Just like a certain recent U.S. President, my father chose to relax by brush cutting.  Later on in life he enjoyed the still peace and quiet of fishing, but when I was young, his favorite thing to do when he had extra time was to grab his brush hook from the garage, sling it over his shoulder, and head out into our woods.  There he would spend hours whacking away at the undergrowth of a lush Pacific Northwest forest, creating open areas for our cows to graze and making trails through seemingly impenetrable trees, foliage and blackberry patches.

Making trails seemed to give him a sense of control and accomplishment that he rarely felt in his government desk job.  It created huge “brush piles” which became controlled bonfires on “burn” days in late October, reducing to ashes what once had been an impassable mess.

Somehow I found and married a man who also enjoys clearing brush, using that same sixty year old brush hook handle that now bears the sweat marks of two beloved men in my life.

The path for me is clearer after their work is done.   I can now find my way.

photo by Josh Scholten

To Whatever End

photo by Josh Scholten

To whatever end. Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? They have passed like rain on the mountains. Like wind in the meadow. The days have gone down in the west. Behind the hills, into shadow. How did it come to this?
~J.R.R Tolkien

Some days start dark, stay dark, end dark.  There is no reprieve, just impending loss.   There are so many who live out their days in the shadows, unable and unwilling to do what it takes to find the light again.

How did it come to this?  How far back was the turn that led to being lost?  How did we abandon a clear sense of direction, struggle to find purpose for getting up each day, forget to feel gratitude for the tiny things?

If we are to follow the path out, it must be with a sense of utter need and conviction.
We must give ourselves up to the rescue.
To not give up the fight.
To climb out of the shadows high enough to see the light again.
To be touched by light again.

To whatever end awaits us on the other side.



photo by Josh Scholten

And that is just the point… how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?
~Mary Oliver

Some mornings it is impossible to stay a silent observer of the world.  It demands a response.
The overnight wind and rain have pulled down nearly every leaf, the ground is carpeted with the dying evidence of last spring’s rebirth, the dropping temperatures robing the surrounding foothills and peaks in a bright new snow covering.

There can be no complacency in witnessing this startling transition in progress.   It blusters, rips, drenches, encompasses, buries. Nothing remains as it was.

And here I am, alive.

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten



Honing and Tending

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

Creation is the arena in and through which God wishes to reveal himself.
In creating, in preserving, in pursuing; in hallowing, in participating, in wooing—
the Father, the Son, and the Spirit have made all creation,
and all its creatures, great and small, their delight.

We recognize that, being made in his image, we are appointed as his stewards.
This does not give us carte blanche with God’s world.
We are not given creation to plunder,
but to hone and tend in such ways that every little part of it gives glory to God.
~Kathleen Mulhern in Dry Bones

photo by Josh Scholten