Through all the pleasant meadow-side The grass grew shoulder-high, Till the shining scythes went far and wide And cut it down to dry.
Those green and sweetly smelling crops They led the waggons home; And they piled them here in mountain tops For mountaineers to roam.
Here is Mount Clear, Mount Rusty-Nail, Mount Eagle and Mount High;– The mice that in these mountains dwell, No happier are than I!
Oh, what a joy to clamber there, Oh, what a place for play, With the sweet, the dim, the dusty air, The happy hills of hay! ~Robert Louis Stevenson “Hay Loft Poem”
The Old Hay-mow’s the place to play Fer boys, when it’s a rainy day! I good-‘eal ruther be up there Than down in town, er anywhere!When I play in our stable-loft, The good old hay’s so dry an’ soft, An’ feels so fine, an’ smells so sweet, I ‘most ferget to go an’ eat.An’ one time wunst I _did_ ferget To go ‘tel dinner was all et,– An’ they had short-cake–an’–Bud he Hogged up the piece Ma saved fer me!
Nen I won’t let him play no more In our hay-mow where I keep store An’ got hen-eggs to sell,–an’ shoo The cackle-un old hen out, too!
An’ nen, when Aunty she was here A-visitun from Rensselaer, An’ bringed my little cousin,–_he_ Can come up there an’ play with me.
But, after while–when Bud he bets ‘At I can’t turn no summersetts,– I let him come up, ef he can Ac’ ha’f-way like a gentleman! ~James Whitcomb Riley “The Old Hay-Mow Poem”
There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.
Marilynne Robinson in Gilead
There are a thousand thousand people on any given day who cannot think of one sufficient reason to live this life.
There are a few thousand who will decide this is their last day.
There are a few who say goodbye.
It is enough for me to find just one reason to live today.
It is enough for me to help someone else find just one reason today.
One is enough.
If you stand here you can see the barn. You can see it from every point on these two hundred acres, but this spot is the closest.
Here’s a fence post–use your imagination– that used to be a corner post for all the fences on this farm. ~Curtis Bauer from “Imaginary Homecoming”
Standing in certain spots on our farm,
at certain times of day
and certain times of year,I think I can see and be seen
the expanse of sky unending,
touching shadowy hilltop silhouettes.
I become the corner post from which
all boundaries extend,
fencing in the known world from this spot.
I become the barn visible for miles,
though aging and sagging,
still safe haven to all that need to find rest,
a hub for homecoming.
The unquiet spirit of a flower That hath too brief an hour. ~Ellen Mackay Hutchinson Cortissoz
All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word that was preached to you. 1Peter 1:24-25
Like seeds released when buffeted,
or simply blown at the moment of ripeness,
may I settle to listen, no longer unquiet
as your Word goes forth on wings
to far corners and hidden places;
a too-brief whole
scattering new life to the wind.
I pray because I can’t help myself.
I pray because I’m helpless.
I pray because the need flows out of me all the time — waking and sleeping.
It doesn’t change God — it changes me. ~C.S. Lewis
Almost four weeks ago I wrote about our little neighbor, two year old Faye Jubilee, sickened by E.Coli 0157 infection/toxin to the point of becoming critically ill with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (plummeting cell counts and renal failure). My post is found here:
At the worst point of her illness, when the doctors were sounding very worried on her behalf, Faye’s mother Danyale wrote to our Wiser Lake Chapel Pastor Bert Hitchcock with a plea for prayers from the church in the midst of her helplessness:
Here is how he responded:
“I understand that Faye (and everyone dealing with her) is fighting for her life. And that’s the way I am praying: that God in his merciful power, would deliver her, even if her condition looks hopeless.
If you were able to be in church this morning, you might hear my sense of urgency, for I have chosen this benediction, with which to close the service — and I give it to you right now, from the mouth of our Lord:
Jesus said: “Do not be afraid, Danyale!
I am the First and the Last.
I am the Living One.
I died, but look – I am alive forever and ever!
And I hold the keys of death and the grave.
Neither you nor I know how this will turn out — the possibilities are terrifying. But we do know who holds the keys of life and health and death; He is the Life-giver, who heals all our diseases — nothing can rip our lives (or little Faye’s life) out of His hands. And, when He does allow these bodies to give out, He promises to give us glorious new life, safe forever in His presence. These are not pious platitudes; these are the rock-hard promises of the one who loves us more than life, and who is absolutely in control of what is happening today.
Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast;
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
I’m praying for you all; and the Chapel Family will be praying this morning, as we gather in the Lord’s presence.
Love you, and yours, Danyale,
Pastor Bert Hitchcock
And now Faye is home, with normal kidney function and improving cell counts, having also survived a bout with pneumonia.
Thanks to you all for your prayers lifted around the world on her behalf. Here is a summary from her mother:
Dear Friends and readers of Barnstorming,
Some of you we know, but so many of you we do not. Whichever the case, Emily tells me you have prayed for our little girl, Faye, throughout her sickness and into her recovery. What can parents say when people–many of whom we may never be privileged to meet in this life–have come alongside us to beseech the Lord for our daughter’s life and pray for her healing? Thank you. Thank you!
Faye is doing so well; stronger every day, more and more herself! It is wonderful to see.
This week we head back down to Seattle Children’s for a check up–we’ll get to say hello to the good folks who saw her through her sickness. A special stop will be made on the dialysis unit to see Nurse Kathy, a favorite of Faye’s. We anticipate a good report!
Thanks again for your love and support, far and wide. Truly astounding.
Danyale and Jesse Tamminga, for Faye, too
Our prayers of helplessness to God continue for the healing and strengthening of Towa Aoyagi, the fourteen year old son of Pastor Seima and Naoko in Tokyo, Japan, who remains paralyzed following a neck injury four weeks ago today. He is currently in rehab in Tokyo, trying to stabilize enough to come to the United States for state-of-the-art spinal cord injury treatment to learn how to live and thrive in his changed body.
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay “Dirge Without Music”
Each Memorial Day weekend without fail,
we gather with family, have lunch, reminisce,
and trek to the cemetery high above Puget Sound
to catch up with our relatives who lie there still,
some we knew and loved and miss,
others not so much, unknown to us
except on genealogy charts,
their names and dates and these stones
all that is left of them.
Yet we know each, as we know ourselves and others,
was tender and kind, though flawed and broken,
was beautiful and strong, though wrinkled and frail,
was hopeful and faithful, though too soon in the ground.
We know this about them
as we know it about ourselves:
someday we too will feed roses,
the light in our eyes
become elegant swirls with fragrant breath of heaven.
No one asks if we approve of this, nor should they;
So it is, so it will be, for so it has been.
Unless the eye catch fire,
The God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire
The God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire
The God will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire,
The God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire,
The God will not be known.
~William Blake from “Pentecost”
The dove descending breaks the air With flame of incandescent terror Of which the tongues declare The one discharge from sin and error. The only hope, or else despair Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre- To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Who then devised the torment? Love. Love is the unfamiliar Name Behind the hands that wove The intolerable shirt of flame Which human power cannot remove. We only live, only suspire Consumed by either fire or fire.
~T.S. Eliot from “Four Quartets”
We are consumed,
carried as His breath
into multicolor clouds
to the ends of the earth.
Wither me to within me: Welt me to weal me common again: Withdraw to wear me weary: Over me to hover and lover again:
Before me to form and perform me: Round me to rill me liquid incisions: Behind me to hunt and haunt me: Down me to drown indecision:
Bury me to seed me: bloom me In loam me: grind me to meal me Knead me to rise: raise me to your mouth
Rive me to river me: End me to unmend me: Rend me to render me: ~Philip Metres “Prayer”
The truth is:
though we prefer to gaze on fresh beauty,
to ponder smooth youthful perfection
rather than the pocked and wrinkled
the used-up and weary,
our prayer desires His everlasting love
even when we fall in frailty.
We wither from the first day,
readying for fruit to burst forth
as we, torn and buried,
are sown to rise again.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8
From bristly foliage you fell complete, polished wood, gleaming mahogany, as perfect as a violin newly born of the treetops, that falling offers its sealed-in gifts, the hidden sweetness that grew in secret amid birds and leaves, a model of form, kin to wood and flour, an oval instrument that holds within it intact delight, an edible rose. In the heights you abandoned the sea-urchin burr that parted its spines in the light of the chestnut tree; through that slit you glimpsed the world, birds bursting with syllables, starry dew below, the heads of boys and girls, grasses stirring restlessly, smoke rising, rising. You made your decision, chestnut, and leaped to earth, burnished and ready, firm and smooth as the small breasts of the islands of America. You fell, you struck the ground, but nothing happened, the grass still stirred, the old chestnut sighed with the mouths of a forest of trees, a red leaf of autumn fell, resolutely, the hours marched on across the earth. Because you are only a seed, chestnut tree, autumn, earth, water, heights, silence prepared the germ, the floury density, the maternal eyelids that buried will again open toward the heights the simple majesty of foliage, the dark damp plan of new roots, the ancient but new dimensions of another chestnut tree in the earth. ~Pablo Neruda, “Ode to a Chestnut on the Ground”
Each spring the horse chestnut tree in our front yard transforms for a week into a Renoir painting. It explodes into hundreds of bright clusters of delicate orchid-like blossoms, forming cone shaped floral candles illuminating the spreading branches. However, its setting is more peasant than romantic, as the tree stands in common company between a pine tree and a poplar lining the rural driveway into our barnyard. This is an exceedingly humble spot for a tree bedecked with foliage of such majestic lighting, its tender broad leafed branches brushed and broken by passing hay wagons and shavings trucks.
Although its graceful beauty seems more appropriate along the Seine River, during the summer it fits perfectly in its spot near our haybarn. Its verdant foliage provides deep cooling shade during hot sweaty days. The branches that were once lit up with scores of pink and white blossoms become leafy respite for a dusty hay crew gulping lemonade in between loads. Horses snooze in the paddocks under its shadow. Birds nest well hidden and squirrels leap from swaying branch to branch. The tree becomes sanctuary within and below.
By fall, the tree forms its fruit within unpretentious capsules covered with spines and prickles, visually spiked yet the bristles actually soft and pliable. There are few natural things so plain and homely as the buckeye horse chestnut husk. These are shed by the hundreds in autumn wind and rainstorms, and they shower down, cobbling the driveway, eventually to break apart underfoot.
Only by leaving the tree can the deep brown nut be revealed from its hiding place, its richness exposed. From exquisite bloom to shady haven to prickly husk to mahogany harvest, this chestnut tree’s changing palette needs no canvas, no frame, no museum gallery showcase. Instead its majestic exhibition is for free, right in our front yard.