Usually, after turning out that forgotten barn light, I sit on the edge of the tractor bucket for a few minutes and let my eyes adjust to the night outside. City people always notice the darkness here, but it’s never very dark if you wait till your eyes owl out a little….
I’m always glad to have to walk down to the barn in the night, and I always forget that it makes me glad. I heave on my coat, stomp into my barn boots and trudge down toward the barn light, muttering at myself. But then I sit in the dark, and I remember this gladness, and I walk back up to the gleaming house, listening for the horses. ~Verlyn Klinkenborg from A Light in the Barn
My favorite thing about walking up from the barn at night is looking at the lights glowing in our house, knowing the lives that have thrived there, even though each child has flown away to distant cities.
There is love there as we have rediscovered our “alone” life together.
There are still future years there, as many as God grants us to stay on the farm. It is home and it is light and if all it takes is a walk from a dark barn to remind me, I’ll leave the lights on in the barn at night more often.
Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually. Maybe the desire to make something beautiful is the piece of God that is inside each of us. Now all four horses have come closer, are bending their faces toward me as if they have secrets to tell. I don’t expect them to speak, and they don’t. If being so beautiful isn’t enough, what could they possibly say? — Mary Oliver from Blue Horses
This is not a world filled with kindness – I think we all realize that most days. There is so much hurt and misunderstanding and lack of communication leading to all kinds of ugliness between so many of us.
When beauty is bestowed upon us, unexpectedly and silently and bountifully, where can it come from but from God? How can we possibly forget wherein He dwells richly, especially wherever beauty is so desperately needed.
The Haflingers don’t have much to say, but then … they don’t need to.
You come and go. The doors swing closed ever more gently, almost without a shudder Of all who move through the quiet houses, you are the quietest.
We become so accustomed to you, we no longer look up when your shadow falls over the book we are reading and makes it glow. For all things sing you: at times we just hear them more clearly. ~Rainer Maria Rilke from The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
God can be so quiet around us we scarcely think of Him tiptoeing around our distractions.
But then a moment of flash, a rainbow glow, a subtle sacred song in our ears
and we remember: He’s here watching knowing holding on to us reeling us back in when we drift away.
First day of February, and in the far corner of the yard the Adirondack chair, blown over by the wind at Christmas, is still on its back, the snow too deep for me to traipse out and right it, the ice too sheer to risk slamming these old bones to the ground.
In April I will walk out across the warming grass, and right the chair as if there had never been anything to stop me in the first place, listening for the buzz of hummingbirds which reminds me of how fast things are capable of moving. ~John Stanizzi “Ascension”
It has been a wintry February here with more days with snow on the ground than not. There has been constant challenge of finding safe footing when surfaces are snow and ice-covered; the local orthopedists have been busy putting together broken bones and dislocated joints from too many unscheduled landings.
Just when it seems winter will never be done with us, here come hints of transformation: bulbs cracking the soil, koi in the fish pond moving about beneath the ice, shoots shooting, crocus opening. Winter is not forever, February will wrap up its short stay on the calendar and we move forward as if we never had to worry about breaking a bone while traipsing about out in the yard.
All who have fallen are righted again. All is forgotten. All is forgiven. All is well.
From the simplest lyric to the most complex novel and densest drama, literature is asking us to pay attention… pay attention to the world and all that dwells therein and thereby learn at last to pay attention to yourself and all that dwells therein.
Literature, painting, music—the most basic lesson that all art teaches us is to stop, look, and listen to life on this planet, including our own lives, as a vastly richer, deeper, more mysterious business than most of the time it ever occurs to us to suspect as we bumble along from day to day on automatic pilot. In a world that for the most part steers clear of the whole idea of holiness, art is one of the few places left where we can speak to each other of holy things.
Is it too much to say that Stop, Look, and Listen is also the most basic lesson that the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches us? Listen to history is the cry of the ancient prophets of Israel. Listen to social injustice, says Amos; to head-in-the-sand religiosity, says Jeremiah; to international treacheries and power-plays, says Isaiah; because it is precisely through them that God speaks his word of judgment and command.
And when Jesus comes along saying that the greatest command of all is to love God and to love our neighbor, he too is asking us to pay attention. If we are to love God, we must first stop, look, and listen for him in what is happening around us and inside us. If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.
In a letter to a friend Emily Dickinson wrote that “Consider the lilies of the field” was the only commandment she never broke. She could have done a lot worse. Consider the lilies. It is the sine qua non of art and religion both. ~Frederick Buechner from Whistling in the Dark
I have broken the commandment to “consider the lilies” way too many times. In my daily life I am considering almost anything else: my own worries and concerns as I walk past so much beauty and meaning and holiness. My mind dwells within, blind and deaf to what is outside.
It is necessary to be reminded every day that I need to pay attention beyond myself, to be reminded to love my neighbor, to remember what history has to teach us, to search for the sacred in all things.
Stop, Look, Listen, Consider: all is grace, all is gift, all is holiness brought to life – stunning, amazing, wondrous.
We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being. ~Thornton Wilder, from “Our Town”
Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. ~Annie Dillard from “Write Till You Drop”
I began to write regularly after September 11, 2001 because more than on any previous day, it became obvious to me I was dying, though more slowly than the thousands who vanished that day in fire and ash, their voices obliterated with their bodies into eternity.
Nearly each day since, while I still have voice and a new dawn to greet, I speak through my fingers to others dying with and around me.
We are, after all, terminal patients — some of us more prepared than others to move on — as if our readiness had anything to do with the timing.
Each day I get a little closer to the eternal, but I write in order to feel a little more ready. Each day I want to detach just a little bit, leaving a trace of my voice behind. Eventually, through unmerited grace, so much of me will be left on the page there won’t be anything or anyone left to do the typing.
Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice. ~Robert Frost “Fire and Ice”
Whether we are consumed by flames or frost, if we rendered ash or crystal — both burn.
Yet ashes remain ashes, only and forever mere dust.
If encased in ice, a thaw can restore. Frozen memories sear like a sculpture meant to melt, and thereby the imprisoned are forever freed.
Be a womb. Be a dwelling for God. Be surprised. ~Loretta Ross-Gotta
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. ~C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity
Whenever there is the temptation to hunker down in retreat from the rest of the world, and God Himself, content with the status quo and reluctant to stretch beyond clear boundaries I’ve carefully constructed for my one weary life~
I am surprised.
Whether bunker or cottage or palace, when I seek safety or simplicity, it is not enough. I am not a dwelling for God until His remodel project is finished~
He puts down His chisel, hammer and saw, sees what He has salvaged from the junk heap, looks me over and declares it good.
Wind finds the northwest gap, fall comes. Today, under gray cloud-scud and over gray Wind-flicker of forest, in perfect formation, wild geese Head for a land of warm water, the boom, the lead pellet.
Some crumple in air, fall. Some stagger, recover control, Then take the last glide for a far glint of water. None Knows what has happened. Now, today, watching How tirelessly V upon V arrows the season’s logic.
Do I know my own story? At least, they know When the hour comes for the great wind-beat. Sky-strider, Star-strider–they rise, and the imperial utterance, Which cries out for distance, quivers in the wheeling sky.
That much they know, and in their nature know The path of pathlessness, with all the joy Of destiny fulfilling its own name. I have known time and distance, but not why I am here.
Path of logic, path of folly, all The same–and I stand, my face lifted now skyward, Hearing the high beat, my arms outstretched in the tingling Process of transformation, and soon tough legs,
With folded feet, trail in the sounding vacuum of passage, And my heart is impacted with a fierce impulse To unwordable utterance– Toward sunset, at a great height. ~Robert Penn Warren from “The Collected Poems”
I wish I could be as sure as the geese and swans flying overhead in unwordable utterance~ they trust where they are led is where they belong.
They may not make it there but nevertheless they go when called.
I wish I might fly into the setting sun on such a path of pathlessness knowing only I am sent because the call is stronger than I am.