Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue. ~Eugene O’Neill
We are born hollering, already aware of our brokenness – our emptiness evident from the first breath, each tiny air sac bursting with the air of a fallen world that is never quite enough to satisfy.
The rest of our days are spent filling up our empty spaces: whether alveoli or stomach or synapse hungry for knowledge; still hollering and heart broken.
So we mend and are mended through healing another, sewn up by knitting together the scraggly fragments of lives, becoming the crucial glue boiled from His gifted Grace, all empty holes made holy when filled to brimming so wholly.
It is possible, I suppose that sometime we will learn everything there is to learn: what the world is, for example, and what it means. I think this as I am crossing from one field to another, in summer, and the mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either knows enough already or knows enough to be perfectly content not knowing. Song being born of quest he knows this: he must turn silent were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly unanswered. At my feet the white-petalled daisies display the small suns of their center piece, their – if you don’t mind my saying so – their hearts. Of course I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know? But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given, to see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly; for example – I think this as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch – the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the daisies for the field. ~Mary Oliver “Daisies”
I spend much of my time acknowledging I don’t know what I wish I knew. Aging means becoming content with the mystery and ceasing to strive so much for what is not yet illuminated, but will soon be.
I don’t fight my dark ignorance like I used to — no longer cry out in frustration about what I don’t understand and stomp angrily through each bewildering day.
Instead I am grateful for what insight is given freely and willingly, what is plainly illuminated, to be touched without being picked and destroyed.
I realize, if only I open up just enough to the Sun, it is my own heart that is alit and ripening. That is how heaven must be and I remain content to stay planted where I am until I’m picked.
My husband and I met in the late 70’s while we were both in graduate school in Seattle, living over 100 miles away from our grandparents’ farms farther north in Washington. We lived farther still from my grandparents’ wheat farm in Eastern Washington and his grandparents’ hog farm in Minnesota. One of our first conversations together, the one that told me I needed to get to know this man better, was about wanting to move back to work on the land. We were both descended from peasant immigrants from the British Isles, Holland and Germany – farming was in our DNA, the land remained under our fingernails even as we sat for endless hours studying in law school and medical school classes.
When we married and moved north after buying a small farm, we continued to work full time at desks in town. We’ve never had to depend on this farm for our livelihood, but we have fed our family from the land, bred and raised livestock, and harvested and preserved from a large garden and orchard. It has been a good balance thanks to career opportunities made possible by our education, something our grandparents would have marveled was even possible.
Like our grandparents, we watch in wonder at what the Creator brings to the rhythm of the land each day – the light of the dawn over the fields, the activity of the wild birds and animals in the woods, the life cycles of the farm critters we care for, the glow of the evening sun as night enfolds us. We are blessed by the land’s generosity when it is well cared for.
Now forty years after that first conversation together about returning to farming, my husband and I hope to never leave the land. It brought us together, fed our family, remains imbedded under our fingernails and in our DNA. Each in our own time, we will settle even deeper.
Thank you to retired RN and poet Lois Parker Edstrom for this exquisite poem about living and dying on the land. It has been my privilege to meet her and her husband and welcome them to our farm. Your words have brought me many blessings!
Buttercup’s heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high.
Buttercup: We’ll never survive. Westley: Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.
Westley: Hear this now. I will always come for you. Buttercup: But how can you be sure? Westley: This is true love. You think this happens every day?
That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying “As you wish”, what he meant was, “I love you.” And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back. ~William Golding, quotes from The Princess Bride
How was I ever blessed to find just such a farm boy? A farm boy who says “I love you” in many ways every day, so the walls of my secret garden heart come tumbling down…
Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you, all things are passing. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing. God is enough. ~The Prayer of St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
I know from experience that when I allow busy little doings to fill the precious time of early morning, when contemplation might flourish, I open the doors to the demon of acedia. Noon becomes a blur – no time, no time – the wolfing down of a sandwich as I listen to the morning’s phone messages and plan the afternoon’s errands. When evening comes, I am so exhausted that vespers has become impossible. It is as if I have taken the world’s weight on my shoulders and am too greedy, and too foolish, to surrender it to God. ~Kathleen Norris from The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Woman’s “Work”
There are sleepless nights when the burdens of my waking hours weigh heavily. Almost anything becomes is more fearsome in the dark.
Even in the misty dawn of daylight, the puzzle pieces of the duties of the day feel scattered and impossible to put together, making no logical pattern or sense.
They can feel as random as a million dandelions overwhelming a pasture.
In those helpless moments, I must remember that if I surrender them over to God, He picks up what I cannot carry.
God does not change, God is sufficient, God is patient.
He is enough for now, for tonight, for today, for tomorrow.
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still Even among these rocks, Our peace in His will And even among these rocks…
…And let my cry come unto Thee. ~T.S. Eliot from “Ash Wednesday”
Too many daily distractions prevent me from remaining still and seeking peace in my earthly life.
I constantly build up, and then tear down, and keep moving just to prove I can.
I care too much, I care too little — anything to avoid being mistaken for a mere stone-faced rock.
I’m always aware everlasting stillness will come soon enough, indeed much too soon, in the grave, in the forever fate of stone disintegrating to dust.
Yet even rocks fail to stay rooted in place; the earth heaves them up from the depths, they are washed away with the waves, moved at the mercy of the tide or the soil, landing somewhere new and unfamiliar only to be temporarily stilled, before they are shifted once again.
Let my peace become stone-like, to be picked up and moved where He wills, to settle where I am placed until the time comes to be moved again.
Let my peace be in the knowledge that God alone moves pebbles and mountains, not I.
And so I cry out as even stones cannot remain silent in the presence of the Living God.
The cold grows colder, even as the days grow longer, February’s mercury vapor light buffing but not defrosting the bone-white ground, crusty and treacherous underfoot. This is the time of year that’s apt to put a hammerlock on a healthy appetite, old anxieties back into the night, insomnia and nightmares into play; when things in need of doing go undone and things that can’t be undone come to call, muttering recriminations at the door, and buried ambitions rise up through the floor and pin your wriggling shoulders to the wall; and hope’s a reptile waiting for the sun. ~Bill Christopherson “February”
Just when you think it is safe to go out in shirt sleeves and sweats, subzero wind chill blasts through your bravado and reminds you February is still WINTER on the calendar and in reality.
February can be a month of regret and recriminations, of “should-haves” and “should-not-haves” while waiting, frozen and immobile, for spring to bring us back to life. Like cold-blooded creatures, we need the sun to warm us up so we can move again. This sun today, bright as it is, only lights up our flaws and holes – no warmth whatsoever.
And it’s not just me struggling to stay upright in the storm. Our old red barn, waiting for its spring date with a talented rehab carpenter, hasn’t many roof shingles left after this latest blow, and a recent partial wall collapse in the wind prompted a neighbor to ask if we had meant to create a new door into our barn.
The old barn is kind of like how I feel at times: lacking a decent foundation, a bit shaky on my underpinnings, a lot sagging in the middle, broad in the beam and drafty where I shouldn’t be.
So much to be shored up, fixed, patched and restored. So much need for a talented Carpenter who knows how to mend and strengthen the broken and fallen.