Like hues and harmonies of evening, Like clouds in starlight widely spread, Like memory of music fled, Like aught that for its grace may be Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery. The day becomes more solemn and serene When noon is past; there is a harmony In autumn, and a lustre in its sky, Which through the summer is not heard or seen, As if it could not be, as if it had not been! ~Percy Bysshe Shelleyfrom “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”
Noon has passed here; our spring long spent and now we come upon a time of subtle beauty, of hue and harmony~ a solemn serenity no longer overwhelmed by the clamor of summer.
The evening of autumn thus descends, its lustrous limn-light a curtain of grace cloaking and comforting, readying us for winter.
I grew up on a small farm with several acres of woodland. It was my near-daily retreat until I left for college: I walked among twittering birds, skittering wild bunnies, squirrels and chipmunks, busy ant hills and trails, blowing leaves, swimming tadpoles, falling nuts, waving wildflowers, large firs, pines, cottonwoods, maples and alder trees.
I had a favorite “secret” spot sitting perched on a stump where a large rock provided a favorite warm sunning spot for salamanders. They and I would make eye contact and ponder what the other was thinking.
It was where I felt closest to Creation, more so than the house I slept in with my family, the busy classrooms, the dentist office and retirement home where I worked.
Only our church sanctuary was such a thin place with a “can almost touch the hem of God” reality.
At college I searched for a place as private, as quiet, as serene, as full of the voices of creation – nothing ever matched the woods of my childhood home. I gave up as I lived a decade in the city and almost forgot what a familiar woods felt like.
I’ve come close again on this farm we’ve stewarded for thirty years, but the constant distractions are much greater now than when I was a child. I can’t empty out my head and heart as completely to receive the gifts of the field and trees and woodlands. I have greater worries, bigger responsibilities, places to go, people to see, things to do, a shorter timeline to get what I want to accomplish done …
Perhaps the time will come again to simply gaze into the eyes of a fellow creature, and invite them in with a head and heart ready to receive what they and our Creator have to give.
It is not that the sun comes up or the earth goes around or that the plants sprout and take up rain and flower and set seed or that our hearts pound five thousand times an hour – It’s that we don’t have to go out with tethers to make the heavenly bodies move correctly around or caress the ground and tease the stems upright and separate the petals or tap our chests continually with little hammers and we can put our attention elsewhere. ~Michael Goldman, “The Miracle” from Unified Light Theory
So much we’ve been told we must care for:
our babies our elders our animals our gardens our water our air ourselves
and so much more for which we are mere witness.
If we don’t take notice, we lose out on the miracle of knowing every breath, every heartbeat is sheer miracle.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me. As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave, He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave, So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave, Our God is marching on.
(Chorus) Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! While God is marching on. ~Julia Ward Howe — final original verses of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”
We are Your lilies, the glory of this Sabbath morning. Consider us, Oh Lord, Consider us the tears borne of love from Your eyes, So brief and so beautiful.
Evening, and all the birds In a chorus of shimmering sound Are easing their hearts of joy For miles around.
The air is blue and sweet, The few first stars are white,– Oh let me like the birds Sing before night. ~Sara Teasdale “Dusk in June”
Sure on this shining night Of star made shadows round, Kindness must watch for me This side the ground. The late year lies down the north. All is healed, all is health. High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole. Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone Of shadows on the stars. ~James Agee “Sure on this Shining Night”
It is high summer holding the earth now; our hearts whole and healed in a shimmering dusk.
I weep for wonder that we have this time, at this place, singing under these stars.
May we live sure that on another shining night, sometime, we know not when, we know not how, we will all be together again.
We live in an imperfect world, with imperfect characters to match. Our imperfections should not keep us from dreaming of better things, or even from trying, within our limits, to be better stewards of the soil, and more ardent strivers after beauty and a responsible serenity. ~Jane Kenyon from “In the Garden of My Dreams”
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1: 9-11
O Holy Father, I will be a child of peace and purity For well I know Thy Hand will bless the seeker after righteousness ~Shaker Hymn
The beauty of peace and purity is right outside my back door, in a misty dawn moment of drizzle-sprinkled flowers. They heal me after an imperfect yesterday and an imperfect night’s sleep and prepare me for another imperfect day today.
Today I will strive to be a steward for a garden of righteousness and serenity, aiding their growth and helping them flourish despite my flaws and failings.
I can never do it perfectly but am not giving up, as His hand blesses my seeking and my efforts.
Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
~Mary Oliver from The Swan
This laboring of ours with all that remains undone,
as if still bound to it,
is like the lumbering gait of the swan.
And then our dying—releasing ourselves
from the very ground on which we stood—
is like the way he hesitantly lowers himself
into the water. It gently receives him,
and, gladly yielding, flows back beneath him,
as wave follows wave,
while he, now wholly serene and sure,
with regal composure,
allows himself to glide.
~Rainer Maria Rilke, “The Swan”
This is the time of year when we look at making changes in how we live our lives. We want to start fresh as the calendar turns over; we want to become “new” too. Maybe it is giving up an old destructive habit or adopting a new healthier routine, but it means giving up something familiar and becoming uncomfortable, at least for a while.
I seek out the graceful gliding part of life and not the lumbering awkward part. I’d like to say I live out equal measures of both, but I don’t – I’m lumbering and awkward too much of the time due to my own choices. It is difficult to navigate the waves of life when in “lumbering” and “laboring” mode, as wave follows wave, some gentle and lapping, others overwhelming and crashing.
I know what grace looks and feels like, floating atop whatever wave hits me, to stay on the surface and not get soaked through.
I pray that whatever comes, this stretching light over the waves, will fill me with its beauty and grant me grace to glide.