Radically Amazed

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How beautiful the things are that you did not notice before!
A few sweetclover plants
Along the road to Bellingham,
Culvert ends poking out of driveways,
Wooden corncribs, slowly falling,
What no one loves, no one rushes towards or shouts about,
What lives like the new moon,
And the wind
Blowing against the rumps of grazing cows.
~Robert Bly from “Like the New Moon I Will Live My Life”

 

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Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement.  …to get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. 
~Abraham Joshua Hershel

 

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Simply driving to work becomes a sacramental act.  This is not the hour long dense traffic commute I tolerated in the city thirty years ago – this is thirty minutes of noticing the expanse of the land against the sky, the light as it banishes the darkness, the harmony of animals existing on the soil.

It is a sacrament to notice “what no one loves, no one rushes towards or shouts about” and never take it for granted.  It is all gift; it is all grace.

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Visions of Mountains

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He found himself wondering at times, especially in the Autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams. He began to say to himself ‘Perhaps I shall cross the river myself one day.’ To which the other half of his mind always replied ‘Not yet.’

~J.R.R. Tolkien — Frodo in Fellowship of the Rings

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When you live in Whatcom County, as we do, it is possible to cross the river (several times) over 90 minutes of two lane highway switchbacks to arrive in these wild lands, breathless and overcome by majesty.

Visions of mountains from our dreams become an overwhelming 360 degree reality.

God touches every square inch of earth as if He owns the place, and He does, but these square inches are particularly marked by His artistry.  It is a place to feel awed by His magnificence.

As we crossed the river to return home last night, I was left to wonder, much like Tolkien’s Frodo pondering of wild land dreams, what bridges God is building to bring us back home to Him.

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(these are photos I took yesterday of Mt. Shuksan from Heather Meadows and Picture Lake, as well as Mt. Baker and Table Mountain from Artist Point)

The Moment of Balance

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What follows the light is what precedes it:
the moment of balance, of dark equivalence.

But tonight we sit in the garden in our canvas chairs
so late into the evening –
why should we look either forward or backwards?
Why should we be forced to remember:
it is in our blood, this knowledge.
Shortness of the days; darkness, coldness of winter.
It is in our blood and bones; it is in our history.
It takes a genius to forget these things.
~Louise Glück from “Solstice”

 

Today we stand, wavering,
on the cusp of light and shadow~
this knowledge of what’s to come
rests in our bones as we struggle
to untangle our feet of clay
from sinking like a stone, mired and stuck.
As darkness begins to claim our days again,
we seek to rise like a full moon illuminating the long night,
burnishing our readiness for eternity.

 

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To See the Field and the Grass Blade

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How often do we miss the fainter note
Or fail to see the more exquisite hue,
Blind to the tiny streamlet at our feet,
Eyes fixed upon some other, further view.
What chimes of harmonies escape our ears,
How many rainbows must elude our sight,
We see a field but do not see the grass,
Each blade a miracle of shade and light.
How then to keep the greater end in eye
And watch the sunlight on the distant peak,
And yet not tread on any leaf of love,
Nor miss a word the eager children speak?
Ah, what demand upon the narrow heart,
To seek the whole, yet not ignore the part.
~Philip Britts “Sonnet 1”

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О Greater Light, we praise Thee for the less;
The eastern light our spires touch at morning,
The light that slants upon our western doors at evening.
The twilight over stagnant pools at batflight,
Moon light and star light, owl and moth light,
Glow-worm glowlight on a grassblade.
О Light Invisible, we worship Thee!
~T.S. Eliot from “O Light Invisible”

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photo by Nate Gibson

We are given the eyes to see the part in the whole
or not
We are given the ears to hear the note within the chord
or not
We are given voice to rejoice alone or in a chorus
or not
We are given a rain-bowed promise to witness it all
or not.

So why ever not?

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A Surprise No Longer

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About living in the country?
…peace can deafen one, beauty surprise
No longer.  There is only the thud
Of the slow foot up the long lane
At morning and back at night.
~R.S. Thomas “The Country”

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I must not forget my
astonishment
at the beauty around me
even on the grayest of days,
trudging the barnyard path
on dark nights to exhausted chores.
If ever I fail to see
what is right in front of me,
this grace-given gift
to my eyes and ears,
I do not deserve to put on boots
or hold a pitchfork.

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Marching Orders

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All my life I have risen regularly at four o’clock and have gone into the woods and talked to God. There He gives me my orders for the day.
George Washington Carver

To rise early is to know the quiet solitude before dawn and look out with anticipation upon the expanse of an unwritten day. The ordained details are unknown to me and that is just as well. If I knew what was coming,  I might dive back under the covers, trying in vain to hide.

So when I do get up early and talk to God, mostly I listen. I am asked to trust and leave the details up to Him.

Then I try to obey, as best I can muster. Too often I mess up: I head off in the wrong direction, turn left instead of right, trip over my own feet, fall flat on my face.

So I’m pulled up out of the dirt yet again, dusted off, and sent marching on all day into the sunset, the way clearly demarcated, the pathway straight.

Even I can’t miss it and can’t mess it up.

Thank God.

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To See Days Pass

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For some reason we like to see days pass, even though most of us claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a long time. We examine each day before us with barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t one I’ve been looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for the next, when we are convinced, our lives will start for real. Meanwhile, this day is going by perfectly well-adjusted, as some days are, with the right amounts of sunlight and shade, and a light breeze scented with a perfume made from the mixture of fallen apples, corn stubble, dry oak leaves, and the faint odor of last night’s meandering skunk.
~Tom Hennen from “The Life of a Day”

 

I am ashamed to admit I squander time,
waiting for that day I’ve been looking for,
tossing off these precious hours
as somehow not measuring up.
The shock is
there have been over twenty years
of such days on this farm,
one passing by after another,
and every single one are exactly what I’m looking for.
Life started for real over sixty years ago
and I’m the only one who can live it out.

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