Reasons to Hum

Thank you for this day made
of wind and rain and sun and the scent
of old-fashioned lilacs. Thank you

for the pond and the slippery tadpole
and the wild iris that opened beside the pond
last week, so pale, so nearly purple,

their stems already flagged and bent.
Thank you for the yellow morels hiding in the field grass,
the ones we can only see when we are already

on our knees. And thank you for the humming
that rises out of the morning as if mornings
are simply reasons to hum. What a gift,

this being alive, this chance to encounter the world.
What a gift, this being a witness to spring—
spring in everything. Spring in the way

that we greet each other. Spring in the way the golden eagle
takes to the thermals and spirals up to where
we can barely see the great span of its wings.

Spring in the words we have known
since our births. Like glory. Like celebrate.

~Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer “In Case I Forget to Say It Enough” from All the Honey

maybe I should just say

how I wish I had a voice
like the meadowlark’s,

sweet, clear, and reliably
slurring all day long

its thrill-song, its anthem, its thanks, its
alleluia. Alleluia, oh Lord.

~Mary Oliver from “While I Am Writing A Poem to Celebrate Summer, the Meadowlark Begins to Sing”

Sing to the God who turns our sighs into a song
Sing to the One who mends our broken hearts with music.
Sing to the One who fills our empty hearts with love.
Sing to the One who gives us light to step into the darkest night.
Sing to the God who turns our sighs into a song.

~Susan Boersma

Each spring day begins new possibility
with a sigh, a deep breath and thankfulness-

even when there are tears, sometimes heartbreak,
and flat out fear of what may come next.

Even so,
through it all
I hum along in celebration,
singing a song of praise, an alleluia
that reminds me why I am
and who I live for.

All is well,
it is well with my soul.

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Raw Moist Dawn

I love these raw moist dawns with
a thousand birds you hear but can’t
quite see in the mist.

~Jim Harrison “Another Country”

The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.
~Georgia Douglas Johnson from 
The Heart of a Woman and Other Poems

In those raw moments before dawn
when a glow gently tints
the inside of the horizon’s eyelids,
the black of midnight waxes to merely shadow,
the worries of nighttime forgotten
amid a joyful chorus of unseen singers.

A gloaming dusk
fades into a gleaming dawn,
backlit silhouettes stark and still
as a drowsing world
slowly opens her eyes
and greets this new and glorious morn.

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Fixing Eyes on the Unseen – Imaged in God’s Eye

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

~Gerard Manley Hopkins “As kingfishers catch fire”

photo by Josh Scholten

We are far more than a simple flash of wing or a clarion ring of stone or bell ~
We who are imaged in God’s eye, first imagined, then brought to life.

We are His retina’s reflection of who walks in His creation,
ten thousand times ten thousand.

We are created lovely, meant to be lovely in His eyes,
so much more than light and sound~

We are inscaped in Christ, steeped
in His holy justice and sanctity~

We who keep all his goings graces,
for that He came down,
for that He indwells,
for that He was sacrificed.

We cannot help but be changed.

This year’s Lenten theme:
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4: 18

Fixing Eyes on the Unseen – Not Yet Not

For in this hope we were saved.
But hope that is seen is no hope at all.
Who hopes for what they already have?
But if we hope for what we do not yet have,
we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:24-25

Morning of buttered toast;
of coffee, sweetened, with milk.

Out the window,
snow-spruces step from their cobwebs.
Flurry of chickadees, feeding then gone.
A single cardinal stipples an empty branch—
one maple leaf lifted back.

I turn my blessings like photographs into the light;
over my shoulder the god of Not-Yet looks on:

Not-yet-dead, not-yet-lost, not-yet-taken.
Not-yet-shattered, not-yet-sectioned,
not-yet-strewn.

Ample litany, sparing nothing I hate or love,
not-yet-silenced, not-yet-fractured; not-yet-

Not-yet-not.

I move my ear a little closer to that humming figure,
I ask him only to stay.
~Jane Hirshfield “Not Yet”
from The Lives of the Heart.

To wait for the “not yet” is a hard sweet tension.

There is tension in knowing that something profound is happening – a vernal equinox, a brilliant sunrise, a fading sunset, a new life growing, but the transformation is not yet complete, and I’m unsure when it will be.

I am still unfinished business and so is everyone else.

In less than three weeks I will be reminded of what is yet to come. I will know the shock of the empty tomb. My heart will burn within me as more is revealed, through the simple act of bread breaking.

Waiting is never easy;
it can be painful to be patient,
staying alert to possibility and hope.
Others won’t understand why I wait,
nor do they comprehend what I could possibly be waiting for.

I’m all-ready, not-yet-finished, not-yet-not.

By waiting and by calm you shall be saved,
In quiet and in trust your strength lies.
~Isaiah 30:15

This year’s Lenten theme:
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4: 18

Fixing Eyes on the Unseen: Because the Sun Has Risen

I believe in God as I believe that the Sun has risen,
not only because I see it,
but because by it I see everything else.
~C.S. Lewis from “They Asked For A Paper,” in Is Theology Poetry?

I see your world in light that shines behind me,
Lit by a sun whose rays I cannot see,
The smallest gleam of light still seems to find me
Or find the child who’s hiding deep inside me.
I see your light reflected in the water,
Or kindled suddenly in someone’s eyes,
It shimmers through the living leaves of summer,
Or spills from silver veins in leaden skies,
It gathers in the candles at our vespers
It concentrates in tiny drops of dew
At times it sings for joy, at times it whispers,
But all the time it calls me back to you.
I follow you upstream through this dark night
My saviour, source, and spring, my life and light.
~Malcolm Guite “I am the Light of the World”

Without God’s Light that comes reliably every morning, I would be hopelessly casting about in the dark, stumbling and fumbling my way without the benefit of His illumination.

It feels like a fresh gift each time, whether brilliantly painted, or much of the time, a sullen and sodden gray.

I fix my eyes on the unseen, as it is lit in the Lord.
And then:
was blind, but now I see…

This year’s Lenten theme:
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4: 18

Morning Unfurls

I know this sound, first birds of morning.
As a child, I waited for hours for the drape
of night to roll up again. Leaning into the first
hint of the fresh day, the fragile lace of hesitant
light, the receding darkness dappled with bird song,
able at last to close my eyes.
I know this sound, some kind of redemption,
waking me from scattered sleep, a healing fragment
even as the work of the previous day marks my bones
in notches. Night leaves its small fur as the dawn
pushes, as the birds persist, and morning unfurls
like a promise you hoped someone would keep.
~Susan Moorhead “First Light” from Carry Darkness, Carry Light

Our February farm sunrises have always been full of promise over the three decades we’ve been here. The birds are waking earlier each day and when mornings are soaked, dripping with light and color, the air itself is alive.

Nothing though quite matches the phenomenon in February 2015 (top photo) when a fall streak hole or “key hole” cloud formed over nearby foothills. It looked to me as if angels were bursting through an unfurling break in heaven’s moving veil. Though it didn’t last long, it was seen for miles around us.

When morning breaks the night, it is like the first morning which came into being with His Words:

“Let there be light” and there continues to be the most amazing light…

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An Unexpected January Light

Today is one of those excellent January partly cloudies
in which light chooses an unexpected part of the landscape
to trick out in gilt, and then the shadow sweeps it away.
You know you’re alive.
You take huge steps,
trying to feel the planet’s roundness arc between your feet.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

It was like a church to me.
I entered it on soft foot,
Breath held like a cap in the hand.
It was quiet.
What God there was made himself felt,
Not listened to, in clean colours
That brought a moistening of the eye,
In a movement of the wind over grass.

There were no prayers said. But stillness
Of the heart’s passions – that was praise
Enough; and the mind’s cession
Of its kingdom. I walked on,
Simple and poor, while the air crumbled
And broke on me generously as bread.
~R.S. Thomas “The Moor”

After years of rarely paying attention,
too busy with whatever household,
work-place, or barnyard task needed doing,
I realized there are only a finite number
of sunrises and sunsets left to me.

Now I stop, take a deep breath,
sense the earth’s roundness
and feel lucky to be alive,
a witness to a moment of manna
falling from the sky.

Sometimes it is as plain and gray
as I am, but at times,
a fire is lit from above and beneath,
igniting the sky, overwhelming me.

I am swept away by light and shadow,
transfixed and transformed,
forever grateful to be fed
by heavenly bread broken over my head.

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Here Under This Sky

I stop

and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,
green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.

I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age
and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening

a prayer for being here, today, now, alive
in this life, in this evening, under this sky.
~David Budbill from Winter: Tonight: Sunset

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”

At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace.

It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your fists, your back, your brain, and then – and only then – it is handed to you. From the corner of your eye you see motion. Something is moving through the air and headed your way. It is a parcel bound in ribbons and bows; it has two white wings.

It flies directly at you; you can read your name on it. If it were a baseball, you would hit it out of the park. It is that one pitch in a thousand you see in slow motion; its wings beat slowly as a hawk’s.
~Annie Dillard from “Write Till You Drop”

I began to write regularly after September 11, 2001 because that day it became obvious to me I was dying too, though more slowly than the thousands who vanished in fire and ash, their voices obliterated with their bodies.   So, nearly each day since, while I still have voice and a new dawn to greet, I speak through my fingers to others dying around me.

We are, after all, terminal patients, some of us more prepared than others to move on, as if our readiness has anything to do with the timing.  Once, when our small church lost one of its most senior members to metastatic cancer, he announced his readiness once the doctor gave him the dire news (he liked to say he never bought green bananas as he wasn’t sure he’d be around to use them), but God had different plans and kept him among us for several years beyond his diagnosis.

Each day I too get a little closer to the end, but I write in order to feel a little more ready.  Each day I 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. I will be far out of the park, far beyond here.

Not a moment, not a sunrise, not a sunset, and not a word to waste.

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Something to Behold

Sometimes I just sit like this at the window and watch
the darkness come. If I’m smart, I’ll put on Bach.

I’m thinking now of how far it always seems there is to go.
Maybe it is too easy that I speak so often

of late last light on a December day,
of that stubborn grass that somehow still remains green

behind the broken chain link fence on the corner.
But the need is so great for the way light looks

as it takes its leave of us. We say
what we can to each other of these things,

we who are such thieves, stealing first
one breath and then the next. Bach, keep going

just this slowly, show me the way to believe
that what matters in this world has already happened

and will go on happening forever.
The way light falls on the last

of the stricken leaves of the copper beech
at the end of the block is something to behold.

~Jim Moore “The Need Is So Great”

No matter
No matter what happens between the sunrise and the sunset
No matter what happens between the sunset and the sunrise
It is something to behold.

To witness the return of light:
the rise and the set
the set and the rise

it keeps coming and going
through troubles
and sickness
joy and heartbreak
birth and death
loss and gain
it keeps coming and going
something to behold

the earth continues
to turn
to grant
a new start
a new day
something to behold

then settles
serenely
a quiet night
a respite from light

which matters so much
more than anything in between
so much more to behold
so much
so

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Dawn on Our Darkness: A Radiant and Merciful Light

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Romans 8:25-27

And so many of us.
How can we expect Him
to keep track of which voice
goes with what request.
Words work their way skyward.
Oh Lord, followed by petition —
for a cure, the safe landing.
For what is lost, missing —
a spouse, a job, the final game.
Complaint cloaked as need —
the faster car, porcelain teeth.
That so many entreaties
go unanswered
may say less about our lamentable
inability to be heard
than our inherent flawed condition.

Why else, at birth, the first sound
we make, that full-throttled cry?
Of want, want, want.
Of never enough. Desire
as embedded in us as the ancestral tug
in my unconscienced dog who takes
to the woods, nose to the ground, pulled far
from domesticated hearth, bowl of kibble.
Left behind, I go about my superior business,
my daily ritual I could call prayer.

But look, this morning, in my kitchen,
I’m not asking for more of anything.
My husband slices bread,
hums a tune from our past.
Eggs spatter in a skillet.
Wands of lilac I stuck in a glass
by the open window wobble
in a radiant and — dare I say it?—
merciful light.

~Deborah Cummins “Just One God” from Counting the Waves

We who are nothingness can never be filled:
Never by orchards on the blowing sea,
Nor the rich foam of wheat all summer sunned.

Our hollow is deeper far than treasure can fill:
Helmets of gold swim ringing in the wells
Of our desire as thimbles in the sea.

Come like an ocean thundering to the moon,
Drowning the sunken reef, mounting the shore.
Come, infinite answer to our infinite want.
~John Frederick Nims from “Prayer”

Each morning’s sunrise, each evening’s sunset
is answer to our unuttered prayers.
From subtle simmer to blazing boil, settling back to gray.

And so our prayers of praise, thanksgiving, petition
rise and fall, simmer and boil and are sometimes breathed in silence.

Yet our Father answers with radiance and mercy.

So we keep on trudging,
with each step our prayers are answered:
we will take the next step,
and the next, and the next.

Never alone. Always heard. Forever loved.

This year’s Advent theme “Dawn on our Darkness” is taken from this 19th century Christmas hymn.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
dawn on our darkness and lend us your aid.
Star of the east, the horizon adorning,
guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.
~Reginald Heber -from “Brightest and Best”

O radiant Light, O Sun divine;
Of God the Father’s deathless face,
O image of the Light sublime that fills the heav’nly dwelling place.
O Son of God, the source of life,
Praise is your due by night and day.
Our happy lips must raise the strain
of your esteemed and splendid name.

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