After the keen still days of September, the October sun filled the world with mellow warmth… The maple tree in front of the doorstep burned like a gigantic red torch. The oaks along the roadway glowed yellow and bronze. The fields stretched like a carpet of jewels, emerald and topaz and garnet. Everywhere she walked the color shouted and sang around her… In October any wonderful unexpected thing might be possible. ~Elizabeth George Speare The Witch of Blackbird Pond
As we enter a week of storm fronts carrying wind and rain and gray, we know we may not really surface under the sun for another 5 months.
The unexpected may happen and we can expect that it will. I’ll be ready.
Snow is falling today and more wind is forecast tomorrow.
It is a cold wind, whether coming from the north, chilling our bones as various weather fronts meet and clash overhead and we feel dumped on.
Another cold wind of reality is blowing through America right now as well, and not just on our farm.
There is considerable turmoil as Americans struggle with the increased need to “pay as you go” rather than “borrow for what you desire”. The debt load for young adults is climbing, especially student loans and mortgages. Fewer older people have any significant savings for retirement.
Our parents were Great-Depression era children, so my husband and I heard plenty of stories convincing us never to reach beyond our means. My grandmother moved her three young children 20 miles away from home in order to cook morning, noon and night in a large boarding house, grateful for the work that allowed her to feed her family. It also meant separation from their jobless, depressed and often intoxicated father for weeks at a time. She told stories of making sandwiches to feed hobos who knocked on the kitchen door, hoping for a hand out, and after sitting briefly on the back steps eating what she could offer from left over scraps, they would be on their way again, walking on down the muddy road, hoping somewhere farther along there may be another handout or perhaps a day’s work. Even in her time of trouble, my grandmother could find blessing in the fact she and her children had a roof over their heads, beds to sleep in (all in one room) and food to fill their stomachs. There were always people worse off and she wasn’t one of them.
My grandmother never lived comfortably, by her own choice, after that experience. She could never trust that tomorrow things would be as plentiful as today, so she rarely rested, never borrowed, always saved even the tiniest scrap of food, of cloth, of wood, as it could always prove useful someday. My father learned from those uncertain days of his childhood and never borrowed to buy a car or a piece of furniture or an appliance. It had to be cash, or it was simply not his to purchase, so he never coveted what he did not have money to buy outright.
So we, the next generation, were raised that way. Even so, borrowing began with loans for college but still working three jobs while maintaining good grades. But then there was borrowing for that first care and to buy a house.
But with grandma’s and dad’s stories fresh in our minds, we knew we couldn’t start that slippery slope of borrowing to take vacations or buy the latest and greatest stuff or build the bigger house. So we didn’t.
We have lived simply, driving our vehicles past 200,000 miles, continuing to harvest and preserve from the garden, using our appliances past the 25 year mark. And we’ve been content and happy.
Happiness isn’t stuff. It isn’t big houses. It isn’t brand new cars or the latest gadgets.
It’s being under the same roof as a family, striving together and loving each other. It is taking care of friends when they need help. It is reaching out to the stranger in our midst who has less than we have.
The wind is pointing us back to the values we had long forgotten as we got much too comfortable. It takes a storm to find that true contentment can rest only within our hearts.
Now wind torments the field, turning the white surface back on itself, back and back on itself, like an animal licking a wound.
A single green sprouting thing would restore me . . .
Then think of the tall delphinium, swaying, or the bee when it comes to the tongue of the burgundy lily. ~Jane Kenyon from “February: Thinking of Flowers”
We thought we had skated past winter this time: only a few sub-freezing days since October, no northeasters, no snow.
Then February comes and the ground hog lied two days ago. Winter came in a big fell swoop yesterday with blowing snow, collapsing trees onto wires, lifting off roofs and pushing hard at old barn walls. It is still pounding us from the northeast today with windchills in the subzero digits.
A hunker down day.
How hard is it to think of summer flowers in February when all is ice and bluster and chill? I barely recall them when I’m trying to warm my frozen fingers. Yet the bulbs are poking through the ground, with some measure of hope fueling them to keep coming, and that sight alone warms me.
This wind too shall pass… at about 50 mph with gusts to 70. It would be just fine if it kept going and didn’t look back.
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A gale arose on the lake, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’
Sweet Jesus, talking his melancholy madness, stood up in the boat and the sea lay down,
silky and sorry. So everybody was saved that night… Nobody knows what the soul is.
It comes and goes like the wind over the water — sometimes, for days, you don’t think of it.
Maybe, after the sermon, after the multitude was fed, one or two of them felt the soul slip forth
like a tremor of pure sunlight before exhaustion, that wants to swallow everything, gripped their bones and left them
miserable and sleepy, as they are now, forgetting how the wind tore at the sails before he rose and talked to it —
tender and luminous and demanding as he always was — a thousand times more frightening than the killer storm.
~Mary Oliver from “Maybe”
I sleep through my diminishing days even more than I sleep through the nights, not nearly focused enough on each passing moment that never is to come again. Those moments crash to shore and then pull back to be lost forever.
There is a blindness in us all about what is inevitably coming, how we are tumbled over the years like waves, overcome by their passage.
He is tender and luminous and demanding and He talks to us, not just the relentless stormy destructive sea.
Peace be still!
And so I obey, forgiven, and am saved by grace,
so silky and sorry.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
~Matthew 7: 24-27
Our house is built on sandstone, on a rise on the farm. It is strong and solid, warm and cozy. We don’t worry about rising waters from the perpetual rains this time of year.
But the barns are built on lower ground where the waters come in torrents down the hill in fierce storms and fill the floors and cause chaos. Add in the winter winds, and we worry about whether the structures and their inhabitants can survive another season.
The wise man who built the barns on solid rock knew there would be hard times on that low ground yet his buildings have remained standing for decades despite the storms and threats. We too stay standing on the Word, even when tossed to and fro, though stuck in the mud and muck of life.
May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand. He prepares me with parable.