A Heart I Cannot Fathom

Today, when I could do nothing,
I saved an ant.

It must have come in with the morning paper,
still being delivered
to those who shelter in place.

I have coffee and books,
time,
a garden,
silence enough to fill cisterns.

It must have first walked
the morning paper, as if loosened ink
taking the shape of an ant.

Small black ant, alone,
crossing a navy cushion,
moving steadily because that is what it could do.

Set outside in the sun,
it could not have found again its nest.
What then did I save?

It did not move as if it was frightened,
even while walking my hand,
which moved it through swiftness and air.

Ant, alone, without companions,
whose ant-heart I could not fathom —
how is your life, I wanted to ask.

I lifted it, took it outside.

This first day when I could do nothing,
contribute nothing
beyond staying distant from my own kind,
I did this.
~Jane Hirshfield from “Today, When I Could Do Nothing”

The other day, as I sat down in the grass to take pictures, I felt a tickle at the nape of my neck. I reached up, picked up something, and when I looked to see what it was, I found a tiny ant crushed in my fingers. Suddenly it felt like things were crawling everywhere on me, especially my scalp. I shook out my hair and clothes and found there weren’t any more ants. It was only one very unfortunate defenseless victim who chose the wrong place and time to inhabit me – unexpected, unwanted and unwelcome.

As a child, I was fascinated by the ant hills in the woods and fields of our small farm. I would track yards and yards of ant trails from the busy mounded colonies to tree trunks and other sources of food, watching the single file single-minded insects heading through all sorts of terrain to sustain their community. Having ants crawling on me wasn’t a problem then – they were part of my exploration of creation and sometimes they explored me.

How is your life, I wanted to ask.

Now as an adult, I confess I pay regularly for someone to come to the farm to spray around our house to prevent a resurgence of carpenter ants that threatened our foundation and walls some years ago. It works pretty well so I don’t have to deal with the reality of nature/creation invading my personal space. My wholistic acceptance of my co-existence with ants ends at my front door. No welcome mat for them, thou shalt not trespass.

I don’t seek to fathom their heart or a felt need to find food.

So now our country is embroiled in the polarizing issue of whether to protect the defenseless when they are unexpected, unwanted and unwelcome, especially when it may pose great personal risk to another. Many of those most upset by the judicial decision have a voice to protest today because their mother let them live, even though their conception was unexpected, unwanted and unwelcome. They were not prevented through prophylactic means, they were not squished in an intentional self-defensive move.

They were indeed part of creation.

They are living and whole and as angry and anxious as I was when I thought I was crawling with ants.

How is your life, I want to ask. How is it to feel what you are feeling right now?

I fathom your beating heart and that of a mother’s loving heart of selfless sacrifice.

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The Heart Breaking Beauty of Eggs

eggsbroken2

 

newegg

 

fresheggs

 

eggshell2

And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.

In the robin’s nest there were Eggs and the robin’s mate sat upon them keeping them warm with her feathery little breast and careful wings.

….in the garden there was nothing which was not quite like themselves—
nothing which did not understand the wonderfulness of what was happening to them—
the immense, tender, terrible, heart-breaking beauty and solemnity of Eggs.

If there had been one person in that garden who had not known through all his or her innermost being

that if an Egg were taken away or hurt the whole world would whirl round and crash through space and come to an end—

if there had been even one who did not feel it and act accordingly there could have been no happiness even in that golden springtime air.

But they all knew it and felt it and the robin and his mate knew they knew it.
~Frances Hodgson Burnett from The Secret Garden

 

eggsbroken

 

wwuhydrangea619151

 

Some say you’re lucky
If nothing shatters it.

But then you wouldn’t
Understand poems or songs.
You’d never know
Beauty comes from loss.

It’s deep inside every person:
A tear tinier
Than a pearl or thorn.

It’s one of the places
Where the beloved is born.
~Gregory Orr

 

hydrangeavarigated

 

lacehydrangea

 

We all start out an egg pierced,
broken in order to become whole…
–  each tiny part of the least of us  –
– whether brain, heart, lungs or liver –
wonderfully made,
even if unwanted or discarded or taken away.

The act of creation of something so sacred
is immense, tender, terrible, beautiful, heart-breaking,
and so very solemn.

The act of hurting this one tiny part of creation
hurts the whole world;
we risk whirling round and crashing through space
and coming to an end.

If there is even one who does not feel it and act accordingly,
there can be no happiness.

But they all knew it and felt it and they knew they knew it.

And what is born broken is beloved.

 

broken

 

lacehydrangea1

 

eggshell

 

 

Like a Child From the Womb

sunset95151

aftertherain1
sunset95155
 I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
         And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
         I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
         The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
         Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
         And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
         I arise and unbuild it again.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley from “The Cloud”
sunset828153
This has been a week of cloudy images — some light and carefree,
some heavy laden and threatening,
some brilliant, some not so much~~
some lying face down in the water on a Turkish beach,
it seems at a glance almost as if napping, but this sleep is forever.
This has been a week of the world slapped to its senses
to witness children dying trying to escape war and evil —
this is nothing new in the history of humanity.
We kill our unborn children every day in our own private wars
that we justify without guilt or regret.

Now confronted by images of dead children while eating breakfast,
this one boy out of thousands dead made millions cry cloudy with the shame of it,
so many tears falling like raindrops soaking deep on holy ground,
ground we must share with the poor and oppressed,
ground we no longer can hoard.

These images change from one moment to the next,
birthing life, taking life,
a child in the womb to ghost in the tomb,
lying drowned on a beach
we come undone,
we unbuild the walls we hide behind.
sunrise94154
sunset95157
sunset88152

The Solemnity of Eggs

eggshell

hydrangea71315

lacehydrangea1

And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.
In the robin’s nest there were Eggs and the robin’s mate sat upon them keeping them warm with her feathery little breast and careful wings.
….in the garden there was nothing which was not quite like themselves—
nothing which did not understand the wonderfulness of what was happening to them—
the immense, tender, terrible, heart-breaking beauty and solemnity of Eggs.

If there had been one person in that garden who had not known through all his or her innermost being
that if an Egg were taken away or hurt the whole world would whirl round and crash through space and come to an end—
if there had been even one who did not feel it and act accordingly there could have been no happiness even in that golden springtime air.
But they all knew it and felt it and the robin and his mate knew they knew it.
~Frances Hodgson Burnett from The Secret Garden

 

This is shared in light of the current controversy over the value of the newly formed,
in essence “the Egg”, whether it may be financial or moral,
–  each tiny part of the least of these  –
– whether brain, heart, lungs or liver –
is wonderfully made, whether unwanted or discarded.

The act of creating something so sacred is immense, tender, terrible, beautiful, heart-breaking,
and so very solemn.

The act of hurting this one tiny part of creation hurts the whole world; we risk whirling round and crashing through space
and coming to an end.
~EPG

wwuhydrangea61915

wwuhydrangea619151

Given the Choice

sunset12713

sistersfence

I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain. But when I look up,
saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don’t cut that one.
I don’t cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,
an unseen nest
where a mountain
would be.
~Tess Gallagher “Choices”

Such tenderness,
such recognition of the other,
to save the nest
and all future potential nests
rather than a clear cut stripping
for the sake of unimpeded world view,
when the freedom of a mountain backdrop
is sacrificed–

such tenderness
when the right to choose can only mean
choosing to do right.

 

twinsappearing2

 

Lenten Reflection–No Wonder

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.
Augustine

photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten

The natural wonders are called that for a reason–we are awed and diminished by them. They rightfully deserve our reverence and respect.

So why does the image of God Himself not call us to wonder? Each cell, each organ, each movement, each thought, each breath a miracle of creation far beyond the wonders of the mountains, the heavens and the seas. Yet every day we throw these away as inconvenient, ill-timed, and unvalued.

We were created to look like Him. And He came among us to be with us, walk with us, weep with us, love us, and save our rebellious ungrateful hides.

No wonder we’re such a mess, in need of salvage. No wonder at all.