turns white with our ripening
as though to fly away in some
coming wind, bearing the seed
of what we know…
the bitter way to better prayer, we have
the sweetness of ripening.
~Wendell Berry from “Ripening”
My husband and I have walked our country road together many times on warm late summer evenings, breathing in the smell of ripening cornstalks and freshly mowed grass lined up in windrows, much like the walks we took together forty one years ago when we were newly married. Just down the road, we pass the smaller farm we first bought to leave the city behind for a new life amid quieter surroundings.
The seedling trees my husband planted there are now a thick grove and effective windbreak from the bitter howling northeasters we endured. The fences have fallen after 38 years, the blackberries have swallowed up the small barn where our first horses, goats, geese, chickens and cows lived. But today, on our 41st wedding anniversary, the house is getting new siding and windows, a fresh coat of paint, and the inside is being updated.
In a few weeks, our oldest son and his family, having concluded their mission work in Japan, will move in. There is such sweetness knowing the first home we owned together will now house our grandchildren.
Our children were raised on this road and they strolled these same steps with us many times, before flying far away for their life’s work. My husband and I have continued to walk together, just the two of us, pondering how the passage of time could be so swift that our hair has turned white and we are going to seed when it was only yesterday we were so young.
Indeed we ripen before we’re feeling ready. It is bitter sweetness relinquishing the youth we once knew, to face a future we can never know.
It is the mystery that keeps us coming back, walking the same steps those younger legs once did, admiring the same setting sun, smelling the same late summer smells. But we are not the same as we were, having progressed to a fruitfulness intended all along.
We are ripening and readying, our seed flying with the wind.
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