A Brief Moment of Exchange

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”
~Danusha Laméris “Small Kindnesses”

There is true holiness in moments of kindness: I notice it now more than ever. I am given infinite daily opportunities to show kindness to others and when I’m preoccupied, too inside my own head, or feeling too injured myself, I usually walk by without even trying.

Yet when kindness is shown to me, I don’t forget it – it permeates me like a homespun apple pie fragrance that lingers around me, comforting and welcoming me home when I feel alone and a stranger in the world.

I remember all the kindnesses shown to me over the years and always carry them with me. When I have an opportunity in a brief encounter to show kindness, I want to help make someone else feel noticed and special. I want them feel like they belong, right in that moment.

This daily sharing of words and photos is one way I try to give back what I have been gifted over the years. During the two or three minutes of someone looking at what I offer here daily, I want you to know:

you belong here
I am forever grateful for you
your words enrich me with your gift of kindness.

Thank you for being here.

(today I am sharing all the different stages of one special hydrangea bush on our farm)

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A book of beauty in words and photography, available to order here:

Strangers Hoping to Meet

A bookstore is for people who love books and need
To touch them, open them, browse for a while,
And find some common good––that’s why we read.
Readers and writers are two sides of the same gold coin.
You write and I read and in that moment I find
A union more perfect than any club I could join:
The simple intimacy of being one mind.
     Here in a book-filled sun-lit room below the street,
     Strangers––some living, some dead––are hoping to meet.

~Garrison Keillor from “November”

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen

I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.
~ninth century Irish monk from “Pangur Ban”

Most of my life has been a reading rather than a writing life. For too many decades, I spent most of my time reading scientific and medical journals, to keep up with the changing knowledge in my profession. That left too little opportunity to dabble in books of memoir, biography, poetry and the occasional novel.

Now in semi-retirement, I’m trying to rectify that deficit, spending wonderful hours reading books I feel immersed within. As a reader, I am no longer a stranger to the author or poet whose words I read. In a few instances, I’ve had the honor and privilege to meet these authors in real life, or to interact with them on line. They have become friends on the page as well as in my life. What a miracle of the modern age!

I am no longer strangers with many of you who read my words here on Barnstorming every day – I have been able to meet a number of you over the years. It is a joy to find new friends through my words!

In the summer of 2013, Dan and I wrapped up our Ireland trip with one day in Dublin before flying home. I wasn’t sure I could take in one more thing into my overwhelmed brain but am grateful Dan gently led me to the exhibit of the Book of Kells at Trinity College along with the incredible library right above it.

I needed to see the amazing things of which man is capable. My weariness was paltry compared to the immense effort of these dedicated writers and artists.

The Book of Kells is an intricately illustrated copy of the Gospels from the ninth century, meticulously decorated by Irish monks with quill pens and the finest of brushes. Two original pages are on display at the library and the brief look one is allowed scarcely does justice to the painstaking detail contained in every letter and design.

Upstairs, is the “Long Room” of 200,000 antiquarian books dating back centuries, lined by busts of writers and philosophers. It is inspiring to think of the millions of hours of illuminated thought contained within those leather bindings.

The written word is precious but so transient on earth; it takes preservationist specialists to keep these ancient books from crumbling to dust, lost forever to future generations.

The original Word is even more precious, lasting forever in the hearts and minds of men, and exists everlasting sitting at the right hand of God, never to disintegrate to dust. He is the inspiration for the intricate beauty of the illustrated Gospels we saw that day.

God is the ultimate source of wisdom for civilization’s greatest writers and poets. He alone has turned darkness into light even in man’s most desperate hours. Our weariness dissipates along with the shadows.

God is no stranger to us – He meets us in His Word and our reading is our ladder to Him. In that meeting, we are forever His.

Finally meeting Diana Gabaldon after a long correspondence with her on line
Village Books – Lynden, Washington – our local independent bookstore

Reading This For Life

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
~William Stafford, “You Reading This, Be Ready” from Ask Me

Nearly ten years of daily writing here in this spot:

I have met many people who I will never meet face to face but who share with me
their love of the land,
their family,
their animals
and most of all —
our Lord.

What do I want to remember?

Mostly, I want to remember your light and love as it finds its way through the darkest and thorniest corners of my life:

a kind word, a silent tear, a crooked smile, a whispered prayer.

What do I want you to remember having visited here?

I want you to remember
there is warmth in these words
and colors in these photos
that don’t come close to what it is like for real.

Mostly, I want you to know that each morning,
I send out this love to hundreds I’ll never meet,
but who are nevertheless my Barnstorming brothers and sisters.

Carry me with you and pass the light forward.
You never know where it might end up.

Not to Stop Trying…

Sometimes I think all the best poems
have been written already,
and no one has time to read them,
so why try to write more?

At other times though,
I remember how one flower
in a meadow already full of flowers
somehow adds to the general fireworks effect

as you get to the top of a hill
in Colorado, say, in high summer
and just look down at all that brimming color.
I also try to convince myself

that the smallest note of the smallest
instrument in the band,
the triangle for instance,
is important to the conductor

who stands there, pointing his finger
in the direction of the percussions,
demanding that one silvery ping.
And I decide not to stop trying,

at least not for a while, though in truth
I’d rather just sit here reading
how someone else has been acquainted
with the night already, and perfectly.

~Linda Pastan “Rereading Frost” from Queen of a Rainy Country. 

This morning

poem hopes 

that even though
its lines are broken 

its reader 

will be drawn forward to the part where blueberries
firm against fingers 

say roundness sweetness unspeakable softness
     in the morning
light.

~L.L. Barkat, “This Morning” from The Golden Dress

I want to write with quiet hands. I
want to write while crossing the fields that are
fresh with daisies and everlasting and the
ordinary grass. I want to make poems while thinking of
the bread of heaven and the
cup of astonishment; let them be

songs in which nothing is neglected,
not a hope, not a promise. I want to make poems
that look into the earth and the heavens
and see the unseeable. I want them to honor
both the heart of faith, and the light of the world;
the gladness that says, without any words, everything.
~Mary Oliver “Everything”

I’m asked frequently by people who read this blog why I use poems by other authors when I could be writing more original work myself.

My answer, like poet Linda Pastan above is:

Sometimes I think all the best poems
have been written already,
and no one has time to read them,
so why try to write more?

Yet, like Linda, I’ve decided not to stop trying, since I’ve committed myself to being here every day with something that may help me and someone else breathe in the fragrance of words and the world. There are several hundred of you who do take time to read every day – such a privilege to share what I can with you!

Even when my lines are broken, or I say again what another has already said much better yet bears repeating — I too try to write with quiet hands, in reverence and awe for what unseeable gifts God has granted us all.

Let us celebrate by illuminating words and pictures which lift the veil.

Set Down Bewildered

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Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?

Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our hearts?

Why are we reading, if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage and the hope of meaningfulness, and press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?

What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and which reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered?

Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love?

We still and always want waking.
~Annie Dillard from “Write Till You Drop”

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It’s true.

I am bewildered by life most of the time. Anyone looking at these online pages can see the struggle as I wake each day to seek out what I’m called to and how to make this sad and suffering world a better place.

I have so little wisdom to offer a reader other than my own wrestling match with the mysteries we all face.

When a light does shine out through darkness,  I am not surprised.  It was there all the time, but I needed the eyes to see such beauty laid bare.

 

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A Special Mention

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Thank you,  Ann Voskamp,  for linking to this Barnstorming blog over the past two years,  sharing my photographs of our farm and the surrounding scenery of Whatcom County with thousands of your readers around the world. Just this past weekend over 2000 of your special people came to visit Barnstorming in our little corner of the web, and many of them have stayed on to chat on our farm porch as well as yours.

If you have not visited Ann’s blog before, you must.  Look for “Only the Good Stuff: Multivitamins for your Weekend” every Saturday on  “A Holy Experience” and look for her stories during the week, along with news about her upcoming book.

Ann has transformed many lives through her open-hearted witness of her own transformation. As one of those broken people aching for gospel glue to pull my pieces together, I am indebted to her remarkable wisdom and grace.

Blessed by all who visit here and by Ann who led you here,

Emily from Barnstorming

Only the Good Stuff: Multivitamins for Your Weekend [10.15.16]

 

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Finding the Sacred in Anything

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…anything can be written about. Not because nothing is sacred, but because everything is.
~Billy Coffey

Too much on the internet is “anything goes” because nothing is considered too sacred to be dissected, illustrated, exploited and promoted in as public a way as possible.   Most of it is so cringe-worthy that it feels very risky to click on any unfamiliar link as it may take the viewer into such a dark corner of the web that it feels impossible to escape.  Once an image is seen, it is difficult to erase from the mind’s eye, even this picture of slugs “canoodling” (sorry, but I’ve tried to figure out for over a year how to use this photo on my blog).

My little corner of the web is meant to be a path into the light, instead of a portal into the dark.

Over the years I’ve written about many things that are personal, whether it is mistakes I’ve made, overblown worries, my childhood family’s struggles, my parents’ dissolving marriage, my obsession with garden gnomes, health care controversies, forgiveness, and surprisingly, the page that for years gathered the most visits on my blog: my horse’s bodily functions.

Even horse poop can be seen as sacred…I guess.  At least someone must think so.

Still, some things remain too sacred to be written down, and because I hold them close in my heart, they will stay that way.

 

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Whispers Made of Thunder

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A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.
~Charles Ghigna

 

As I wander my yard
studying the complexities of web design,
marveling at a tiny creature’s creation
of connection by the slenderest thread.

Through words and pictures I whisper
from my own corner of the web,
waiting patiently for the shimmer of connection:
my rumbling thunder has been seen.
~EPG

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The Pebble’s Splash

photo by Josh Scholten

The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.
~Blaise Pascal

Most days I’m the ocean rocked by the most minute ripples.  The building waves created by forces beyond my control feel tsunami-like though they probably started out small.  I can do nothing but let them flow over, around and beneath me, riding them up and down, trying not to get submerged for long and not get sea-sick.  Lately it feels like a barrage: instead of letting up, the billows roll larger and mightier, at times relentlessly powerful, changing everything in their path.

Instead of being the rippled, I hope some time to become the rippler in a way that can move oceans or mountains or most amazing of all, another soul, just once.  In some tiny way, I hope I can say or do or write something that makes a positive difference in someone’s life, and that person forwards the ripple, spreading the wave a little further, a little broader, a little deeper to affect others.  Traveling far beyond the original thrown pebble, it can never to be pulled back once it is let loose.

I know what it is like for a blog post to go viral, becoming an ocean in churning turmoil, not a mere pebble starting with a least movement.  Instead, I hope to be the most insignificant of change agents, barely there, just moving enough of another heart and soul to start something that will grow and spread by itself, wild and wonderful.

I don’t know what it might be or how I might do it.  Perhaps it is as simple as skipping rocks, choosing the best flattest pebble, rubbing the smooth sides between my fingers, and with a momentary regret at giving it up to the ocean, I’ll haul back and just let it go.  It will skip once, twice, three four five even six times and then disappear below. The surface of the water will never be the same again.

Nor will I.

photo by Josh Scholten

This Twittering World

photo by Josh Scholten

Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning…

…Not here
Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.
from Burnt Norton (1936) part of Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot

Eliot didn’t have birds or future tweets of the 21st century in mind when he wrote Burnt Norton in 1936.  He was far more concerned about the concept of time and redemption, using the analogies of a garden, a graveyard, and most disturbingly, a subway train of empty-souled people traveling under London in the dark.  Only the present matters as the past cannot be changed and the future remains unknown, trusting the reassurance and salvation of Logos, the source of  the natural and creative order of all things.   Only God Himself remains outside of the constraints of time and place.

Perhaps Eliot had predicted the unknowable future.  It now is a “twittering world” in a way that Eliot, critical of dehumanizing technology of his time,  somehow was prescient enough to foresee.

When birdsong begins on our farm in early June at 4 AM in the apple, cherry, chestnut, and walnut trees outside our bedroom windows, I am brought face to face, eyes and ears wide open, with the immediate present, distracted from the distraction of my dreams by the distraction of awakening to music of the creative order among the branches,  amidst cool morning air.

Once the birds settle into routine conversation after twenty minutes of their loudly tweeted greetings of the day,  I sit down bleary-eyed at my computer to enter the twittering world of technology, too often filled with fancies and empty of meaning.

Yet, I’m determined.  Not here the darkness, if I can keep it at bay.

No darkness here.

photo by Josh Scholten