The clouds had made a crimson crown Above the mountains high. The stormy sun was going down In a stormy sky. Why did you let your eyes so rest on me, And hold your breath between? In all the ages this can never be As if it had not been. ~Mary Elizabeth Coleridge “A Moment”
Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads, Great, hollow, bell-like flowers, Rumbling in the wind, Stretching clappers to strike our ears . . .
Full-lipped flowers Bitten by the sun Bleeding rain Dripping rain like golden honey— And the sweet earth flying from the thunder. ~Jean Toomer “Storm Ending”
A thunderstorm swirled above us last night as we finished our farm chores, dropping noisy raindrops and then passing until the next cloud rolled over and dumped some more. I climbed to the top of our hill and looked out at a busted-up sky trying to mend itself. It was trying to zip itself together again but once fractured, it was broken forever, pouring gold rays of sunbeams like honey onto the landscape.
In that moment of broken sky, I was doused in a Light that breathed golden breath on me, reminding me not to forget: He is here.
God does not leave us comfortless in the storms of our lives so be not afraid. He is still here in the morning.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t be afraid. God does not leave us comfortless, so let evening come. ~Jane Kenyon “Let Evening Come”
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All at once I saw what looked like a Martian spaceship whirling towards me in the air. It flashed borrowed light like a propeller. Its forward motion greatly outran its fall. As I watched, transfixed, it rose, just before it would have touched a thistle, and hovered pirouetting in one spot, then twirled on and finally came to rest. I found it in the grass; it was a maple key, a single winged seed from a pair.
I threw it into the wind and it flew off again, bristling with animate purpose, not like a thing dropped or windblown…
O maple key, I thought, I must confess I thought, o welcome, cheers.
And the bell under my ribs rang a true note, a flourish as of blended horns, clarion, sweet, and making a long dim sense I will try at length to explain. Flung is too harsh a word for the rush of the world. Blown is more like it, but blown by a generous, unending breath. That breath never ceases to kindle, exuberant, abandoned; frayed splinters spatter in every direction and burgeon into flame. And now when I sway to a fitful wind, alone and listing, I will think, maple key. When I shake your hand or meet your eyes I will think, two maple keys. If I am a maple key falling, at least I can twirl. ~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Today’s late spring morning sun woke me early to streaming light poured out on quilt and blankets.
Curious, I head out to see what’s happening with the world. The road stretches empty for miles east and west
Thus kindled, exuberant, unleashed, I am blown by dawn’s gentle breezes, so inspired to twirl in place in my hilltop celebration, as I’m pulled to the ground, settling in and buried for what will come next.
Tell me, where is the road I can call my own That I left, that I lost So long ago? All these years I have wandered Oh, when will I know There’s a way, there’s a road That will lead me home After wind, after rain When the dark is done As I wake from a dream In the gold of day Through the air there’s a calling From far away There’s a voice I can hear That will lead me home Rise up, follow me Come away, is the call With the love in your heart As the only song There is no such beauty As where you belong Rise up, follow me I will lead you home
a gentle breeze was lightly tussling shells and stones meant to strike on each other to sibilate, hiss, and whisper your own freshly loosed thoughts back into your soul. like voices afar off the jangling of each woven shroud brought sundry pitch and textured sounds awakening new areas of my mind. deep breaths of open musing rose and fell with the wind as it returned to tantalize the ornamental chimes that had waited so long in silence. Lifted on the breeze freed to manifest each ubiquitous interval and send forth vibrations into nature’s lonely sentiment. I close my eyes and feel the sounds made so effortlessly that tranquilize my worries and open my heart to hear the rapture of the universe. –so fortunate to be sitting here. ~Suzanne Eaton “windchimes”
She goes out to hang the windchime in her nightie and her work boots. It’s six-thirty in the morning and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch, windchime in her left hand, hammer in her right, the nail gripped tight between her teeth but nothing happens next because she’s trying to figure out how to switch #1 with #3.
She must have been standing in the kitchen, coffee in her hand, asleep, when she heard it—the wind blowing through the sound the windchime wasn’t making because it wasn’t there... ~Tony Hoagland from “Windchime”
Once upon a time, nearly 5 decades ago, I attended a university with a bell carillon in a tower that frequently played wonderful concerts. I missed spontaneous music floating on the air after I graduated. Living rural, we are nowhere near a bell tower, nor can we hear our church bells ringing in our Chapel belfry a few miles away.
So when the merest breeze is able to make music, I find it a hopeful reminder the earth itself has its own breath and rhythm and holds its own concerts if given the tools.
We have four windchimes of varying size and tuning hanging from our front porch and back yard, each with its own song and personality. Depending on where we are in the house, we hear different harmony and pitch. The largest sounds like church bells, deep and resonant, another is a pentatonix of harmony, one plays the notes of “Amazing Grace” and the last is just random tintinnabulation.
In certain seasons, our area can get strong northeast or southerly winds that blow over 50 mph. In that case, we take the windchimes down temporarily – the battering clatter and clanging becomes more unsettling than the storm itself. Once the winds die down again, it is too quiet – the silence reminds me to replace the chimes on their hooks.
As I wake in the night to hear their gentle melodies through our open window, my worries are soothed and my heart lifts and floats along with the breeze.
The earth continues to breath and so, for now, will I.
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If winter is a house then summer is a window in the bedroom of that house. Sorrow is a river behind the house and happiness is the name
of a fish who swims downstream. The unborn child who plays in the fragrant garden is named Mavis: her red hair is made of future and her sleek feet
are wet with dreams. The cat who naps in the bedroom has his paws in the sun of summer and his tail in the moonlight of change. You and I
spend years walking up and down the dusty stairs of the house. Sometimes we stand in the bedroom and the cat walks towards us like a message.
Sometimes we pick dandelions from the garden and watch the white heads blow open in our hands. We are learning to fish in the river
of sorrow; we are undressing for a swim. ~Faith Shearin, “The Name of a Fish” from The Owl Question
We can be swallowed by our sorrow, flowing past our feet, threatening to sweep us away. Yet we might pull off our shoes and wade right in looking for what happiness we might catch, or simply watch it swim by, taking comfort in knowing it still swirls around us.
It is possible to feel sadness and to rejoice all at once, to hold infinity gently in the palm of my hand, ready to disperse from a casual breeze or intentional breath.
This sacrifice of One is only the beginning. A Breath started it all and ends it all.
How can it be when nothing is left, everything is gained?
To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand, and Eternity in an Hour.
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light God Appears & God is Light To those poor Souls who dwell in Night But does a Human Form Display To those who Dwell in Realms of day ~William Blake from “Auguries of Innocence”
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Heaven-invading hills are drowned In wide moving waves of mist, Phlox before my door are wound In dripping wreaths of amethyst.
Ten feet away the solid earth Changes into melting cloud, There is a hush of pain and mirth, No bird has heart to speak aloud.
Here in a world without a sky, Without the ground, without the sea, The one unchanging thing is I, Myself remains to comfort me. ~Sara Teasdale “White Fog”
We’ve had all-day fog up and down Puget Sound over the past few days, atypical for a Pacific Northwest winter. This is fog that literally drips from the trees and soaks like rain, swallowing up visible landscape, hushing bird song, erasing all color by homogenizing everything.
When not barn-bound in the winter, a foggy day means our horses are literally sucked up into the morning mist as I send them out one by one to the field from the barn. Stopping at the barn door, they sniff the wet air, hesitant to be turned out into the grey sea surrounding them. What could there be to eat out in this murk? Each one, when turned loose, would wander into the soup, disappearing, as if never to be seen again. One by one they wander out to look for their buddies, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, smelling nothing. They are lost and alone and bewildered until somehow they meet up out in the pasture, forming a pod of Haflingers.
I muse at their initial confusion and then their utter conviction there must be “something out there” worth finding. They are dependent on the usual cues–visual, auditory, olfactory–all limited in the fog. Instead they rely on some inner sonar to find each other and bunch together in a protective knot, drops of fog dew clinging to their manes, their eyelashes and their muzzle whiskers. As day wears on, the fog usually dissipates, their coats drying under a warming sun, and the colors of the fields and trees and chestnut horses emerge from the cocoon of haze.
This winter, I have felt lost in fog too. I’m disconnected from a regular work schedule since retiring as a physician, so am helping as a volunteer in a variety of service opportunities. I am still feeling afloat and circling somewhat aimlessly, searching for a touch point of purpose and direction. Every so often I bump into a fellow fog wanderer and we’ll knot together for a bit, relieved to be connected to something solid and familiar.
My isolation is likely a combination of pandemic limitations and my own self-absorbed state of mind, sucking me in deep, separating me from others, distancing me from joy. At times, I feel soaked, dripping and shivering. If I only had the faith shown by my horses in the mist, I’d charge into the fog fearlessly, knowing there are others out there ready to band together for company, comfort and support, awaiting the sun. When warming and rejuvenation do come, I hope it will be enough to dry my whiskers, put color back in my cheeks and refresh my hopes and dreams.
Most importantly, I am reminded yet again — no fog is forever.
An absolute patience. Trees stand up to their knees in fog. The fog slowly flows uphill. White cobwebs, the grass leaning where deer have looked for apples. The woods from brook to where the top of the hill looks over the fog, send up not one bird. So absolute, it is no other than happiness itself, a breathing too quiet to hear. ~Denise Levertov “The Breathing”
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Something has descended like feathered prophecy. Someone has offered the world a bowl of frozen tears,
has traced the veins and edges of leaves with furred ink. The grass is stiff as the strings of a lute.
And, day by day, the tiny windows crack their cardboard frames seizing the frail light. The sun, moving through
these waxy squares, undiminished as a word passing from mind to speech. Every breath a birth,
a stir of floating limbs within me. I stay up late and waken early to feel beneath my feet the silence coming. ~Anya Silver “Advent, First Frost”
When I am weary, putting one foot in front of the other in the humble chores of the barn, feeling so cold at times, I no longer remember this was once sweaty summer work ~ now my hands ache in an arctic wind that shows no mercy.
Yet I know respite will come, refuge is near, salvation is imminent. Each breath I breathe a cloud of hope.
I will remember what our good God has prepared for us in such a place as this, what He has done to come down to dwell with us, melting our frozen tears, aching in silence alongside us.
Good people all, this Christmas time, Consider well and bear in mind What our good God for us has done In sending his beloved son With Mary holy we should pray, To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn, There was a blessed Messiah born The night before that happy tide The noble Virgin and her guide Were long time seeking up and down To find a lodging in the town
But mark right well what came to pass From every door repelled, alas As was foretold, their refuge all Was but a humble ox’s stall Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God’s angel did appear Which put the shepherds in great fear Arise and go, the angels said To Bethlehem, be not afraid For there you’ll find, this happy morn A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find And as God’s angel had foretold They did our Saviour Christ behold Within a manger he was laid And by his side a virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life Who came on earth to end all strife There were three wise men from afar Directed by a glorious star And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay And when they came unto that place Where our beloved Messiah lay They humbly cast them at his feet With gifts of gold and incense sweet. ~Traditional Irish — the Wexford Carol 12th century
There is something mysterious about fog. It whispered to Sandburg as it crept into the harbor
on little cat feet. It settles over Admiralty Inlet, a down comforter of relief on a simmering summer day.
It moves in quickly, a cool mist that settles lightly on our faces and arms as we trudge up the hill
toward home. Then the stillness, how it tamps down sound, reminding us to honor silence and drift
through an inner landscape of ideas, enter into the ethereal magic of another world,
as if we were birds soaring in clouds that have come down to enfold us,
quieting the minor furies we create. ~Lois Parker Edstrom from Glint (MoonPath Press, 2019)
And so you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment … a life in the breath and pulse and living light of the present… ~Wendell Berry from Hannah Coulter
~Lustravit lampade terras~ (He has illumined the world with a lamp) The weather and my mood have little connection. I have my foggy and my fine days within me; my prosperity or misfortune has little to do with the matter. – Blaise Pascal from “Miscellaneous Writings”
The only thing more frightening than the unknown is the fear that the next moment will be just like the last or perhaps worse.
I tend to forget: the moment just passed can never be retrieved and relived.
Worry and sorrow and angst are more contagious than the latest viral scourge. I mask up and wash my hands of it throughout the day. I wish we could be vaccinated to protect us all from our unnamed fears.
I want to say to myself: Stop and acknowledge this moment in time. Stop wanting to be numb to all discomfort. Stop fearing the next moment. Just stop. Instead, simply be, now and now and now.
I need to know: this moment, foggy or fine, is mine alone, a down comforter of relief~ this moment of weeping and sharing and breath and pulse and light. I shout for joy in it even when sound is muffled in morning fog. It is to be celebrated. I mustn’t hold back.
A new book from Barnstorming (with poetry from today’s poet Lois Edstrom) can be ordered here:
No speed of wind or water rushing by But you have speed far greater. You can climb Back up a stream of radiance to the sky, And back through history up the stream of time. And you were given this swiftness, not for haste Nor chiefly that you may go where you will, But in the rush of everything to waste, That you may have the power of standing still- Off any still or moving thing you say. Two such as you with such a master speed Cannot be parted nor be swept away From one another once you are agreed That life is only life forevermore Together wing to wing and oar to oar ~Robert Frost “Master Speed”
All at once I saw what looked like a Martian spaceship whirling towards me in the air. It flashed borrowed light like a propeller. Its forward motion greatly outran its fall. As I watched, transfixed, it rose, just before it would have touched a thistle, and hovered pirouetting in one spot, then twirled on and finally came to rest. I found it in the grass; it was a maple key, a single winged seed from a pair. Hullo. I threw it into the wind and it flew off again, bristling with animate purpose, not like a thing dropped or windblown, pushed by the witless winds of convection currents hauling round the world’s rondure where they must, but like a creature muscled and vigorous, or a creature spread thin to that other wind, the wind of the spirit which bloweth where it listeth, lighting, and raising up, and easing down. O maple key, I thought, I must confess I thought, o welcome, cheers.
And the bell under my ribs rang a true note, a flourish as of blended horns, clarion, sweet, and making a long dim sense I will try at length to explain. Flung is too harsh a word for the rush of the world. Blown is more like it, but blown by a generous, unending breath. That breath never ceases to kindle, exuberant, abandoned; frayed splinters spatter in every direction and burgeon into flame. And now when I sway to a fitful wind, alone and listing, I will think, maple key. When I see a photograph of earth from space, the planet so startlingly painterly and hung, I will think, maple key. When I shake your hand or meet your eyes I will think, two maple keys. If I am a maple key falling, at least I can twirl. ~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
(Happy birthday to Annie today — her 76th !)
I think a lot about wings — particularly when I’m sitting belted in a seat looking out at them bouncing in turbulence, marveling at how they keep hundreds of people and an entire aircraft miles above ground.
Wings, no matter what they belong to, are marvelous structures that combine strength and lift and lightness and expanse and mobility, with the ability to rise up and ease back to earth.
And so ideally I am blown rather than flung through my fitful windy days, rising and falling as those thin veined wings guide me, twirling, swirling as I fall, oh so slowly, to settle, planted.
As the days warm and lengthen, the grass is getting happy almost overnight. Under my window the first star of spring opens its eye on the front lawn. Yellow as butter, it is only one. But it is one, and in the nature of things, and like the multiple asterisks seeding the night sky, it will flourish and take over every grassy bank in town. I long to be prolific as the dandelion, spinning pale parachutes of words, claiming new territory by the power of fluff. The stars in their courses have bloomed an unending glory across the heavens, but here in my yard a local constellation prepares to launch multiple, short-lived, radiant coronas to proclaim the new-sprung season. ~Luci Shaw “Dandelion”
How I loved those spiky suns, rooted stubborn as childhood in the grass, tough as the farmer’s big-headed children—the mats of yellow hair, the bowl-cut fringe. How sturdy they were and how slowly they turned themselves into galaxies, domes of ghost stars barely visible by day, pale cerebrums clinging to life on tough green stems. Like you. Like you, in the end. If you were here, I’d pluck this trembling globe to show how beautiful a thing can be a breath will tear away. ~Jean Nordhaus “A Dandelion for My Mother”
We harbor a dandelion sanctuary, a safe haven from herbicides and trowels.
The lawn is filled with them now yellow spots in carpeted green which close tight at night, then open each morning as miniature reflections of the real dawn.
As a kid, I was paid a nickel to dig up each long dandelion root, restoring the blemished green yard to pristine perfection; no more yellow splotches, unruly stems, trembling transparent globes releasing scores of seedy offspring.
But it didn’t last.
The perfect lawn, like the perfect life ~unbesmirched~ is a myth.
A host of opportunistic seeds float innocently on the breeze or lie hidden deep in our soil ready to spring up again overnight.
Those spunky spiky suns and ghostly stars of fluff overwhelm my heart with joy: they take my breath away as my breath, in turn, blows them away.