Shafts of Golden Light

Again the woods are odorous, the lark 
Lifts on upsoaring wings the heaven gray
That hung above the tree-tops, veiled and dark, 
Where branches bare disclosed the empty day. 

After long rainy afternoons an hour 
Comes with its shafts of golden light and flings 
Them at the windows in a radiant shower, 
And rain drops beat the panes like timorous wings. Then all is still. The stones are crooned to sleep
By the soft sound of rain that slowly dies; 
And cradled in the branches, hidden deep
In each bright bud, a slumbering silence lies.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke [trans. Jessie Lemont], from Poems

It seems in May everything explodes with energy:
the birdsong earlier and louder
the grass nearly squeaks with growth
the buds unfurling before our eyes.

There is much momentum
running pellmell into longer days;
I need to catch my breath.

As showers blow in from
clouds gray and thick with menace, dumping their load,
everything stills from the drenching,
waiting for a shaft of light to break through again,
turning everything to gold.

Unimaginable Promises

Whatever harm I may have done
In all my life in all your wide creation
If I cannot repair it
I beg you to repair it,

And then there are all the wounded
The poor the deaf the lonely and the old
Whom I have roughly dismissed
As if I were not one of them.
Where I have wronged them by it
And cannot make amends
I ask you
To comfort them to overflowing,

And where there are lives I may have withered around me,
Or lives of strangers far or near
That I’ve destroyed in blind complicity,
And if I cannot find them
Or have no way to serve them,

Remember them. I beg you to remember them

When winter is over
And all your unimaginable promises
Burst into song on death’s bare branches.
~Anne Porter “A Short Testament” from Living Things.

When the night’s darkness lingers,
beginning too early and lasting too late,
I dwell within my own persistent winter,
knowing I too often fail to do
what is needed
when it is needed.

How I look inward
when I need to focus beyond myself.
How I muffle my ears
to unhear supplicating voices.
How I turn away
rather than meet a stranger’s gaze.

The wintry soul
is a cold and empty place.

I appeal to God
who dwells not only within my darkness,
but unimaginably promises
His buds of hope and warmth
and color and fruit
will indeed arise from my bare winter branches.
He will bring me out of the night.

Everything is Poised

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Just before the green begins there is the hint of green
a blush of color, and the red buds thicken
the ends of the maple’s branches and everything
is poised before the start of a new world,
which is really the same world
just moving forward from bud
to flower to blossom to fruit
to harvest to sweet sleep, and the roots
await the next signal, every signal
every call a miracle and the switchboard
is lighting up and the operators are
standing by in the pledge drive we’ve
all been listening to: Go make the call.
~Stuart Kestenbaum “April Prayer”

 

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The buds have been poised for weeks
and then, as if responding to the Conductor’s downstroke,
let go of all their pent up potential~
exploding with harmonious energy
enough to carry them all the way to autumn
when again they let go
and are gone with the wind.

 

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No Time

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I know from experience that when I allow busy little doings to fill the precious time of early morning, when contemplation might flourish, I open the doors to the demon of acedia. Noon becomes a blur – no time, no time – the wolfing down of a sandwich as I listen to the morning’s phone messages and plan the afternoon’s errands.

When evening comes, I am so exhausted that vespers has become impossible. It is as if I have taken the world’s weight on my shoulders and am too greedy, and too foolish, to surrender it to God.
~Kathleen Norris from The Quotidian Mysteries

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These are days with no breathing room,
no time to stop and appreciate each moment
as a bud about to burst into bloom.

And it is my fault
that I’m not breathing deeply enough~
simply skimming the surface
in my race to the end of the day
as time’s petals, so open, so brilliant, so eternal
close up unseen and unknown.

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The Fresh Fields

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Now Spring returns with leaf and blade,
Some seek the garden, some the glade;
And all to Nature turn, but I
to the fresh fields of Poetry.

Sweet are the first green leaves, and sweet
The scents, and genial the first heat;
And backed by pine or cypress glooms
How rich the rhododendron blooms!

Yet rich or sweet as these appear,
They were as wonderful last year;
And all as then move without pause
Through the same course by the same laws.

The flowers I meet in song are new;
None shall forecast their shape or hue;
To none of your dull round belong
The seasons that unfold in song.

The trees that sung in verse I find
Are each its own, an unknown, kind;
But best in all, tree, season, flower,
Is, there’s no limit to their power.
~Archibald Young Campbell from “Spring and Poetry”

 

These intricate blooms,
beautiful as they are,
return unchanged year after year~
a proliferation of brilliant color.

They explode like fireworks
over fields and hills,
flash, flourish, fade
and are gone.

Yet words of the poet bud and swell in slow motion,
a blossoming blend that linger longingly,
ever changing, transforming
the landscape of heart and mind.

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All in All

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

Little flower, but if I could understand what you are, root and all in all, I should know what God and man is.
~  Tennyson

Am I root, or am I bud?  Am I stem or am I leaf?  All in all, these are not me
but signs of God’s fruiting glory.

I am but the tears He shed as He broke
into blossom.

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Our Greening

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…every year
the dull and dead in us
meets our Easter challenge:

to be open to the unexpected,
to believe beyond our security,
to welcome God in every form,
and trust in our own greening.
~Joyce Rupp from Out of the Ordinary: Prayers, Poems, and Reflections for Every Season

The challenge is to go
back to an every day routine
as if nothing has happened
when everything has happened.

There is laundry to do
floors to mop
patients to comfort
barns to clean
taxes to pay.

Nothing seemingly has changed
yet everything is changed.

Now I know why,
though dead and pruned,
I now sprout green ~
I am alive only
because He is.

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Tint and Swell

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

The February sunshine steeps your boughs and tints the buds and swells the leaves within.
–  William C. Bryant

The sun is everywhere today, thawing the frost layer on the metal roof of the barn to the point of seeping through the cracks, dripping and splattering inside like an indoor spring shower during our chores.  The sun rays are trying to burst through our layers to activate Vitamin D thirsty skin, and there is actual warmth on our cheeks as we look up, squinting at the unaccustomed brightness.

At last, oh at last — after months of gray misty drizzle.  It may be only a tease and not the real thing but even the soil is feeling seduced.  The snowdrop sprouts have thrust through the frozen ground and crocus shoots are peeking out hopefully on our side of the crust rather than staying tentative and hidden down under.

Today’s glimpse of spring was worth waiting for, even if winter breaks loose again for a few weeks and plunges us back into doldrums and gloom.  If only a peek, it is still promise of a coming renewal and rebirth.

We won’t always dwell in darkness.  Let us be luminous.

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

No Time to Bloom

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

I see buds so subtle
they know, though fat, that this is no time to bloom.
~John Updike from “December, Outdoors”

Our local grocery store garden center does not do a brisk business selling buds. There is no market for the subtlety of potential.

Overnight unsold poinsettias and fresh evergreen wreaths were hauled away with the oddly shaped and drying Christmas trees to make way for containers of unbearably cheerful primroses and early forced narcissus and hyacinth plants.  Now just a week into winter, spring is right in our faces as we wheel past with the grocery cart, a seductive lure to effectively skip a whole season of restorative quiet.  Color and fragrance and lush blooms are handed to us without taking a breather and simply waiting a couple months for them.

Dormant plants and hibernating animals have the right idea this time of year.   Rather than slogging daily through the daily burden of mud, skittering precariously across icy pavement or reaching up out of snow drifts, they are staying busy taking a break.  Well fed and pregnant with potential, they remain alive and well beneath a facade of sleep.  Come out too early and risk frostbite.

It’s no time to bloom right now — being a bud is exactly what is needed, no out of season blossoms need apply.
We can stay busy swelling with potential and dreaming dreams of the glorious growth to come.

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten