Each Minute the Last

11951312_1198925466800331_3990099488883249004_nphoto of Watson Lakes in the North Cascades by Benjamin Janicki

The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.
~Denise Levertov

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To think that this meaningless thing was ever a rose,
Scentless, colourless, this!
Will it ever be thus (who knows?)
Thus with our bliss,
If we wait till the close?

Though we care not to wait for the end, there comes the end
Sooner, later, at last,
Which nothing can mar, nothing mend:
An end locked fast,
Bent we cannot re-bend.
~Christina Rossetti “Summer is Ended”

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As now school buses drone past the farm,
no longer bearing our children away to greater knowledge,
as they each have caught rides far beyond my reach.
I recall each first day of school feels like a day of mourning
each “last” of summer a loss, each ending so bent
I find no strength to bend it back carefree,
and I must learn, once more, with each “last”,
how fleeting the bliss of this life.

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Burning Bush Bounty

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Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye.
~Christina Rossetti
This spring the fruit ripens early,
reddening flames that leap up
from branches and leaves,
in some way ignited
like the burning bush
speaking to us
of holy ground.
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raspberries
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If I Might…

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If I might see another Spring
I’d laugh to-day, to-day is brief;
I would not wait for anything;
I’d use to-day that cannot last,
Be glad to-day and sing.
~Christina Georgina Rossetti from “Another Spring”

 

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A Canticle for Advent: Give Him My Heart

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In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give Him my heart.
~Christina Rossetti 1872

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthinians 9:7-8

In bleak weather, as so many of us are experiencing today, it is a chore to do chores and a chore to be cheerful.  The arctic winds are moaning everywhere around the farm, the earth now hard as iron, all water like stone.
Yet to this misery He chose to come, knowing He was to be hurt, to bleed, to join us in pain.

How can I hold back my heart from One like this?   It is all I have of any value to Him.  It is what He came for, to take back with Him.

Lenten Grace — Yet Rise it Shall

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the fallen leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall–the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
~Christina Rossetti from “A Better Resurrection”

I remember panicking as a small child when my mother would help me put on or take off a sweater with a particularly tight turtleneck opening, as my head would get “stuck” momentarily until she could free me.  It caused an intense feeling of being unable to breathe or see, literally shrouded.  I was trapped and held captive by something as innocuous as a piece of clothing.

That same feeling still overwhelms me at times, and not only when I wrestle with pulling something snug over my head.  I’m still held captive, but not by a turtleneck.  I’m frozen in a winter of my flaws and deficiencies, bruised and fallen and fading in my struggles to be freed.

There is no salvage without new life quickening within me.  There is no freedom without spring sap flowing, His life blood rising in what is left of my dried husk.

And rise it shall — the confining shroud discarded and cast aside.

Now, once again,  I can breathe.

 

 

 

A Faded Leaf

photo by Josh Scholten
HAVE no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.
 
My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall–the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me…
by Christina Rossetti from A Better Resurrection

 

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

 

BriarCroft in Winter


There’s a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons– That oppresses, like the Heft Of Cathedral Tunes– Emily Dickinson


She stuck her head out and took a deep breath. If she could eat the cold air, she would. She thought cold snaps were like cookies, like gingersnaps. In her mind they were made with white chocolate chunks and had a cool, brittle vanilla frosting. They melted like snow in her mouth, turning creamy and warm.
― Sarah Addison Allen


It is winter proper; the cold weather, such as it is, has come to stay. I bloom indoors in the winter like a forced forsythia; I come in to come out. At night I read and write, and things I have never understood become clear; I reap the harvest of the rest of the year’s planting. Annie Dillard




There are adventures of the spirit and one can travel in books and interest oneself in people and affairs. One need never be dull as long as one has friends to help, gardens to enjoy and books in the long winter evenings.
― D.E. Stevenson


I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth


Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home. ~Edith Sitwell


In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus


In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long ago. Christina Rossetti


Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.
― Sinclair Lewis


Snow flurries began to fall and they swirled around people’s legs like house cats. It was magical, this snow globe world.
― Sarah Addison Allen


When there’s snow on the ground, I like to pretend I’m walking on clouds.
Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata


The color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination. ~Terri Guillemets


Wild clouds lower and touch the thin evening
Fast snow dances in swirling wind.
…With one finger I write my sorrows in the air.
Du Fu


No orchard’s the worse for the wintriest storm;
But one thing about it, it mustn’t get warm.
“How often already you’ve had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard, good-by and keep cold.”
Robert Frost


Snow has fallen on the pine-woods,
and every bough has blossomed.
I should like to pluck a branch
and send it to where my lord is.
After he has looked at it,
what matter if the snow-flowers melt?

Chong Ch’ol


Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside; candles at four o’clock, warm hearthrugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies to the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.
― Thomas de Quincey


When the cold comes it arrives in sheets of sleet and ice. In December, the wind wraps itself around bare trees and twists in between husbands and wives asleep in their beds. It shakes the shingles from the roofs and sifts through cracks in the plaster. The only green things left are the holly bushes and the old boxwood hedges in the village, and these are often painted white with snow. Chipmunks and weasels come to nest in basements and barns; owls find their way into attics. At night,the dark is blue and bluer still, as sapphire of night.
― Alice Hoffman


The wind is keen coming over the ice;
it carries the sound of breaking glass.
And the sun, bright but not warm,
has gone behind the hill. Chill, or the fear
of chill, sends me hurrying home.
from Walking Alone in Late Winter
Jane Kenyon


Descending the steps into that dark root cellar brought apprehension as well as anticipation. I was uncertain what critter may unexpectedly surprise me on the inside–bullfrog? snake? but the blast of cool air on a hot summer day was always a welcome relief. There was one hanging light bulb in the middle with a pull chain, and once the insides of the cellar were illuminated, a colorful trove appeared from the shadows, lined up on shelves like the ghostly discoveries in King Tut’s tomb.

These were not gilded treasures, but the kind that were lovingly and carefully harvested, washed, boiled and preserved in the midst of a sweaty summer, to be savored during dinners served on the coldest of winter days. The potatoes lay in the cool darkness, not tempted to turn green or sprout, and the “keeper” apples and pears remained firm and tasty. Even in the coldest of winter blasts, the root cellar contents never froze or rotted. It was the best refrigeration system imaginable and didn’t cost a thing to maintain.
Emily Gibson


I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood. ~Bill Watterson

BriarCroft in Spring

BriarCroft in Summer

BriarCroft in Autumn

BriarCroft at Year’s End