The art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. ~Henry Havelock Ellis
…God’s not nonexistent; He’s just been waylaid by a host of what no one could’ve foreseen. He’s got plans for you…
…it’s true that my Virginia creeper praises Him, its palms and fingers crimson with applause, that the local breeze is weaving Him a diadem… ~Jacqueline Osherow from “Autumn Psalm”
With what stoic delicacy does Virginia creeper let go: the feeblest tug brings down a sheaf of leaves kite-high, as if to say, To live is good but not to live—to be pulled down with scarce a ripping sound, still flourishing, still stretching toward the sun— is good also, all photosynthesis abandoned, quite quits. Next spring the hairy rootlets left unpulled snake out a leafy afterlife up that same smooth-barked oak. ~John Updike “Creeper”
The Virginia Creeper vine, its crimson leaves crawl over the brow of our ancient shed like a lock of unruly hair or a flowing stream. This humble building was a small chapel a century ago, moved from the intersection of two country roads to this raised knoll for forever sanctuary.
It is befitting that every fall this former church, now empty of sermons and hymns, weeps red.
Each winter the stripped bare vine clings tightly through thousands of “holdfast” suckers. The glue keeps the vine attached where no vine has gone before. Once there, it stays until pulled away; it becomes an invincible foundation to build upon in the spring.
Do not despair in this austere winter. The Lord has plans and will not be moved or ripped away, even when His name is removed from schools or public squares, He’s holding on, waiting on us, waiting for the spring and won’t ever, no never, let go.
Open your hands, lift them.—William Stafford, “Today”
The parking space beside the store when you were late. The man who showed up just in time to hold the door when you were juggling five big packages. The spider plant that grew— though you forgot to water it. The new nest in the tree outside your window. Chime of distant church bells when you’re lonely. Rhyme of friendship. Apples. Sky a trove of blue. And who’s to say these miracles are less significant than burning bushes, loaves and fishes, steps on water. We are blessed by marvels wearing ordinary clothes— how easily we’re fooled by simple dress— Oranges. Water. Leaves. Bread. Crows. ~Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, “But You Thought You Knew What a Sign Looked Like” from Naked for Tea
It was a dark and stormy night. Leaves were strewn everywhere this morning, but more cling tightly to branches, waiting for another night, another storm to come, knowing it will be sooner rather than later.
I feel a bit strewn myself, bits and pieces of me flung here and there, while the rest of me remains clinging, hanging on for dear life, wondering what comes next.
Can I weather the weather of life, tossed and drenched?
Truly, marvels and miracles abound wherever I look, sometimes dressed so plainly I miss them first time around. In fact, they are so glorious, I am blinded by them. To see these signs, to know their significance, I must simply open my hands, lift up my eyes, quiet my troubled heart and be content.
And then there is that day when all around, all around you hear the dropping of the apples, one by one, from the trees. At ﬁrst it is one here and one there, and then it is three and then it is four and then nine and twenty, until the apples plummet like rain, fall like horse hoofs in the soft, darkening grass, and you are the last apple on the tree; and you wait for the wind to work you slowly free from your hold upon the sky, and drop you down and down. Long before you hit the grass you will have forgotten there ever was a tree, or other apples, or a summer, or green grass below, You will fall in darkness… ~Ray Bradbury from Dandelion Wine
We are in the midst of our annual October storms complete with pelleting sheets of rain and gusty breezes. Along with power outages and an ever-present risk of flooding, these storms facilitate the annual “falling of the fruit” from our trees. It is risky to walk in the orchard this time of year – one could stroll about enjoying the brisk temperatures and autumn colors and be unexpectedly bonked on the head and knocked out cold.
The apples thud like horse hooves in the grass as our Haflingers race about in the cool wet weather enjoying the last bit of freedom before the winter lock up. Apples thud like over large rain drops but without the splatter. Apples thud after gradually loosening their hold on the sky and plummeting to come to rest on a soft carpet of green.
I recognize this call to let go, although clinging tenaciously when buffeted, my strength waning. Thought I fret and worry, the time must come for the pulled-forth fall. I may land a bit bruised, but will glisten golden from the journey.
Many a night I woke to the murmur of paper and knew (Dad) was up, sitting in the kitchen with frayed King James – oh, but he worked that book; he held to it like a rope ladder. Leif Enger in Peace Like a River
Some nights are like that. The footing underneath is loose and my feet are slipping. I have the distinct feeling of plummeting while lying completely still in bed. I feel the need to grab hold of something, anything, in order to avoid free falling… to what? to where? My dream is so vivid, the sudden descent so visceral, I wake sweating with my heart racing.
So I grab fast to the Word –a woven rope of faith– frayed though it may be with nicks and scars and scorches, meant for clinging for safety. It is a ladder to security, challenging to ascend, difficult to hold on to without accumulating blisters and scrapes along the way. The going is tough, sometimes too daunting for my limitations. The familiar ground below appears farther and farther away.
So I keep going, hand over hand, page over page, word beside word. There is only up now. It is the only way.