Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf. ~ Albert Schweitzer
Long ago I gave up striving for perfect symmetry, strong shapely limbs, the straightest trunk, the most luscious foliage and colorful blooms.
Instead, my life is as fruitful as possible, even if I bend more in winter storms, my roots not anchored as deep, despite bare and broken branches, falling leaves, crooked trunk, and increasing lumpiness.
I try to provide the best of which I’m capable, with a minimum of scab, rot and hidden worms.
The promise of breathtaking beauty for eternity makes getting up in the morning worth the effort when we would rather hide our homeliness and decay under the covers.
Yet nothing can be as beautiful as the reality of broken people giving their all for other broken people.
It is for this we are created; our imperfections on display, continually pruned and refined to produce needed fruit, abundantly filling and ever so sweet.
It’s enough to make you wonder…
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All morning, doing the hard, root-wrestling work of turning a yard from the wild to a gardener’s will, I heard a bird singing from a hidden, though not distant, perch; a song of swift, syncopated syllables sounding like, Can you believe this, believe this, believe? Can you believe this, believe this, believe? And all morning, I did believe. All morning, between break-even bouts with the unwanted, I wanted to see that bird, and looked up so I might later recognize it in a guide, and know and call its name, but even more, I wanted to join its church. For all morning, and many a time in my life, I have wondered who, beyond this plot I work, has called the order of being, that givers of food are deemed lesser than are the receivers. All morning, muscling my will against that of the wild, to claim a place in the bounty of earth, seed, root, sun and rain, I offered my labor as a kind of grace, and gave thanks even for the aching in my body, which reached beyond this work and this gift of struggle. ~Richard Levine “Believe This” from That Country’s Soul
North Brooklin, Maine 30 March 1973
Dear Mr. Nadeau: As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up in the morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day. Sincerely, [Signed, ‘E. B. White’] from Letters of Note
Today yet another era begins and another ends. However, the struggle continues: there is anguish on one side and relief on the other– just the reverse of four years ago.
I want to believe things will be different and the messes cleaned up without creating new messes. I realize, thanks to human nature, that is a futile hope.
I want to believe that goodness and compassion will thrive again.
So I will pull out the weeds that have taken over in my on back yard and clear the ground for a clean start. I will rewind the clock to help create order out of chaos and experience steadfastness instead of uncertainty.
May we hang on to hope that our dis-united states may once again survive a leader with many human flaws and failings, just as we’ve survived countless other imperfect leaders.
It is up to we the people to keep our own yards weed-free, and not allow them to take over — ever again.
If you notice anything it leads you to notice more and more.
I was so full of energy.
I was always running around, looking
at this and that.
If I stopped
If I stopped and thought, maybe
the world can’t be saved,
~Mary Oliver from “The Moths” from Dream Work
No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard.
The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.
~C.S. Lewis (from Letters)
I see in a new way now as I wander about,
my eyes scanning for the plain and mundane,
searching for what needs noticing and safe-keeping.
Saving even a little part of our world
involves getting tired and muddy,
falling down again and again
and being willing to get back up.
If I stop getting dirty,
if I by-pass the every day,
if I give up the work of salvage,
I abandon the promises of God.
He’s there, ready and waiting
for the mop up of our messy ordinary.
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First I shake the whole Apple tree, that the ripest might fall. Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch and then each twig, and then I look under each leaf.
Any election cycle in a free country is indeed a free-for-all, with the loudest and brashest citizens shouting their personal opinions far and wide. This election season has been particularly noxious, with the presidential candidates and their followers talking over and above each other until no one bothers to listen.
Since this time around I have no candidate, my voice is meager in comparison. Some would say I have no say since I refuse to partake of rotten apples.
Yet on election day, each citizen, even the smallest and meekest, has the opportunity to express themselves, quietly and alone in a pas-de-deux between them and their personal ballot. Their vote, whether checking a box next to a candidate name, or writing in an alternative, is just as significant.
With each news cycle, each debate, each Tweet, we just want to see this election over and done with. We have shaken the electoral apple tree so hard that all the ripe and bitter and rotten fruit has fallen to the ground. We then must cope with whatever harvest we reap with our votes.
Rarely do we find near-perfect fruit; this year it is already rotted on the branch, tainted from the start.
Some citizens vote along party lines only; the quality of the candidate is immaterial as long as they have the right party affiliation. Other citizens turn over every leaf in detailed scrutiny of each candidate’s history and qualifications and vote character over platform. This year there are citizens like myself who see nothing in the current candidates for president but worm holes leading to a fermented core of character rot.
Rotten to the core doesn’t even make edible applesauce. It is good for nothing but the compost pile in the hope that the fertilizer of today it will somehow yield better fruit tomorrow.
In my opinion, this time around there is no candidate worthy to lead a country founded on the principles of equality for all individuals as well as preventing the tyranny of government in the personal lives of citizens. The candidates have fostered a confused and too-angry citizenry, divided and divisive, shaking our shared tree for all its worth to see what’s in it for us, thus threatening the life of the tree itself.
The moral foundation of our country is mocked by these deeply flawed individuals who believe they deserve to be in the Oval Office despite their dark personal histories, statements and actions. This election has become all about them and what they want, not about the integrity our country desperately needs in its leaders.
So I pray for a day when we can set differences aside and raise up leaders who can as well. We must work together to care for the tree that bears the fruit needed for our children’s future. Let’s bury this year’s rot around the roots, water it generously and prune the old dead useless stuff away. The branches will be stronger, the blossoms hearty and ready for pollination (if there are any bees left), and the resulting fruit more palatable.
Perhaps next time around the worms won’t win.
That’ll be the day.
When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe it. ~Clarence Darrow