The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough. ~Ezra Pound “In a Station of the Metro”
All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever. 1Peter 1:24-25
We won’t be visiting Japan this spring as we have the past several years – we were there over Christmas to meet a new grandson and with the specter of coronavirus has dampened any desire to travel. There are millions of people there and here wondering how this new reality will impact their daily lives. It already has: the store shelves are bare of basic necessities as nervous families stockpile.
In the past, during our time in Tokyo, we are overwhelmed by the sea of faces — each man, woman and child with a place to go to work or school, a place to return home to, a bed to rest upon. Millions pass through the same place in one day and each person, each hair on their head, is cared for and counted by God.
Yet, we are like the transient flowers, reminded again by the emergence of a potentially lethal viral protein packet: we are mortal, each of us, in our clinging like petals to a wet bough – the word of the Lord, our Creator. Only then we become more than apparition. We bloom where God has planted us.
This year’s Lenten theme on Barnstorming:
God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But by His grace, He does not leave us where we are. ~Tim Keller
It was like a church to me. I entered it on soft foot, Breath held like a cap in the hand. It was quiet. What God there was made himself felt, Not listened to, in clean colours That brought a moistening of the eye, In a movement of the wind over grass.
There were no prayers said. But stillness Of the heart’s passions – that was praise Enough; and the mind’s cession Of its kingdom. I walked on, Simple and poor, while the air crumbled And broke on me generously as bread. ~R.S. Thomas “The Moor”
There are mornings surrounded by His stilling presence~ when God is felt, neither seen nor heard, overtaking me within each breath taken, following the path of each glistening tear, the air crumbling down around me, its rich manna becoming the ground reaching to meet my foot with each step I take.
Cut grass lies frail: Brief is the breath Mown stalks exhale. Long, long the death
It dies in the white hours Of young-leafed June With chestnut flowers, With hedges snowlike strewn,
White lilac bowed, Lost lanes of Queen Anne’s lace, And that high-builded cloud Moving at summer’s pace.~ ~Philip Larkin “Cut Grass” from The Complete Poems
Light and wind are running over the headed grass as though the hill had melted and now flowed. ~Wendell Berry “June Wind”
The uncut field grass is growing heavier, falling over, lodged before it can be cut; the undulations of summer breezes urge it back upright. It has matured too fast, rising up too lush, too overcome with itself so that it can no longer stand unsupported. We must work fast to save it and more rain is on the way.
Light and wind work magic on a field of melting tall grass. The blades of the mower will come to lay it to the ground in green streams that flow up and down the slopes. It will lie comfortless in its stoneless cemetery rows, until tossed about by the tedder into random piles to dry, then raked back into a semblance of order in mounded lines flowing over the landscape.
It will be crushed and bound together for transport to the barn, no longer bending but bent, no longer flowing but flown, no longer growing but grown
We move at summer’s pace to ensure the grasses become fodder for the beasts of the farm during the cold nights when the wind beats at the doors. It will melt in their mouths, as it was meant to be.
Flowers preach to us if we will hear: The rose saith in the dewy morn: I am most fair; Yet all my loveliness is born Upon a thorn. The poppy saith amid the corn: Let but my scarlet head appear And I am held in scorn; Yet juice of subtle virtue lies Within my cup of curious dyes. The lilies say: Behold how we Preach without words of purity. The violets whisper from the shade Which their own leaves have made: Men scent our fragrance on the air, Yet take no heed Of humble lessons we would read. But not alone the fairest flowers: The merest grass Along the roadside where we pass, Lichen and moss and sturdy weed, Tell of His love who sends the dew, The rain and sunshine too, To nourish one small seed. ~Christina Rossetti fromGoblin Market, The Prince’s Progress, and Other Poems
Some sermons are written bold with color, illustrated with powerful gospel stories of righteousness and redemption in the face of our sin.
Some sermon passages are fragrant with the scent of grace and forgiveness, lingering long after the words are spoken.
Some sermon stories remain subtle and hidden, cryptic messages like the blooms that grow close to the ground, barely visible.
We need to hear them all preached, but most of all we need those every day plain-to-the-bone sermons which are trampled and tread upon, springing back up to guide our feet to the best pathway home. No color, no fragrance, no hiding: just celebrating the ubiquitous lichens, mosses and grasses and weeds which exist solely to help cushion our inevitable fall and help us rise up again.
Open the window, and let the air Freshly blow upon face and hair, And fill the room, as it fills the night, With the breath of the rain’s sweet might.
Not a blink shall burn to-night In my chamber, of sordid light; Nought will I have, not a window-pane, ‘Twixt me and the air and the great good rain, Which ever shall sing me sharp lullabies; And God’s own darkness shall close mine eyes; And I will sleep, with all things blest, In the pure earth-shadow of natural rest.
A pass of the blade leaves behind
rough stems, a blunt cut field of
paths through naked slopes and
bristly contoured hollows.
Once swept and stored, the hay is
baled for a future day, and grass’ deep roots
yield newly tender growth, tempted forth
by warmth and summer rain.
A full grassy beard sprouts
lush again, to obscure the landscape
rise and fall, conceal each molehill,
pothole, ditch and burrow.
I trace this burgeoning stubble with gentle touch,
fingertips graze the rise of cheek, the curve of upper lip
and indent of dimpled chin with long-healed scar, the stalwart jaw,
a terrain oh so familiar that it welcomes me back home.
Green was the silence, wet was the light the month of June trembled like a butterfly ~Pablo Neruda from “Sonnet XL”
We are now four days into summer but aside from the date on the calendar, it would be difficult to prove otherwise. After a dry stretch of warm late spring weather, it is now unseasonably cool, the skies stony gray, the rivers running full and fast, the ground peppered with puddles. Rain fell hard last night, hiding behind the cover of darkness as if ashamed of itself. As it should be.
What all this moisture will yield is acres and acres of towering grass growth, more grass than imaginable, more grass than we can keep mowed, burying the horses up to their backs as they dive head long into the pasture. The Haflingers don’t need to lower their necks to graze, choosing instead to simply strip off the ripe tops of the grasses as they forge paths through five foot forage. It is like children at a birthday party swiping the frosting off cupcake after cupcake, licking their fingers as they go. Instead of icing, the horses’ muzzles are smeared with dandelion fluff, grass seed and buttercup petals.
In the northwest, June can tend to shroud its promise of longer days under clouds. Outdoor weddings brace for rain and wind with a supply of umbrellas, graduation potlucks are served in the garage and Fourth of July picnics stay safely under cover. There is a wary anticipation of solstice as it signals the slow inexorable return of darkness from which we have not yet fully recovered.
So I tremble as I too splash through the squishiness of late June, quivering like a wet butterfly emerging from its cocoon ready to unfurl its wings to dry, but unsure how to fly and uncertain of the new world that awaits. In fact the dark empty cocoon can look mighty inviting on a rainy June night or during a loud mid-day thunderstorm. If I could manage to squeeze myself back in, it might be worth a try.