The wind, one brilliant day, called to my soul with an odor of jasmine.
“In return for the odor of my jasmine, I’d like all the odor of your roses.”
“I have no roses; all the flowers in my garden are dead.”
“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals and the yellowed leaves and the waters of the fountain.”
The wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself: “What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?” ~Antonio Machado “The Wind, One Brilliant Day” translated by Robert Bly
This garden bloomed with potential, entrusted to me for 32 years: the health and well-being of 16,000 students, most thriving and flourishing, some withering, their petals falling, a few have been lost altogether.
As the winds of time sweep away another group of graduates from my care, to be blown to places unknown, their beauty and fragrance gone from here.
I marvel at their growth, but also weary weep for those who left too soon, wondering if I failed to water them enough – or is it I who am parched in this garden with a thirst unceasing, my roots reaching deep into drought-stricken soil, ever so slowly drying out?
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The air was soft, the ground still cold. In the dull pasture where I strolled Was something I could not believe. Dead grass appeared to slide and heave, Though still too frozen-flat to stir, And rocks to twitch and all to blur. What was this rippling of the land? Was matter getting out of hand And making free with natural law, I stopped and blinked, and then I saw A fact as eerie as a dream. There was a subtle flood of steam Moving upon the face of things. It came from standing pools and springs And what of snow was still around; It came of winter’s giving ground So that the freeze was coming out, As when a set mind, blessed by doubt, Relaxes into mother-wit. Flowers, I said, will come of it. ~Richard Wilbur “April 5, 1974”
As the ground softens with the warming sun, so do I. Winter freeze was comforting as nothing appeared to change, day after day.
Neither did I, staying stolid and fixed and frozen.
But now the fixed is flexing its muscles, steaming in its labor, greening and growing transformed.
Just as we lose hope she ambles in, a late guest dragging her hem of wildflowers, her torn veil of mist, of light rain, blowing her dandelion breath in our ears; and we forgive her, turning from chilly winter ways, we throw off our faithful sweaters and open our arms. ~Linda Pastan “Spring” from Heroes in Disguise: Poems
The ground is slowly coming to life again; snowdrops and daffodils are surfacing from months of dormancy, buds are swelling the spring chorus frogs have come from the mud to sing again and birds now greet the lazy dawn.
Everything, everyone, has been so dead, so hidden; His touch calls us back to life, love is come again to the fallow fields of our hearts.
Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain, Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain; Love lives again, that with the dead has been: Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
In the grave they laid him, love whom men had slain, Thinking that never he would wake again. Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen: Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green,
Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain, He that for three days in the grave had lain. Quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen: Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain, Thy touch can call us back to life again; Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green. ~John Crum
Tis the last rose of summer Left blooming alone; All her lovely companions Are faded and gone: No flower of her kindred, No rose-bud is nigh, To reflect back her blushes, Or give sigh for sigh.
I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one! To pine on the stem; Since the lovely are sleeping, Go, sleep thou with them. Thus kindly I scatter Thy leaves o’er the bed, Where thy mates of the garden Lie scentless and dead.
So soon may I follow, When friendships decay, And from Love’s shining circle The gems drop away. When true hearts lie wither’ d, And fond ones are flown, Oh! who would inhabit This bleak world alone? ~Thomas Moore “The Last Rose of Summer”
The last rose of the season is one tough bud. It has persisted through months of prunings and aphids and withering heat and frost-tipped mornings.
It doesn’t elegantly swell and swirl like its summer cousins adorned with pristine petals and silky smooth surface. It is blotchy and brown-tipped and not-a-little saggy.
Yet the last rose bud of the season is what I am. I would rather stay out on the bush than be plucked and admired in a vase. I would rather, plain as I am, weather my way through the elements to the fullest bloom possible and then drop, petal by petal, piece by piece to litter the ground below. I am meant to become the ground that will bear beauty next spring.
Rather than born for display, the last rose of October is born for hope.
When trees have lost remembrance of the leaves
that spring bequeaths to summer, autumn weaves
and loosens mournfully — this dirge, to whom
does it belong — who treads the hidden loom?
When peaks are overwhelmed with snow and ice,
and clouds with crepe bedeck and shroud the skies —
nor any sun or moon or star, it seems,
can wedge a path of light through such black dreams — All motion cold, and dead all traces thereof:
What sudden shock below, or spark above,
starts torrents raging down till rivers surge —
that aid the first small crocus to emerge?
The earth will turn and spin and fairly soar,
that couldn't move a tortoise-foot before —
and planets permeate the atmosphere
till misery depart and mystery clear! —
Who gave it the endurance so to brave
such elements? — shove winter down a grave? —
and then lead on again the universe?
~Alfred Kreymborg from "Crocus"
To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that. Two thousand years are only a day or two by this [God’s] scale. A man really ought to say, ‘The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago’ in the same spirit in which he says, ‘I saw a crocus yesterday.’ Because we know what is coming behind the crocus. The spring comes slowly down this way; but the great thing is that the corner has been turned. . . It remains with us to follow or not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer. ~C.S. Lewis from God in the Dock
Whether late winter or autumn the ground yields unexpected crocus, surprising even to the observant.
Hidden beneath the surface, their incubation readily triggered by advancing or retreating light from above.
Waiting with temerity, to be called forth from earthly grime and granted reprieve from indefinite interment.
A luminous gift of hope and beauty borne from a humble bulb adorned with dirt.
Summoned, the harbinger rises from sleeping dormant ground in February or spent topsoil, exhausted by October.
These bold blossoms do not pause for snow and ice nor hesitate to pierce through a musty carpet of fallen leaves.
They break free to surge skyward cloaked in tightly bound brilliance, deployed against the darkness.
Slowly unfurling, the petals peel to reveal golden crowns, royally renouncing the chill of winter’s beginning and end, staying brazenly alive when little else is.
In the end, they wilt, deeply bruised purple a reflection of Light made manifest; returning defeated, inglorious, fallen, to dust.
Yet like the Sun, we know they will rise yet again.
We live in an imperfect world, with imperfect characters to match. Our imperfections should not keep us from dreaming of better things, or even from trying, within our limits, to be better stewards of the soil, and more ardent strivers after beauty and a responsible serenity. ~Jane Kenyon from “In the Garden of My Dreams”
Beauty is always right outside my back door, whether it is growing in the soil, unfurling in a misty dawn moment or settling into an early twilight serenade.
It heals me after an imperfect day and an imperfect night’s sleep.
Today I want to be different. I will strive to be a steward for serenity, striving to find beauty in all things, aiding its growth and helping it flourish.
Never perfect but I’m not giving up. Never perfect but serene with the responsibility of always trying, always wanting to be different than I am and change my little part of this world.
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
I don’t wanna hear anymore, teach me to listen I don’t wanna see anymore, give me a vision That you could move this heart, to be set apart I don’t need to recognize, the man in the mirror And I don’t wanna trade Your plan, for something familiar I can’t waste a day, I can’t stay the same I wanna be different I wanna be changed ‘Til all of me is gone And all that remains Is a fire so bright The whole world can see That there’s something different So come and be different In me And I don’t wanna spend my life, stuck in a pattern And I don’t wanna gain this world but lose what matters And so I’m giving up, everything becauseI wanna be different I wanna be changed ‘Til all of me is gone And all that remains Is a fire so bright The whole world can see That there’s something different So come and be different; oh-oh I know, that I am far, from perfect But through You, the cross still says, I’m worth it So take this beating in my heart and Come and finish what You started When they see me, let them see You ‘Cause I just wanna be different, ye-ey I wanna be different I wanna be changed ‘Til all of me is gone And all that remains Oh is a fire so bright The whole world can see That there’s something different So come and be different I just wanna be different So could You be different In me Songwriters: Micah Tyler Begnaud / Kyle Lee
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.
30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth.32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20
When I was eight years old, I spent my hard-earned chores allowance on a little round glass ball necklace containing a mustard seed at the front and a scripture verse on the back. At that tender age, I considered my faith very tiny indeed, so the necklace gave me courage and confidence that it (and I ) could somehow grow and flourish.
As was true of most things I said or did in grade school, I was teased about wearing the necklace, so I decided to hide it under my blouses and sweaters, tucked safely away over my heart, right where it belonged. It was simply enough for me to know it was there, even if no one else did.
My faith became tinier as it became hidden away, eventually to end up in my little jewelry box along with my banished necklace, locked away with a little key and nearly forgotten over the years.
No seed grows without nurture and care. No faith grows when invisible to others. Yet the Kingdom of God thrives in such inauspicious places as our shriveling hearts, growing large and protective for those of us with the tiniest of faiths.
Nothing is impossible in the Lord, only because of the Lord.
May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand. He prepares me with parable.