Again I resume the long lesson: how small a thing can be pleasing, how little in this hard world it takes to satisfy the mind and bring it to its rest.
Within the ongoing havoc the woods this morning is almost unnaturally still. Through stalled air, unshadowed light, a few leaves fall of their own weight.
The sky is gray. It begins in mist almost at the ground and rises forever. The trees rise in silence almost natural, but not quite, almost eternal, but not quite.
What more did I think I wanted? Here is what has always been. Here is what will always be. Even in me, the Maker of all this returns in rest, even to the slightest of His works, a yellow leaf slowly falling, and is pleased. ~Wendell Berry “VII”
What more did I think I wanted?
To know that as long as I’m able to hold on, I can be a spot of light in a dark and bleak world. Once I let go, it is finished and worthwhile, seeing His knowing smile.
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They were smooth ovals, and some the shade of potatoes— some had been moth-eaten or spotted, the maples were starched, and crackled like campfire.
We put them under tracing paper and rubbed our crayons over them, X-raying the spread of their bones and black, veined catacombs.
We colored them green and brown and orange, and cut them out along the edges, labeling them deciduous or evergreen.
All day, in the stuffy air of the classroom, with its cockeyed globe, and nautical maps of ocean floors, I watched those leaves
lost in their own worlds flap on the pins of the bulletin boards: without branches or roots, or even a sky to hold on to. ~Judith Harris “Gathering Leaves in Grade School”
They are more like us than we care to admit: veined and ribbed, some wide, some thin, lots with sharp edges, others rounded, a variety of colors and shapes, twisting this way and that with the breeze, over-eager to let go, explore wide open spaces yet finding themselves blown and broken thrown far from home and roots with nothing left to hold on to, destined to dust, longing to return to branch and connection.
Even so- even so, when we are let go, we are thinking: oh, what a life!
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Mown meadows skirt the standing wheat; I linger, for the hay is sweet, New-cut and curing in the sun. Like furrows, straight, the windrows run, Fallen, gallant ranks that tossed and bent When, yesterday, the west wind went A-rioting through grass and grain. To-day no least breath stirs the plain; Only the hot air, quivering, yields Illusive motion to the fields Where not the slenderest tassel swings. Across the wheat flash sky-blue wings; A goldfinch dangles from a tall, Full-flowered yellow mullein; all The world seems turning blue and gold. Unstartled, since, even from of old, Beauty has brought keen sense of her, I feel the withering grasses stir; Along the edges of the wheat, I hear the rustle of her feet: And yet I know the whole sea lies, And half the earth, between our eyes. ~Sophie Jewett “In Harvest”
Autumn harvest happens outside of me despite sudden coolness of the air, thanks to showers that green the fields for one more month of grazing, midst the smell of the dying of vines and roots.
Autumn harvest is happening inside of me as I slow down my walk, curl up within the lengthening nights, the color of my thoughts turning to bronze and gold and red
before I let go before I let go
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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.
Let us step outside for a moment As the sun breaks through clouds And shines on wet new fallen snow, And breathe the new air. So much has died that had to die this year.
Let us step outside for a moment. It is all there Only we have been slow to arrive At a way of seeing it. Unless the gentle inherit the earth There will be no earth. ~May Sarton from “New Year Poem”
Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next. ~Frederick Buechnerfrom Beyond Words
I don’t pay close enough attention to the meaning of my leaking eyes when I’m constantly looking for kleenex to stem the flow. During the holidays it seems I have more than ample opportunity to find out from my tears the secret of who I am, where I have come from, and where I am to be next, so I keep my pockets loaded with kleenex.
It mostly has to do with spending time with far-flung children and grandchildren for the holidays. It is about reading books and doing puzzles together and reminiscing about what has been and what could be. It is about singing grace together before a meal and choking on precious words of gratitude. It certainly has to do with bidding farewell until we meet again — gathering them in for that final hug and then that letting-go part.
We urged and encouraged our children to go where their hearts told them they are needed and called to be, even if thousands of miles away from their one-time home on this farm.
I too was let go once and though I would try to look back, too often in tears, I learned to set my face toward the future. It led me here, to this marriage, this family, this farm, this work, our church, to more tears, to more letting go, as it will continue if I’m granted the years to weep again and again with gusto and grace.
This is where I must go next: to love so much and so deeply that letting go is so hard that tears are no longer unexpected or a mystery to me or my children and grandchildren. They release a fullness that can no longer be contained: God’s still small voice spills down my cheeks drop by drop like wax from a burning candle.
Out through the fields and the woods And over the walls I have wended; I have climbed the hills of view And looked at the world, and descended; I have come by the highway home, And lo, it is ended.
The leaves are all dead on the ground, Save those that the oak is keeping To ravel them one by one And let them go scraping and creeping Out over the crusted snow, When others are sleeping.
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still, No longer blown hither and thither; The last lone aster is gone; The flowers of the witch hazel wither; The heart is still aching to seek, But the feet question ‘Whither?’
Ah, when to the heart of man Was it ever less than a treason To go with the drift of things, To yield with a grace to reason, And bow and accept the end Of a love or a season? ~Robert Frost “Reluctance”
As I kick through piles of fallen leaves in the barnyard, I realize how close I am to becoming one of them. Within my own seasons, I have flourished and bloomed and fruited, but, with aging, am now reminded of my fading, withering and eventual letting go. I find I’m not nearly so bold anymore, instead trembling nervously when harsh winds blow me about.
I have come to question the stability of the stems, branches, trunk and roots I’ve always depended upon. Will they continue to nourish and sustain me?
Everything feels transitory — especially me.
When these thoughts overwhelm, I tend to hang on tighter rather than simply giving up and letting go. My feet stumble when I try to do the same tasks I did so smoothly years ago. I am easily torn, broken and full of holes. No graceful bow from me; I’m stubbornly wanting things to stay the same, reluctant for a transition to something different.
My only solace is that the heart of man — indeed my own holey heart — is transient compared to the holy Heart of God. I am sustained by His steady Pulse, His ubiquitous Circulation, His impeccable Rhythm of Life and Death.
In that I trust. In that I come to abandon my stubborn reluctance.
Will there really be a “Morning”? Is there such a thing as “Day”? Could I see it from the mountains If I were as tall as they?
Has it feet like Water lilies? Has it feathers like a Bird? Is it brought from famous countries Of which I have never heard?
Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor! Oh some Wise Man from the skies! Please to tell a little Pilgrim Where the place called “Morning” lies! ~Emily Dickinson
You are the future, the immense morning sky turning red over the prairies of eternity…
You are the meaning deepest inside things that never reveals the secret of its owner. And how you look depends on where we are: from a boat, you are shore, from the shore a boat. ~Rainer Maria Rilke, from Love Poems to God from the Book of Hours
I know now what weariness is when the mind stops and night is a dark blanket of peace and forgetting and the morning breaks to the same ritual and the same demands and the silence. ~Jane Clement from No One Can Stem the Tide
I head to clinic this morning knowing from now on my work will feel different after today, no longer the same ritual, no longer the same demands.
Mornings will be more resonant, depending on where I am: from the boat I no longer must be shore, from the shore I no longer need to row the boat.
I can simply be what the patient needs in the moment and the patient is all I need.
You never know what may cause them. The sight of the ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you’ve never seen before. A pair of somebody’s old shoes can do it. Almost any movie made before the great sadness that came over the world after the Second World War, a horse cantering across a meadow…
You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure.Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next. ~Frederick Buechner fromWhistling in the Dark
I’m not paying close enough attention to the meaning of my leaking eyes if I’m constantly looking for kleenex to stem the flow. During the holidays it seems I have more than ample opportunity to find out the secret of who I am, where I have come from and where I am to be next.
So I keep my pockets loaded with kleenex.
It mostly has to do with welcoming family members back home for the holidays to become a full-out noisy messy chaotic household again, with puzzles and games and music and laughter and laundry and meal preparation. It is about singing grace together before a meal in five-part harmony and choking on precious words of gratitude. It is about remembering the drama of our youngest’s birthday twenty six years ago today, when she was saved by a snowstorm.
It certainly has to do with bidding farewell again as we will this weekend, gathering them all in for that final hug and then letting go.
We urge and encourage them to go where their hearts are telling them they are needed and called to be, even if that means thousands of miles away from their one-time home on the farm.
I too was let go once and though I would try to look back, too often in tears, I set my face toward the future. It led me here, to this marriage, this family, this farm, this work, our church, to more tears, to more letting go if I’m granted more years to weep again and again with gusto and grace.
This is the secret of me: to love so much and so deeply that letting go is so hard that tears are no longer unexpected or a mystery to me or my children and grandchildren. They are the spill-over of fullness that can no longer be contained: God’s still small voice spills down my cheeks drop by drop like wax from a burning candle.
O hushed October morning mild, Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild, Should waste them all. The crows above the forest call; Tomorrow they may form and go. O hushed October morning mild, Begin the hours of this day slow. Make the day seem to us less brief. Hearts not averse to being beguiled, Beguile us in the way you know. Release one leaf at break of day; At noon release another leaf; One from our trees, one far away. Retard the sun with gentle mist; Enchant the land with amethyst. ~Robert Frost, from “October” in A Boy’s Will
These mornings I wander stunned by light and mist
to see trees tremble inside their loosening cloaks,
a pulsing palette of color ready to detach,
revealing mere bones and branches.
I want to slow it down,
leave the leaves attached like a fitted mosaic
rather than randomly falling away.
Their release is not their choosing:
the trees know it is time for slowly letting go~
readying for sleep, for sprouts and buds, for fresh tapestry to be woven
from October’s leaves lying about their feet.
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.