Evening, and all the birds In a chorus of shimmering sound Are easing their hearts of joy For miles around.
The air is blue and sweet, The few first stars are white,– Oh let me like the birds Sing before night. ~Sara Teasdale “Dusk in June”
Sure on this shining night Of star made shadows round, Kindness must watch for me This side the ground. The late year lies down the north. All is healed, all is health. High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole. Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone Of shadows on the stars. ~James Agee “Sure on this Shining Night”
It is high summer holding the earth now; our hearts whole and healed in a shimmering dusk.
I weep for wonder that we have this time, at this place, singing under these stars.
May we live sure that on another shining night, sometime, we know not when, we know not how, we will all be together again.
Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors which it passes to a row of ancient trees. You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.
leaving you, not really belonging to either, not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent, not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing that turns to a star each night and climbs–
leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads) your own life, timid and standing high and growing, so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out, one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star. ~Rainer Maria Rilke “Sunset” (Trans. by Robert Bly) from The Soul is Here for Its Own Joy
We are born with one hand still grasping tight to the star-studded heaven from which we came, still dusty from creation. The other hand grabs hold of whatever it finds here on earth and won’t let go, whether the riches of relationship or the coldness of stone.
It can take decades, but our firm hold on heaven loosens so that we forget the dusty origins of our miraculous being. We forget Who made us and why.
We can’t decide, tangled up in the threads of life: dust of earth, stone heart? Or dust of stars, child of Heaven?
We are daily reminded by the Light which clothes us in new colors – early in the morning as it crests the eastern hills and late as it descends in the west. Heaven still reaches down once again to grasp our hand, making sure we know the way home.
The mares go down for their evening feed into the meadow grass. Two pine trees sway the invisible wind— some sway, some don’t sway. The heart of the world lies open, leached and ticking with sunlight For just a minute or so. The mares have their heads on the ground, the trees have their heads on the blue sky. Two ravens circle and twist. On the borders of heaven, the river flows clear a bit longer. ~Charles Wright “The Evening is Tranquil, and Dawn is a Thousand Miles Away”
When I stroll in the fields on summer evenings,
the horses raise their heads in greeting,
still chewing, they walk up slowly from pasture
to follow me inside for the night.
They could choose not to leave the field,
to enjoy freedom all night under the stars outside,
yet they choose the walls and doors of the barn,
and joining with me when I call.
Come and go gently, my friends. Come and go gently.
And so will I.
Underneath the stars I’ll meet you Underneath the stars I’ll greet you There beneath the stars I’ll leave you Before you go of your own free will
Underneath the stars you met me Underneath the stars you left me I wonder if the stars regret me At least you’ll go of your own free will
Here beneath the stars I’m mending I’m here beneath the stars not ending Why on eartham I pretending? I’m here again, the stars befriending They come and go of their own free will
Go gently Go gently
Underneath the stars you met me And underneath the stars you left me I wonder if the stars regret me I’m sure they’d like me if they only met me They come and go of their own free will
Go gently ~Kate Rusby “Underneath the Stars”
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Alone in the night
On a dark hill With pines around me Spicy and still,
And a heaven full of stars Over my head, White and topaz And misty red;
Myriads with beating Hearts of fire That aeons Cannot vex or tire;
Up the dome of heaven Like a great hill, I watch them marching Stately and still,
And I know that I Am honored to be Witness Of so much majesty. ~Sara Teasdale “Stars”
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? …while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” Job 38 4a, 7
God Himself tells Job the first song was sung in celebration of the beginning of all things. We weren’t there to hear it because we were not — yet. A joyous celestial community of stars and angels sang as the world was pieced and sewn together bit by bit. Man was the last stitch God made in the tapestry.
As the coda of the created world, we tend to take all this for granted as it was already here when we arrived on the scene: the soil we tread, the water we drink, the plants and creatures that are subject to us. Yet this creation was already so worthy it warranted a glorious anthem, right from the beginning, before man. We were not yet the inspiration for singing.
We missed the first song but we were there to hear it reprised a second time, and this time it really was about us–peace on earth, good will to men. The shepherds, the most lowly and humble of us, those who would be surely voted least likely to witness such glory, were chosen to hear singing from the heavens the night Christ was born. They were flattened by it, amazed and afraid. It drove them right off the job, out of the fields and into town to seek out what warranted such celebration.
Surely once again this song will ring out as it did in the beginning and as it did on those hills above Bethlehem.
The trumpet will sound.
In a twinkling of an eye we will all be changed.
And we will be able to sing along.
Amen and Amen.
With the close approach of Mars this week (maximum size in the sky will be May 30), I recalled a similar time a few years back:
It was a treasured late summer evening when temperatures hover around 70 degrees, there was a slight cooling breeze, clear starlit skies, and barely a mosquito buzzing. We had just returned from a lovely evening outdoor wedding for two special young friends, with a special message from our pastor about the profound mystery of marriage, not just for newlyweds, but also for those of us married for many years. We are blessed in the knowledge we depend on God’s grace every day, trying to reflect it back to our children, our community, to each other.
We decided to hike up to the top of our hill after dark to catch the best view of our neighbor Mars before we brought our Haflinger horses in for the night. Mars was there to see, orange and bright in the southeast sky. But the Haflingers seemed to be afflicted by strange Martian fever, or perhaps it was simply because we rarely wander out into the field in the dark with flashlights in hand. There was no moon yet when we were out –simply starlight and the far-off lights from Vancouver, British Columbia to the north and Bellingham to the south.
The Haflingers started running in the dark, kicking and snorting and bucking with the joy of a starlit, Martian-lit summer evening. Only all we could see of the Haflingers were their ghostly white manes and tails moving across the fields, jumping and twisting and cavorting.
I’m sure over the generations, in the alpine meadows of the South Tyrol, there must have been some starlit moonless lights when the Haflinger herds would run together, and all you could see in the dark were floating disembodied white manes and tails.
Perhaps that is what enchanted the mountain peasants the most about their sturdy reliable golden companions—at night they become spirit and light. They shine like the stars, even from the ground, reflecting back the lights from the heavens.
And so, in our companionship with each other and with God, do we glow with His light and reflect it to those around us.
On the tidal mud, just before sunset, dozens of starfishes were creeping. It was as though the mud were a sky and enormous, imperfect stars moved across it as slowly as the actual stars cross heaven. All at once they stopped, and, as if they had simply increased their receptivity to gravity, they sank down into the mud, faded down into it and lay still, and by the time pink of sunset broke across them they were as invisible as the true stars at daybreak. ~Galway Kinnell “Daybreak”
We know the stars,
heavenly or terrestrial,
still shine there, though made invisible,
hidden in plain sight at daybreak
yet throwing sparks,
ever eternally lit,
in the dark.