Visitors to the Farm

 

 

 

Fingers of twilight shadow
begin to reach over the hill
crawling down through the field
up unto the bank of blackberries
covering fences along the alder grove.

The horses chew their last
leaves of clover before
coming to the barn for night, eyelids heavy,
relaxed and full, drowsy with spring evening
peace at hand and hoof.

A sudden change in the air forces
their heads up and ears forward;
they form a line, staring at the hilltop
above them, riveted to the spot, alert
to an coming intruder, unfamiliar and foreign.

The roar is intermittent, like a warm wind
rattling a barn roof, but inconstant;
then peaking over the crest of the hill
a rounded top of technicolor glory:
The hot air balloon rises.

The horses silenced, baffled, fascinated;
no alpine instinct prepares their response
to this wizard’s act from Oz in their own backyard.
The basket riders wave and laugh at the equine audience below
in formation with golden noses in the air and white manes blowing in the breeze.

The balloon summits the hill, dipping low, almost touchable
before moving back up to race the sunset,
and search out other pastures, other valleys and hills.
The horses released from the spell
leap in response, snowy tails high, noses flared-

To race up the hill to catch impending darkness,
night mares cavort, float suspended
until their air is let out, gently, in softening snorts,
to settle down in a shavings bed in the barn
where night, blissful, becomes ordinary again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holding Up All This Falling

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The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”
And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.
We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.
And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.
~Rainer Maria Rilke “Autumn” translated by Robert Bly

 

 

Sometimes I wake from my sleep
with a palpitating start:
dreaming of falling,
my body pitching and tumbling
yet somehow I land,
~oh so softly~
in my bed,
my fear quashed and cushioned by
awaking safe.

I feel caught up,
held tightly,
rescued amid the fall
we all will do,
like leaves drifting down
from heaven’s orchard,
like seeds released like kisses
into the air,
the earth rises to meet me
and Someone cradles me there.

 

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Startle and Wonder

photo by Josh Scholten

We should always endeavour to wonder at the permanent thing, not at the mere exception. We should be startled by the sun, and not by the eclipse. We should wonder less at the earthquake, and wonder more about the earth.
~ G.K. Chesterton

As a physician, I’m trained to notice the exceptions.  Ordinarily I’m not particularly attentive to everything that is going well with the human body, instead concentrating on what is aberrant or could be made better.  This is unfortunate; there is much beauty and perfect design to behold in every person I meet.

Instead I am looking past the every day miracles to find what’s wrong.

To counter this tendency to just find flaws, I’ve learned over the years to talk out loud as I do physical assessments:  your eardrums look just as they should, your eyes react normally, your tonsils look fine, your thyroid feels smooth, your lymph nodes are tiny , your lungs are clear, your heart sounds are perfect, your belly exam is reassuring, your reflexes are symmetrical, your emotional response to a stress and your tears are completely appropriate.  I want to acknowledge what is working well, as it should, as it was designed to be.  I want a wonder of the human body and mind to extend to the person who inhabits it as well.

When the exception occurs, it is likely to startle and frighten the patient but I don’t want it to surprise me.  We must tackle it with everything we’ve got.

What gives us the strength to deal with the exception is how much in every person is right and wondrous.

Just as it was meant to be.