A Foot in the Door

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air. 

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make roo
m.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves
Our kind multiplies

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth. 
Our foot’s in the door.
~Sylvia Plath from “Mushroom”

This overnight overture into the light,
a parturition of “ink caps” after a shower.
As if seed had been sprinkled on the manure pile,
they sprout three inch stalks
still stretching at dawn,
topped by dew-catching caps and umbrellas.

Nearly translucent as glass,
already curling at the edges in the morning light,
by noon melting into ooze
by evening complete deliquescence,
withered and curling back
into the humus
which birthed them hours before.

It shall be repeated
again and again,
this birth from unworthy soil,
this brief and shining life in the sun,
this folding, curling and collapse
to die back to dust and dung.

Inedible, yet so Chrisincredible,
they rise beautiful
and worthy
as is the way of things
that never give up
once a foot’s in the door.

Seeing One Another

emmachan1
photo by Hilary Gibson

Go north a dozen years
on a road overgrown with vines
to find the days after you were born.
Flowers remembered their colors and trees
were frothy and the hospital was

behind us now, its brick indifference
forgotten by our car mirrors. You were
revealed to me: tiny, delicate,
your head smelling of some other world.
Turn right after the circular room

where I kept my books and right again
past the crib where you did not sleep
and you will find the window where
I held you that June morning
when you opened your eyes. They were

blue, tentative, not the deep chocolate
they would later become. You were gazing
into the world: at our walls,
my red cup, my sleepless hair and though
I’m told you could not focus, and you

no longer remember, we were seeing
one another after seasons of darkness. 
~Faith Shearin “Sight”

lea004
ben111588

The helpless state of a newborn adjusting to an unfamiliar world –
when all depends on
deep murmurs, shadowy faces and comforting arms,
full nipples and cleansing rags.
When all that can be said
are mewing cries and satisfied grunts.

Those long exhausting sleepless nights finally transition
to heart-warming smiles at dawn,
when we lock onto each other for survival,
peering into the mutual light and love in our eyes,
needing each other like no other;
it is always, and will be always, about those eyes.



Seeing the World Through a Walnut

walnutshoot

walnutbud

walnutspring

Old friend now there is no one alive
who remembers when you were young
it was high summer when I first saw you
in the blaze of day most of my life ago
with the dry grass whispering in your shade
and already you had lived through wars
and echoes of wars around your silence
through days of parting and seasons of absence
with the house emptying as the years went their way
until it was home to bats and swallows
and still when spring climbed toward summer

you opened once more the curled sleeping fingers
of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened
you and the seasons spoke the same language
and all these years I have looked through your limbs
to the river below and the roofs and the night
and you were the way I saw the world
~W.S. Merwin from “Elegy for a Walnut”

dawn7254

poplarwalnut

 

This grand old tree defines the seasons for me~
and defines me as I age.
This winter’s storms took its branches down in the night
with deafening cracks so loud
I feared to see the remnant in the morning,
yet it stands, intrepid
for another round of seasons–
tired, sagging, broken
and still reaching to the sky.

 

treehousejanuary2

aprileveningwalnut

treehouse5

Between Midnight and Dawn: From Decay, Beauty

trilliumweeping

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3: 19-23

 

trilliumheart

I wished to wade in the trillium
and be warmed near the white flames.
I imagined the arch of my foot
massaged by the mosses.
This field immersed in gravity
defying growth.  Green and glorious.
It let me know that out of the
soil came I, and green I shall be.
Whether an unnamed weed or a
wild strawberry I will join in
the hymn.
~Luci Shaw from “Spring Song, Very Early Morning”

 

The trillium only thrives where death has been.

The mulch of hundreds of autumns fluffs the bed where trillium bulbs sleep, content through most of the year.

When the frost is giving way to dew, the trillium leaves peek out, curious, testing the air.
A few stray rays of sun filtering through the overgrowth and canopy encourage the shoots to rise, spread and unfurl.

In the middle, a white bud appears in humility, almost embarrassed to be seen at all.
There is pure declaration of triune perfection.

In a matter of days, the petals spread wide and bold so briefly, curl purplish. Wilt and return aground.

Leaves wither and fall unnoticed, becoming dust once again.

Beauty arises from decay.
Death gives way to pure perfection.

trilliumviolet

trilliumbud

During this Lenten season, I will be drawing inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn

Breaking Through Rocks

“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.”
Tennessee Williams in “Camino Real”
These words became his epitaph

Some beginnings in this life commence on inhospitable ground: no soil, no protection, barely enough water.  Just a crack in the pavement, relentless heat and the drive to thrive.

Such delicate beauty can come from nothing but a seed packed with the potential to transform its circumstances.  A gentle transcendence has the power to break through rocks and change the world.

Forever.

A Splintered Wreck

photo by Josh Scholten

“The new is always present with the old, however hidden.  I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breath delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections, but overwhelmingly in spite of them…”
Annie Dillard

Once every few years one of our horses gets hurt and had I made different decisions, I know I could have prevented it from happening.  I feel deeply responsible for the pain experienced by a creature I love and have cared for over two decades; I am a splintered wreck, unable to sleep, sick with guilt.

When the bird chorus began as the clock flipped to 4 AM this morning, my eyes had been open for hours, listening for sounds of distress from the barn. I knew I needed to check on her as soon as daylight dawned.  I walked to the barn in my bathrobe and rubber boots to make sure she had made it okay through the night.  As I approached, I heard her greeting me with her usual morning nicker, welcoming me back into her home, showing me grace despite her misery,  her eyes shining bright and expectant despite her cuts and bruises.

The barn contains a world of forgiving despite horses never ever forgetting.  She still loves me in spite of my imperfections.  I wander awed into her stall, touch her tender body and weep.

So, because of this, because of love that surpasses understanding, I am getting along, washed through my tears moistening her dried blood.

Lenten Meditation: Whiter Than Snow

Psalm 51:7

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

It was a bright December day, she remembered, a great day for a snow shoeing trek near Artist’s Point, eat lunch, then head home.  All three college students wound their way slowly around the base of Table Mountain, enjoying a final day together before parting for the long Christmas break.

The avalanche came without warning; a sudden low rumble, then building to a roar, and the ground was moving beneath them, rolling them over and over helplessly in a wave of white that carried them down the slope.  It swooshed over top of them, everything awash in white.  There was no way to know up from down, and when finally coming to rest, the white became black, still, and suffocating.

Remembering her avalanche survival course, she waved her arms in front of her as hard as she could, creating a small open pocket beneath her face as she found herself bent forward, hunched into a folded crouched position.  There was a sense of light coming through the snow above her, but nothing but black below.  She tried to force her way up through the snow, to push her way out but it weighted her down like concrete blocks.  There was no moving from the small space that contained her.

She realized she was trapped and began to panic.  She tried to shout but her voice too was entombed in snow.

So she began to pray.   She prayed for her safety, for calmness, for a rescue, she prayed for her two friends, she prayed for her parents.  She remembered relaxing as she spoke to God, sensing Him in the darkness with her, knowing He was the only one to know where she was at that moment. He had found her.

Growing colder, she was unable to feel her feet or hands any longer.  She was fading; she tried to stay awake by praying harder, but it was no use.

_________

Sometime later she felt herself being pulled into the light, heard excited voices shouting, and then she was being carried on a stretcher.  In the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, she began to talk to her rescuers as they warmed her with blankets, and once her skin softened, they put warm intravenous fluids in her veins.  By the time she arrived in the emergency room, her face had some color, though her feet were blue, her toes white and completely numb.

It wasn’t until later that she was clear enough to ask about her friends.   One was the reason she had been rescued.  He had fought his way through his snow covering and thereby freeing himself, had gone for help.  With the help of dogs, she had been found.  Her third friend was still missing.

As she mentioned to a nurse what a close call she had, being buried under two feet of heavy snow for several minutes, and surviving relatively unscathed,  the nurse stopped what she was doing and looked at her oddly.

“Don’t you know?  You were buried for almost 24 hours before they found you! It’s amazing you are alive at all and look at you, barely a mark on you, only a little frostbite!”

A miracle whiter than snow.

based on a true story of avalanche survival near Mount Baker by two WWU students.  The third student perished.