On the green hill with the river beyond it long ago and my father there and my grandmother standing in her faded clothes wrinkled high-laced black shoes in the spring grass among the few gravestones inside their low fence by the small white wooden church the clear panes of its windows letting the scene through from the windows on the other side of the empty room and a view of the trees over there my grandmother hardly turned her head staring like a cloud at the empty air not looking at the green glass gravestone with the name on it of the man to whom she had been married and who had been my father’s father she went on saying nothing her eyes wandering above the trees that hid the river from where we were a place where she had stood with him one time when they were young and the bell kept ringing ~W.S. Merwin “Windnoon” from The Moon Before Morning
Visiting the graves of those who lived and loved for decades,
now mere dust lying side by side,
their spirits risen and flown~
we realize we were young once and now
feel the weight of change and passage of the years
despite our effort to grab and hold them still.
26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29
This parable “supplies an admirable antidote to overcarefulness and despondency. Our principle work is to sow the seed. That done, we may wait with faith and patience for the result.”
~J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) Bishop of Liverpool
In Galatians, Paul refers to God sending forth His Son “in the fullness of time.” It is one of my favorite expressions to remind myself that God’s timing is not linear so much as it is spherical – we find ourselves in the midst of His plans, surrounded by time rather than journeying from point A to point B.
The sowing of the seed,
its hidden growth underground,
its taking root and sprouting,
its dependency on the soil and water and sun to rise above the earth,
its development and maturation and fruition,
its harvest and completion
to feed and seed yet again.
It is a circle, not a line.
Such fullness we cannot understand when we are in the midst of it; such assurance we can feel surround us as we wait patiently for the harvest.
May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand. He prepares me with parable.
For some reason we like to see days pass,
even though most of us claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a long time.
We examine each day before us with barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t one I’ve been looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for the next, when we are convinced, our lives will start for real.
Meanwhile, this day is going by perfectly well-adjusted, as some days are, with the right amounts of sunlight and shade, and a light breeze scented with a perfume made from the mixture of fallen apples, corn stubble, dry oak leaves, and the faint odor of last night’s meandering skunk. ~Tom Hennen from “The Life of a Day”
I am ashamed to admit I squander time shamelessly,
waiting for that particular day I always hoped for,
tossing off these mundane but precious hours
as somehow not measuring up or special enough.
The shock is:
there have been over thirty years
of such days on this farm,
one passing by after another,
emerging fresh each morning from the duff and stuff of life,
and every single one has ended up being exactly what I’m looking for.
This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
give alms to everyone that asks,
devote your income and labor to others,
argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
and your very flesh shall be a great poem,
and have the richest fluency, not only in its words,
but in the silent lines of its lips and face,
and between the lashes of your eyes,
and in every motion and joint of your body.
~Walt Whitman from his preface to “Leaves of Grass”
Time lurches ahead in imprecisely measured chunks and today is the start of another summer season of relative rest, of another transition for several thousand college students moving on to another phase of life with advice of all sorts ringing in their ears.
Commencement is best suited to start in a season that itself is a poem. Summer simply stands on its own in all its extravagant abundance of light and warmth and growth and color stretching deep within the rising and setting horizons. Each long day can feel like it must last forever, never ending, yet, like the length of our fleshy days on earth, it eventually winds down, spins itself out, darkening gradually into shadow.
In a few short months we will let go with reluctance as if no summer like it could ever come again.
Yet another will, somehow, somewhere, someday. Our very flesh can depend on it.
Surely such a never-ending summer is what heaven itself will be.
I know from experience that when I allow busy little doings to fill the precious time of early morning, when contemplation might flourish, I open the doors to the demon of acedia. Noon becomes a blur – no time, no time – the wolfing down of a sandwich as I listen to the morning’s phone messages and plan the afternoon’s errands.
When evening comes, I am so exhausted that vespers has become impossible. It is as if I have taken the world’s weight on my shoulders and am too greedy, and too foolish, to surrender it to God. ~Kathleen Norris from The Quotidian Mysteries
These are days with no breathing room,
no time to stop and appreciate each moment
as a bud about to burst into bloom.
And it is my fault
that I’m not breathing deeply enough~
simply skimming the surface
in my race to the end of the day
as time’s petals, so open, so brilliant, so eternal
close up unseen and unknown.
Only in sleep I see their faces, Children I played with when I was a child, Louise comes back with her brown hair braided, Annie with ringlets warm and wild.
Only in sleep Time is forgotten — What may have come to them, who can know? Yet we played last night as long ago, And the doll-house stood at the turn of the stair.
The years had not sharpened their smooth round faces, I met their eyes and found them mild — Do they, too, dream of me, I wonder, And for them am I too a child? ~Sara Teasdale, 1884 – 1933
Some nights my dreams take me,
like a time traveler,
to those bygone days
when all was simple
and life’s horizons so distant.
perhaps in another’s dream,
I am that child again
with goofy grin and freckled face
and in that dream, the horizon,
so near now I can almost touch it,
stretches out forever
as time is forgotten.