The Plainest of Ash

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What a piece of work is a man!
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”
~ William Shakespeare in Hamlet’s monologue 

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This dust left of man:

earth, air, water and fire
prove inadequate
to quell the significance
of how we were made of dust
and the dust we will leave behind.

Only the transcendent hope
of eternal life restored
can breathe glory
into this, us,
the plainest of ash.

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We therefore commit his body to the ground;
earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust;

in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life,
through our Lord Jesus Christ;

who shall change our vile body,
that it may be like unto his glorious body…

~Committal service from The Common Book of Prayer

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What I know for sure is this: We come from mystery and we return to mystery. I arrived here with no bad memories of wherever I’d come from, so I have no good reason to fear the place to which I’ll return.

And I know this, too: Standing closer to the reality of death awakens my awe at the gift of life.
~Parker Palmer “On the Brink of Everything

 

Where to Pour Its Gold

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As if until that moment
nothing real
had happened since Creation

As if outside the world were empty
so that she and he were all
there was — he mover, she moved upon

As if her submission were the most
dynamic of all works: as if
no one had ever said Yes like that

As if one day the sun had no place
in all the universe to pour its gold
but her small room
~Luci Shaw  “Virgin” from Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation

 

In this day of teaching young adults
“Yes means Yes” formal consent
and some states making it law of the land,
how can any of us comprehend
the “Yes” from young Mary so long ago?
How could she know
her submission transformed us all,
opening herself
to the Holy Spirit changed everything
in heaven and on earth to gold.
When we say “Yes” like her,
we too allow entrance to
our broken hearts,
our doors and windows flung wide open,
flooded in gold.

“Let it be to me as you have said…”

 

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Giving Ground

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The air was soft, the ground still cold.
In the dull pasture where I strolled
Was something I could not believe.
Dead grass appeared to slide and heave,
Though still too frozen-flat to stir,
And rocks to twitch and all to blur.
What was this rippling of the land?
Was matter getting out of hand
And making free with natural law,
I stopped and blinked, and then I saw
A fact as eerie as a dream.
There was a subtle flood of steam
Moving upon the face of things.
It came from standing pools and springs
And what of snow was still around;
It came of winter’s giving ground
So that the freeze was coming out,
As when a set mind, blessed by doubt,
Relaxes into mother-wit.
Flowers, I said, will come of it.
~Richard Wilbur “April 5, 1974”

 

As the ground softens, so do I.
Somehow winter freeze was comforting
as nothing appeared to change,
so neither did I,
staying stolid and fixed.
But now the fixed is flexing,
steaming in its labor,
and so must I,
giving ground
and birth
to blooms.

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Transcendent Moments

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”
~ John Milton

Our farm yard looked like it had a retro remodel update this past week by heavy winds and rain, the green sod now covered with a mottled yellow brown shag carpet of leaves.   This transformation is temporary as this new carpet will soon start to rot under the burden of endless days of wintry drizzle and freezing weather.

Today’s epiphany:  only 8 months ago, none of these leaves even existed.  They were mere potential in bud form, about to burst and grow in a silent awesome explosion of green and chlorophyll.   After their brief tenure as shade and protection and fuel factory for their tree, last week they rained to the ground in torrents, letting go of the only (and so transient) security they had known.

Now they become compost, returning their substance to the soil to feed the roots of the trees that gave them life to begin with.

Recycled by transcendent death,
so momentary,
so momentous.