O hushed October morning mild, Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; To-morrow’s wind, if it be wild, Should waste them all.
O hushed October morning mild, Begin the hours of this day slow, Make the day seem to us less brief. Hearts not averse to being beguiled, Beguile us in the way you know; Release one leaf at break of day; At noon release another leaf; One from our trees, one far away… ~Robert Frost “October”
These mornings I wander stunned by light and mist to see trees tremble inside their loosening cloaks, a pulsing palette of color ready to detach, revealing mere bones and branches.
I want it all to be less brief, leave the leaves attached like a fitted mosaic rather than randomly falling away.
Their release is not their choosing: the trees know it is time for slowly letting go~ readying for sleep, for sprouts and buds, for fresh tapestry to be woven from October’s leaves lying about their feet.
Make a one-time or recurring donation to support daily Barnstorming posts
How long does it take to make the woods? As long as it takes to make the world. The woods is present as the world is, the presence of all its past, and of all its time to come. It is always finished, it is always being made, the act of its making forever greater than the act of its destruction. It is a part of eternity, for its end and beginning belong to the end and beginning of all things, the beginning lost in the end, the end in the beginning.
What is the way to the woods, how do you go there? By climbing up through the six days’ field, kept in all the body’s years, the body’s sorrow, weariness, and joy. By passing through the narrow gate on the far side of that field where the pasture grass of the body’s life gives way to the high, original standing of the trees. By coming into the shadow, the shadow of the grace of the strait way’s ending, the shadow of the mercy of light.
Why must the gate be narrow? Because you cannot pass beyond it burdened. To come in among these trees you must leave behind the six days’ world, all of it, all of its plans and hopes. You must come without weapon or tool, alone, expecting nothing, remembering nothing, into the ease of sight, the brotherhood of eye and leaf. ~Wendell Berry, “Sabbath 1985 V”
We who live in the six day world, walking the six day path to the narrow gate forget too quickly about the seventh day Sabbath. The meaning of our existence is not defined by how much we accomplish in the week, or how capable we are at carrying our burdens.
We are invited to walk through the narrow way, where worries and heavy loads cannot fit the opening.
Passing through shadow is part of reaching the light. The mercy of the shadow is — then we know light exists.
Light beyond shadow, Joy beyond tears, Love that is greater when darkest our fears; deeper the Peace when the storm is around, nearer the Hope to the lost who is found. Light of the world, ever shining, shining!
Hope in our pain and our dying. in our darkness, there is Light, in our crying, there is Love, in the noise of life imparting Peace that passes understanding.
Light beyond shadow, Joy beyond tears, Love that is greater when darkest our fears; deeper the Peace when the storm is around, nearer the Hope to the lost who is found. -Paul Wigmore
Make a one-time or recurring donation to support daily Barnstorming posts
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. ~C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity
Whether bunker or cottage or palace, when I seek shelter, safety or simplicity, it is not enough. I am not a dwelling for God until His remodel project is finished~
He puts down His chisel, hammer and saw, sees what He has salvaged from the junk heap, looks me over and declares it good.
My father’s treehouse is twenty seven years old this summer, lonesome and empty high up in the black walnut tree in our front yard. It remains a constant reminder of my father’s own abandoned Swiss Family Robinson dreams.
Over the years, it has been the setting for a local children’s TV show, laser tag wars, sleep overs and tea parties, even my writer’s retreat with a deck side view of the Cascades to the east, the Canadian Coastal Range to the north and Puget Sound to the west. Now it is a sad shell no longer considered safe to visit, as the support branches in its century-old tree are weakening with age and time. It is on our list of farm restoration projects, but other falling down buildings must be prioritized first.
My father’s dream began in February 1995 when our sons were 8 and 6 years old and our daughter just 2. We had plenty of recycled lumber on our old farm and an idea about what to build. My dad, retired from his desk job and having recently survived a lymphoma diagnosis and treatment, had many previous daunting building projects to his credit, and a few in his mind that he was yet to get to. He was eager to see what he could construct for his grandkids by spring time. He doodled out some sketches of what might work in the tree, and contemplated the physics of a 73 year old man scaling a tree vs. building it on the ground and hoisting it up mostly completed. I got more nervous the more I thought about it and hoped we could consider a project less risky, and praying the weather wouldn’t clear enough for construction to start any time soon.
The weather did clear just as my father’s health faded. His cancer relapsed and he was sidelined with a series of doctor’s appointments, hospitalizations and treatment courses. He hung on to that hope of getting the treehouse going by summer, still thinking it through in his mind, still evaluating what he would need to buy to supplement the materials already gathered and piled beneath the tree. In the mean time he lost physical strength day by day.
I decided his dream needed to proceed as he fought his battle, so I borrowed library books on treehouses, and hired two college age brothers who lived down the road to get things started. I figured if my dad got well enough to build again, at least the risky stuff could be already done by the young guys. These brothers took their job very seriously. They pored over the books, took my dad’s plans, worked through the details and started in. They shinnied up the tree, put up pulleys on the high branches and placed the beams, hoisting them by pulling on the ropes with their car bumper. It was working great until the car bumper came off.
I kept my dad updated with photos and stories. It was a diversion for him, but the far off look in his eye told me he wasn’t going to be building anything in this world ever again. He was gone by July. The treehouse was completed a month later. It was everything my dad had dreamed of, and more. It had a deck surrounded by a protective railing, a trap door, and staircase up the trunk. We had an open tree celebration and had 15 friends and neighbors up there at once. I’m sure dad was sipping lemonade with us as well, enjoying the view.
Now all these years later, the treehouse is tilting on its foundation as the main weight-bearing branch is weakening with age. We’ve declared it condemned, not wanting to risk an accident. As I look out my front window, it remains a daily reminder of past dreams fulfilled and those yet unfulfilled. Much like my father’s body, the old walnut tree is weakening, hanging on by the roots, but its muscle strength is failing. It will, inevitably come down in one of our frequent fierce windstorms, just as its nearby partner did a few years ago.
The treehouse dream branched out in another way. One of the construction team brothers decided to try building his own as a place to live in his woods, using a Douglas Fir tree as the center support and creating an octagon, two stories, 30 feet off the ground. He worked on it for two years and moved in, later marrying someone who decided a treehouse was just fine with her, and for 20+ years, they’ve been raising five children there. The treehouse kids are old enough to come work for me on our farm, a full circle feeling for me. This next generation is carrying on a Swiss Family Robinson dream that began in my father’s mind and our front yard.
I still have a whole list full of dreams myself, some realized and some deferred by time, resources and the limits of my imagination. I feel the clock ticking too, knowing that the years and the seasons slip by me faster and faster as I near the age my father was when he first learned he had cancer. It would be a blessing to me to see others live out the dreams I have held so close.
Like my father, I will some day teeter in the wind like our old tree, barely hanging on. When ready to fall to the ground, I’ll reach out with my branches and hand off my dreams too. The time will have come to let them go. Thank you, Dad, for handing me yours.
Make a one-time and recurring donation to support daily Barnstorming posts
I do not like to think about my life, one lived too often without original fire.
I would rather walk among the serious trees, hooded by important weather, by immense silences.
I’d rather unravel the wind’s calligraphies, letter by letter, and spell myself into the world,
a glittering altar of atoms, all aswirl. Who can know what will happen to each of us,
as time’s currents bend and assail us, as gravity pulls us further into ourselves?
Better to be buoyed skyward, to modestly reach out to the palaver of raindrops, to the silky leaves,
so that the air’s amazement stirs an answering ripple among my own heavy branches.
Let me lose myself in the star’s mute company, among the steady wanderers of night
whose eyes ignite a cupola of yearnings. Crown me with a wreath of stars unmoored
from desire, untampered by this ache for a blaze beyond the tremor of my fingertips. ~Maurya Simon, “A Thousand Acres of Light” from Cartographies
I take myself too seriously, thinking everything in my life must be planned so I am prepared for what could happen next –
Of course it is impossible as who can know?
Each day the unexpected happens if I am willing to recognize it: the rush of the wind, the drenching of raindrops, the tingle of the winter sun on my face.
In that moment I might find endless perfection.
Even the thriving among us may lie down this night and fail to wake tomorrow, atoms toppled over, leaves shriveled, roots exposed, no longer needing to breathe much sooner than planned.
Let me lose myself in that thought: what is lost here is more than replaced by the joy of beholding the Face of the Eternal God.
Faire is the heav’n, where happy souls have place, In full enjoyment of felicitie, Whence they doe still behold the glorious face Of the divine, eternall Majestie…
Yet farre more faire be those bright Cherubins Which all with golden wings are overdight, And those eternall burning Seraphins, Which from their faces dart out fierie light; Yer fairer than they both, and much more bright, Be th’ Angels and Archangels which attend On God’s owne person, without rest or end.
These then is faire each other farre excelling As to the Highest they approach more neare, Yet is that Highest farre beyond all telling Fairer than all the rest which there appeare, Though all their beauties joynd together were: How then can mortall tongue hope to expresse The image of such endlesse perfectnesse? ~Edmund Spenser
Make a one-time or recurring donation to support Barnstorming daily posts
These are amazing: each Joining a neighbor, as though speech Were a still performance. Arranging by chance
To meet as far this morning From the world as agreeing With it, you and I Are suddenly what the trees try
To tell us we are: That their merely being there Means something;
A silence already filled with noises, A canvas on which emerges
A chorus of smiles, a winter morning. Placed in a puzzling light… ~John Ashbery from “Some Trees”
Surrounded as we are by special trees on this farm, I watch them carefully through the seasons. I hope to learn what they have to teach me about adaptation to change through the driest of hot days, to the coloring and loss of their leafy wardrobes, to the barren nakedness of winter, to the renewal of buds adorning spring branches.
Trees have plenty to say, but all in invisible silence. I’ve read about the communication that takes place underground between them via their roots and I have to say — I feel left out knowing I don’t speak or understand their language.
So I learn from trees by observing what is visible above the ground, especially when the light is just right.
Simply by merely being here, year after year – that means something.
Make a one-time or recurring donation to support Barnstorming
The birds do not sing in these mornings. The skies are white all day. The Canadian geese fly over high up in the moonlight with the lonely sound of their discontent. Going south. Now the rains and soon the snow. The black trees are leafless, the flowers gone. Only cabbages are left in the bedraggled garden. Truth becomes visible, the architecture of the soul begins to show through. God has put off his panoply and is at home with us. We are returned to what lay beneath the beauty. We have resumed our lives. There is no hurry now. We make love without rushing and find ourselves afterward with someone we know well. Time to be what we are getting ready to be next. This loving, this relishing, our gladness, this being puts down roots and comes back again year after year. ~Jack Gilbert “Half the Truth”
Time to be what we are getting ready to be next.
Once again comes a slowing of days and lengthening of nights; some may be on the move but I am being prepared for months of stillness and silence without the rush and hurry of madding lives.
I relish this time peering past the vanishing beauty to discern the Truth of Who is at home with us.
He put down roots here. Though He flew away, He will return.
A book of beauty in words and photography available to order here:
Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun! One mellow smile through the soft vapory air, Ere, o’er the frozen earth, the loud winds run, Or snows are sifted o’er the meadows bare. One smile on the brown hills and naked trees, And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast, And the blue gentian flower, that, in the breeze, Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last. Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee Shall murmur by the hedge that skirts the way, The cricket chirp upon the russet lea, And man delight to linger in thy ray. Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air. ~William Cullen Bryant “November”
The window of richness is brief these early November mornings, enough time to feed and water animals, watch the geese fly overhead, capture the light and fog in softvapory air before it dissipates back to just another ordinary day. This blessing of light is beyond my understanding, beyond my ability to preserve, beyond any gratitude I can offer. It is freely given with a smile and I delight to linger…
A book of beauty in words and photography – available to order here:
Give me October’s meditative haze, Its gossamer mornings, dewy-wimpled eves, Dewy and fragrant, fragrant and secure, The long slow sound of farmward-wending wains, When homely Love sups quiet ‘mid his sheaves, Sups ‘mid his sheaves, his sickle at his side, And all is peace, peace and plump fruitfulness. ~Alfred Austin “October”
October’s golden gossamer mornings and evenings with lambent light on leaves and fields and clouds.
We, the homely, are illuminated, plump and fruitful.
How Love turns the ordinary to magic.
A book of beauty in words and photography, available to order here:
Again I resume the long lesson: how small a thing can be pleasing, how little in this hard world it takes to satisfy the mind and bring it to its rest.
Within the ongoing havoc the woods this morning is almost unnaturally still. Through stalled air, unshadowed light, a few leaves fall of their own weight.
The sky is gray. It begins in mist almost at the ground and rises forever. The trees rise in silence almost natural, but not quite, almost eternal, but not quite.
What more did I think I wanted? Here is what has always been. Here is what will always be. Even in me, the Maker of all this returns in rest, even to the slightest of His works, a yellow leaf slowly falling, and is pleased. ~Wendell Berry “VII”
What more did I think I wanted?
To know that as long as I’m able to hold on, I can be a spot of light in a dark and bleak world. Once I let go, it is finished and worthwhile, seeing His knowing smile.
A book of beauty in words and photography, available to order here: