Friday, June 27, 2014

The steward of small things

THE LOVELY, WILD SCENT OF RAIN is wafting in the window on a south wind.

Rain. Lots of it. The rainiest year on record. Mosquitoes attack in wispy swarms. Even in full sun! I'm marked with welts, even a couple of kid-like scabs on my ankles (bony spots are usually itchiest).

Scratching insect bites: An ancient summer ritual.

(Just now, a tiny red spider crawls in wavering circles across my screen, searching for a smell, a texture, an object she recognizes. I lose her for a second when I look away but eventually find her on the table. She is escorted to a leaf outside.)

In April, I brought home two native chokecherries, knowing they're beloved by birds. Then I learned that chokecherry's leaves, stems, bark and seeds—every part but its fruit—contain cyanide. Poison to mammals, like my little cat, who is allowed in the back yard. So the seedlings stayed in their containers on my back porch as I fostered them, pondering where their true home should be.

In a wild field not far away, in the sun in an open spot amid the flowering clovers, trefoil, daisies and fleabane, I planted them today. 

I cleared the stones from around their roots, but they're on their own now. My wish is that they send their roots deep into that long-ago prairie soil and thrive, growing fruit for hungry feathered creatures to feast upon, making their home again on lands where they once grew.

Full summer snuck up on me. It was a surprise, like rounding a curve the other day and catching sight of a doe lit by morning sunlight, grazing in grasses high as her back, in the place above the river where the wild turkeys like to strut.

Driving to work. Rounding a curve. Ordinary. But then: heart-singing beauty. 

Like that. 

This moment was shaped like a bowl, as a bowl is shaped like a lake and a lake reflects the sky, and in its it hollow it held a handful of exquisitely ripe raspberries, with raspberry ice cream. Juicy with all that rain, sugared by rare days of hot sun, throbbing with life and summer. 

A body-shivering deliciousness: this is living. 

An overpowering feeling: this is a gift. 

Earth our home, let me thank you for the care you take of me. With such generosity and love you feed us, sustain us, delight us and fill us with joy. 

In reciprocity, I make this offering into your rich, dark, life-giving hands: Two small chokecherries. 

I commend these green spirits to you and place them in your care. 

Make them to flourish upon your breast, let them be part of the unending tale of wonder you tell. 

Of how you provide for all, for free. 

Of how each creature and each growing thing depends on your generosity. 

Of how there is a difference between taking what has been offered and taking what has not. And that the difference begins with gratitude.

With this offering, I give thanks. 

An abundance of gifts come your way.

Towers of bright clouds piled high in a blue sky. 

The glowing red of ripe raspberries, halfway between crimson and rose petal.  

The flashing flight of a blackbird past your window. 

Five bronze bells ringing noon from high on the hill every day—until one day, the chords suddenly cast soft white petals over your heart. 


It's like this: So many things that matter can't be planned or scheduled. Can't be corralled or orchestrated, dissected or predicted or codified. 

You may just look up, or listen, or sniff the wind, and there it is. 

Freely given.

Please recognize and accept these gifts.

Yes, they're intentional.

They were made for you. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Trust in doves

"Don't trust the pictures of doves on the decorative banners festooning your churches. Trust real doves."

"Don't trust any stained glass windows whose frames have been hammered into the shape of a rose, or that depict elegantly creeping vines or gentle lambs. Trust real roses, and real vines, and real lambs—things that breathe and eat and drink and live and die."

"Whatever you do, don't trust in your lofty ideas about this world, or in your abstracted liturgical metaphors about what it means to be living in it. Trust only—and always—in the real thing."


"...I began to feel the stirrings of revelation. Instead of processing the urban environment as an agglomeration of sidewalks, storefronts, and apartment buildings—all of them combining to crowd out or tamp down nature—I became convinced that I was witnessing holy, irrepressible nature assert itself in response."

"In the cracks of the pavement before me, I noticed micro-gardens of tiny weeds sprouting up defiantly.

"High above my head, the clear morning sky had slyly appropriated the glass-paned sides of office towers, turning them into giant mirrors that reflected its bright blue light.

"As I waited at a crosswalk, my newly acquired X-ray vision enabled me to look down at the street and to see, inches below it, the continent-wide expanse of rich, black, living earth."

"At that moment I was made to understand: the kingdom of heaven isn't some plane in another dimension, understandable only through symbols and reachable only upon death. The kingdom of heaven is here on earth. The natural paradise that surrounds us is our true home, both physically and spiritually."

"But if we're to partake in all the glorious gifts it would bestow, we must acknowledge its sacredness. Every plastic six-pack ring that makes its way to the ocean, every gallon of toxic waste that leaches into an estuary, every tenth-of-a-degree rise in average global temperatures represents another step away from the garden...."

Excerpted from the article Back to the Garden by Michael Ellick
Photos: Cathedral of St. Paul


Mr. Ellick also wrote: "I recalled learning that the pillars and arches of some of Europe's grandest medieval cathedrals were intended by church fathers to evoke towering tree canopies and forest groves—trees that had to be cut down so the very cathedrals evoking them could go up."

Which put me in mind of another cathedral dedicated to St. Paul that I visited a year ago in London. And how when there, at the risk of sounding churlish, I spent most of my time wondering why humans spent so much effort creating a sacred place, when every inch of this earth is already sacred and shining with life and spirit.

Was it because they'd fallen in love with the symbol so deeply that it crowded out their natural human affinity for the physical? Loved the thought and the word, and rejected the blooming rose, the fruiting vine, the lamb who hungered, all outside the doors?

I'm minded of the Fool in Twelfth Night, who sings:

What is love? 'Tis not hereafter.
Present mirth hath present laughter.
What’s to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty.

Monday, June 2, 2014

I want you to stay

"Train your eyes on the wreck & wiggle through the cracks." Richard Buckner

May 28
Glorious sun, cool damp air, I can almost feel the green things surging up toward the sky. Good morning, bird in the bush, good morning, hand holding the pen, good morning tires on pavement, the good green earth, the nurturing soft air, the strong sunlight.

Everyone, meet Juneberry.

Juneberry, here is your adoring public, your blue sky, your home and mine.

I feel gratitude for your presence, glad to share your beauty with passersby, and your ripe berries, when you bear them, with all takers. (As long as they have feathers not fingers.)

May 23
Continued bird research reveals that there is a family of Cooper's hawks in the neighborhood. They nest in the tall elm on the boulevard next to Doc's house. I watch them flap-flap-swoop as they carry sticks and long ribbons of stems back to the nest. Finishing touches.

Almost daily I see wild turkeys browsing in the grass between the river and Hwy 5, or spot Great Blue Herons sailing majestically high over the river gorge, or watch eagles and hawks gyring circles far above us.

Whatever else I may be thinking is interrupted by happiness.

When I'm on the first entrance ramp of the day I power down the window to hear the endearing churrr of the red-winged blackbirds nesting in the small marsh nestled between roads. A sound that makes my heart squeeze, the physical feeling that translates as love.

On the second entrance ramp of the day, I again lower the window, at the spot beloved of hungry wild turkeys. Some days there are two or three toms there, lording it over the hens--huge and grand, displaying their splendid tails, their puffed-out feathers.

Whether I actually see them or not, I've taken to calling, "Good morning, turkeys!" out the window as I round the curve. Then I giggle.

It makes me happy.

I am trying to gather up the feeling of spring, all its this-ness and now-ness, and hold it inside so I don't have to lose it.

But as anyone who's ever lost anything or anyone dear to them knows, this doesn't work. Anticipating loss is the opposite of now-ness. It gets in the way of living. I know this, but I resist letting go of it. It isn't protecting me, I must patiently tell myself.

Do I listen?

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