"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

31 December 2010

Hopes for the New Year

Seeking something thoughtful for the beginning of a new year, I turned to Mary Oliver and found these excerpts to be excellent reminders of who and what I wish to become. (Apologies for the lack of indentions from the original; I can't seem to get them to work in this venue.)

from "Six Recognitions of the Lord"
(section 5)

Oh, feed me this day, Holy Spirit, with
the fragrance of the fields and the
freshness of the oceans which you have
made, and help me to hear and to hold
in all dearness those exacting and wonderful
words of our Lord Christ Jesus, saying:
Follow me.

from "On Thy Wondrous Works I will Meditate"
(section 6)

I would be good -- oh, I would be upright and good.
To what purpose? To be shining not
sinful, not wringing out of the hours
petulance, heaviness, ashes. To what purpose?
Hope of heaven? Not that. But to enter
the other kingdom: grace, and imagination,

and the multiple sympathies: to be as a leaf, a rose
a dolphin, a wave rising
slowly then briskly out of the darkness to touch
the limpid air, to be God's mind's
servant, loving with the body's sweet mouth -- its kisses, its
words --

from "Messenger"

My work is loving the world.
[. . .]

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
[. . .]
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

24 December 2010

Christmas Eve Musings

Last night we drove around town looking at lights. There aren't as many as usual this year, but still we saw some beautiful displays, and the toyland folks aren't stinting: on the roof a blinking-red-and-green train filled with toys, Santa waving alongside it, the yard filled with gingerbread men, a creche, a tree and a star, candy canes and lollipops blazing in a garden, reindeer pulling a sleigh, the house and fence outlined in bursts of color, and 10-foot toy soldiers guarding the scene -- a display that makes me sigh with delight every Christmas at its extravagance of joy. Yet just as moving were the white-lighted trees framed between golden curtains in bay windows and the simple wreaths on front doors, quieter celebrations of the same joy.

I missed my parents -- I would like to be with my mother looking at the lights in her town, and it's hard to think that I'll never look at the lights with Daddy or with my beloved mother-in-law again. But the beauty doesn't change for the sorrow; it only takes on a greater poignance in its promise of eternity to come because of the One we celebrate this season. And I rejoice to know that I will see them again and that day not so far distant as it may seem.

We missed the lunar eclipse the other night because of cloud cover; Phoebe hasn't been spectacular for me for a while now, but rather teasing with the occasional glimpse of a sliver or so. This morning, however, as I was leaving around 9:00 to do some shopping, she showed herself uniquely: still near the full, she floated among the softly mottled, gentle cirrus clouds in a light blue sky and matched them precisely in color, only her perfect shape distinguishing her. I'm still here, she seemed to remind me; just keep your eyes open. And I rejoiced in her quiet, demure beauty in the daytime sky.

In the parking lot, loading the bags into the back of the car, I heard the cries of geese and looked up to see them forming into v-shaped flocks, celebrating flight in the clear sky, and I rejoiced in their patterns of beauty and fellowship and teamwork and freedom.

On the way home, a squirrel with some huge prize in his mouth ran across the old ferry road in front of me, making it safely only because the traffic was light and I could I lift my foot from the gas and let the car slow just enough to offset his miscalculation. A few yards on, another started to enter the road directly in front of me and then jerked back just in time; I like to think that his neighbor dropped his precious burden long enough to squeal out a warning. And I laughed aloud at the thought and rejoiced in not taking even a squirrel's life on this lovely, anticipatory day.

photo credit: Daniel Impson

16 December 2010


We are considering a new house and have been driving around seeing what's available. The other day we saw a lovely one which happens to have a swimming pool. I had noticed in the ads that the pool has been maintained by a professional company, and as I was thinking about the house as a possible new home, I thought, "Well, that's good, but we can just call Daddy . . ."

When they lived in South Texas, my parents had a lovely swimming pool in back of the house, above the bay. We all loved it, but the kids almost lived in it. Our oldest took apart the pool vacuum once, and when his granddad caught him at it explained, "I was going to put it back together." The second son got his one spanking from his granddad when he refused to leave the pool one afternoon, though his lips were turning blue and his teeth were chattering. Being sufficiently mechanically minded, Daddy did the pool maintenance himself, at least for the most part as I recall, learning what chemicals were needed in what proportion and when, how to clean it, and so on. The kids helped whenever they could and loved to glean leaves and trash from the water with the vacuum (when not taking it apart to see how it worked).

So Daddy knew pool maintenance, and when I thought about possibly having a swimming pool, I automatically thought that we could just call him to learn how to take care of it. But he hadn't remembered the swimming pool for a long time, and now I can never call him for anything again.

I didn't know how sharp and physical grief can be.

06 December 2010

As I drove home tonight, the clouds flamed rose-gold linings "between-pie mountains." By the time I approached the driveway, the clouds above reflected the deep rose of the setting sun. Loveliness to stir the heart to praise and lift the burdens of the day.

(The picture, one K took, is actually a sunrise and much more spectacular than what I saw tonight -- but it's got the same color that so moved me on my way home.)