Monday, August 24, 2020

Gratitude in Tumultuous Times


For granting this space, that I may share 
 in Your creative, sustaining of life, 
thanks be to You, O God.



     For the miracle of seeds that turn the simplicity of lawn    
into a riot of color and beauty,
haven for small creatures,
thanks be to You.

For the ever present late-summer music of
crickets and katydids
and the goldfinch song among the sunflowers,

for monarchs and swallowtails and bees of all sizes feeding
on buckwheat in the hedgerow,
thanks be to You.

For blossoms that feed the
  migrating ruby-throats,
almost-never-still, zipping
back and forth between flowers,
feeders and each other,
thanks be to You.

For the deep peace of such a place,
for the gift of participating in the provision of Your care,
over and over,
day by day,
moment by moment,
thanks be to You.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

On Acceptance

This post was originally written for Prayer Notes, an online publication by Oasis Ministry for Spiritual Development and will appear there in August.

I have become quite fond of the green frogs who inhabit the old pond that came with the house. And the one goldfish who, along with another who is now missing, produced an uncountable number of progeny that I have no idea what to do with. I am grateful for the young flickers who poke exploratory holes in the ancient apple tree’s immature fruit and the catbirds who not-so-stealthily pilfer blueberries from bushes I put in this spring. I don’t mind the chipmunk who tunnels around the newly planted hydrangea, or even the young rabbits who feel the need to sample almost everything I’ve planted. I have a sense of belonging in their midst, they who were here long before we arrived.

But the snapping turtle was another matter. I first noticed its nostrils poking above the water’s surface one recent evening, fearful at first that some displaced sea monster had entered the pond. As it raised its head and I recognized the newcomer, I admit to being momentarily horrified even, thankfully, as a curious fascination took hold.

And so…in addition to all the creatures I have most gladly welcomed, we have this one I would not have chosen, but have come to accept as being a member of our tiny ecosystem. It is said that the contemplative life is one in which we are invited to open ourselves to what is…the reality around us as it is, what we like and don’t like, what we can and cannot change, and to live our lives from that noticing. I have been given an intimate, tangible reminder of that invitation and have found that in my responding, surprisingly, he or she has become not so objectionable after all. Thanks be to God!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saying Goodbye

They were here this morning, 
the young pileated woodpecker
and his mother,
chipping away at the old stump,
foraging for sustenance, 
for grubs, worms and borers,
foraging for what would be soon
no longer 

Today, we will say goodbye to our 
old dog, whose weary heart
is failing. So much of
life shared together,
memories etched into our
very hearts.

How difficult to let him go.

We will place him  
in the hedgerow, 
his body to nourish the 
young trees and shrubs that will
sustain the wild ones who come.

"Important work happens within us
we stop and allow 
ourselves to be open." * 
And so, may I be open to
the deepening 

that comes with the
chosen acceptance
of grief.

* The Pilgrim Spirit, Andrea Skevington, pg. 20

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The First Morning

If this morning were the first morning,
the first dawn of the world's awakening,
to what would I be drawn?

Would I pay more attention to what have become
the common, expected happenings of early June...
the red-winged blackbird's squeaky song
and the complicated warbles of the house wren,  
the tiny chipmunk's indefatigable energy
as he 
bounds around the barn,
startling a pair of 
chipping sparrows with his 
boisterous antics?

Would I gaze in greater wonder at the sight 
of ruby-throats on the 
blue salvia, meticulously working each flower
or the exquisite colors of the 
fuchsia hanging on my front porch?

Would I delight in the ghostly, 
back-lit appearance of gnats in flight,
or the single strand of a spider's silk glinting in the sun,
or dewdrops sparkling on the still grasses 
in the field across the road? 

Would I smile at the ash's swaying branches,
or the breezes on my cheek,
the bluebirds' soft whistles 
and the catbirds' persistent chatter?

Were it the first morning, I would not need to turn  
to these gifts for solace, 
for refuge in times 
of the fear and anger and sadness
that had not yet come into the world.
And yet, in our day,
these common, expected happenings
of early June
are just that.
Thanks be to God.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Hymns of the Morning

Hymns of praise to You, O Creator God

Hymns of rain pattering on new leaves this morning,
            of drips on the pond

            and wind in the boughs,
            the soft melodies of wood thrush and peewee
            and raucous cries of blue jay and nuthatch,
            of catbirds' murmuring musings and
            tanagers' buzzy cadence.

Hymns of trucks in the distance,
            their provision and the life within their cabs,
            of a husband's footsteps on old wooden floors
            and the teapot whistling in the kitchen,

            of neighboring roosters' early crowing
            and their hens' laying song.

Hymns of woodpecker's drilling
            and their young's insistent squawks,
            the whoosh of air beneath the vulture's wings
            and the twang of the green frog's call,
            of squirrels chattering
            and the vixen's scream.

Hymns of praise to You, O Creater God,
Hymns that tune my heart to You.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Hidden Places

Enfolded in the greens of yellow birch,
of shagbark hickory and beech,
the blackhaw thicket, newly
leafed out and blooming,
stands impenetrable.
For me anyway.
The hooded warbler singing
from within
has no trouble navigating
the tangle of twigs and branches,
feasting on insects
too tiny for me 
to see.

His song I know, 
but he moves unseen until,
momentarily flitting
into the open,
he is revealed, 
brilliant yellow and black,
going about his business
unmindful of my 
quiet presence.

The northern waterthrush is 
a different story. 
He too sings,
leading me on
in anticipation and 
to the next thicket, 
the next turn in the path, 
just out of reach
remaining invisible,
there but not 

How like the realities buried
within me.
The unease disguised
as anger,
too frightening to face
It hides and weaves 
through the recesses
of my consciousness
until, finally,
following its movements,
I recognize the fear
that has given itself away.
And with that recognition,

The thickets have taught me
how to wait,
how to hold the 
seen and the unseen,
how to hold what is
known and unknown,
and the freedom to dare to
hold them both. 

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Hazel's Woods

There are old stumps here,
relics of giants who used to 
dot this neglected woodland.
And roads that have filled 
in with trout-lilies and dwarf ginseng
and mayapples that 
have spilled over from
the forest floor on either side,
a carpet as far as the eye can see.

Wood thrush and catbirds
have arrived, their songs the
blessing and benediction
of the day, 
now joining the towhees
and house wrens
who arrived, and
staked out territory,
some days ago.

Set amid surrounding houses
and farms,
this old patch of woods is all
that remains of what once was,
an ancient-feeling sacred space,
an invitation into awe,
this secret garden, not made
by human hands.