As this day draws to a close, my mind wanders back through the years…
Easter when I was young meant a new dress, hair curled (with bristly rollers and a hot hair dryer on Saturday), gloves, hat, purse and maybe new shoes. We’d go to church with Aunt Helen.
We’d have an Easter egg hunt in the house. My sister and I each had a woven basket with a nest of green paper grass and filled with eggs we had colored the day before. We usually had some plastic eggs filled with candy, too.
I also remember having delicate large decorated sugar eggs that were hollow inside with a peep-hole on one end to look at a spring-themed diorama inside.
Most years, we’d drive the hour or so to Grandma and Grandpa’s house where we’d have a big meal with cousins and Aunts and Uncles and look for Easter eggs out in the yard. I don’t have many specific food memories associated with Easter. Jelly beans, marshmallow peeps and chocolate rabbits were the main treats we had.
In later years, Easter day usually meant a long morning at church. As church organist/pianist, I often played for 3 or even 4 services on Easter morning. When my husband and I had small children of our own, we made special arrangements with the Easter Bunny to visit while we were away at church (since we didn’t have time before church usually).
We colored eggs every year often experimenting with new ways to decorate the shells — natural dyes, crayon batiks, rubber bands, ombre effects, etc.
Holy Week holds very special memories of having our daughter. I wrote about this in another blog post, The Miracle of Grace. I am still in AWE of the miracle of her birth. Hallelujah! She was baptized on Easter Sunday.
Holy Week services have been an important part of my faith journey. I remember being moved to tears singing Ah, Holy Jesus in an 1800’s sanctuary on Good Friday. I remember singing in and directing Easter/Holy Week cantatas. Lent and Tenebrae services made more sense after we became Lutherans. I’ve attended a few Seder meals in the home of a Jewish friend and cherish those memories. There have been healing services and prayer vigils.
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Image by QuirkyJazz (aka The Tromp Queen); via Flickr CC
Image by QuirkyJazz (aka The Tromp Queen); via Flickr CC
He who has God lacks nothing. Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta.
Image via Flickr CC, by Shihmei Barger
church in NJ
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
My mini daffodils, TTQ cc
photo by quirkyjazz, aka Jill crabapple blooms
crabapple bloom, Mother’s Day in Galena, IL — photo by quirkyjazz, aka Jill
crabapple leaves in spring sunlight
More from the Koln Dom — stained glass
One year when our children were very young we visited my mom and dad for Easter weekend. After we came home from church, we found a tree in their yard decorated with plastic Easter eggs. There were other eggs hidden around their yard. It was quite a mystery because none of us had made arrangements for the Easter Bunny to visit us there. (We solved this mystery many years later when a neighbor admitted being the accomplice.)
Our children are much older now (18 and 21). This year we didn’t even color eggs at all. We did indulge in some candy, though. I deeply enjoyed attending church together, all four of us since it such a rare event now that our oldest is away at college. The church we attend now has a tradition of singing the Hallelujah Chorus (from Messiah) at the end of the Easter morning services. Anyone in the congregation who would like to sing with the choir is invited to do so. My son and I both went up to sing. It was joyous.
Whatever your faith tradition, I hope we can agree that LOVE and CARING for each other are essential for living our lives together now and forever.
I cannot ope mine eyes, But thou art ready there to catch My morning-soul and sacrifice: Then we must needs for that day make a match.
My God, what is a heart? Silver, or gold, or precious stone, Or star, or rainbow, or a part Of all these things, or all of them in one?
My God, what is a heart, That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo, Pouring upon it all thy art, As if that thou hadst nothing else to do?
Indeed man’s whole estate Amounts (and richly) to serve thee: He did not heav’n and earth create, Yet studies them, not him by whom they be.
Teach me thy love to know; That this new light, which now I see, May both the work and workman show: Then by a sunbeam I will climb to thee.
poem by George Herbert 1633
Ineffable Creator, Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom, has established three hierarchies of angels, has arrayed them in marvelous order above the fiery heavens, and has marshaled the regions of the universe with such artful skill, You are proclaimed the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.
Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.
You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.
Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.
Guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.
You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign, world without end.
–St. Thomas Aquinas
These beautiful prayers were posted on a friend’s Facebook wall recently.
The words have stayed with me.
I decided to add a few photos and share them here.
I hope you find a spark of inspiration.
ALSO — I recently discovered these great poetry books. Great stuff for those who ASPIRE to INSPIRE!
lotus flower image: via Flickr CC by Richard IJzermans: A beautiful lotus flower in the forbidden city, Beijing China.
I’m not sure if Haiku is the same singular and plural or not. I’ll have to check that out. I’m lumping two days together in this post.
Saturday was a lazy day. Sunday we visited a large contemporary church and then attended a Music of Munchkin’s concert at our local HS.
Our daughter is in the HS orchestra and this event is both outreach and fundraiser for them. Elementary and younger students come early to the concert and get to try playing all the different types of string instruments, make crafts, and have their face painted.
Then the orchestra plays a 30 minutes concert complete with skits and a car chase! The theme was The Great Mouse Detectives. Believe it or not, the plot started with a couple of thieves stealing a Stradivarius! Several detectives (twists on famous movie and TV characters) worked on the case.
The orchestra played many of the detective’s theme songs — Pink Panther, James Bond, Maxwell Smart, Mission Impossible, Scooby Do and more! It was great fun, and the young ones were thrilled. The older students put on a great show. At one point the little guy sitting in the row in front of me was bouncing up and down — turned to his Dad and said, “I LOVE this!”
The “Strad” was found, and the car chase consisted of the actors and children running up and down the aisles of the auditorium with cardboard steering wheels.
Saturday, February 8
Slug mode. Time slips by. One of “those” days: nothing’s done. Inertia enshrouds.
I enjoy reading the Writer’s Almanac. Each day Garrison Keillor publishes a poem and describes several historical figures or events related to the date. I’ve learned a lot of very interesting tidbits about authors and such, and have found many wonderful poems to love through this avenue.
At the website there is a link so you can listen to Garrison read the poem and tell about the historical events. I find his voice very soothing and expressive.
Today, Keillor tells of the influence singing Moravians had on a young Charles Wesley during a long Atlantic crossing back in the early 1700s. (Today’s poem is “The Journey” by Mary Oliver, which I instantly added to my “poems that speak to me” list.)
Charles Wesley was on a ship traveling from the colony of Georgia back to England. Many of his fellow passengers were German Moravians, and they constantly sang hymns together. This was a radical idea — the Anglican Church had beautiful choirs, but the congregation never joined in. When he returned to England, Wesley began to write hymns that could be sung by congregations, and it became his life’s work. He sometimes wrote a hymn every day, using popular songs for the tunes. The Wesley brothers traveled around England, preaching in the open air, and Charles continued to write on the road. By the time of his death at the age of 80, he had published more than 4,500 hymns, and left thousands more in manuscript form.
His hymns include “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending,” “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” and “Jesu, Lover of My Soul,” in which he wrote:
“Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on thee is stayed,
All my help from thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of thy wing.”
Her life must have been an extremely difficult one, but this woman who was born a slave had the heart and eye of an artist. She most likely created many incredible objects during her lifetime, though maybe not since money was scarce, she had nine (or more) children, and work to care for and feed that many people would be never ending. I’m thankful to have found out about this woman, her story, and the two quilts she left behind.
Take special note in the back-story below when she sells one of these quilts for $5. It breaks my heart! I guess the silver lining in that story is that we have this quilt today, and it might not have survived otherwise.
First, I want to share the section from The Writer’s Almanac about Harriet Powers and her amazing quilts. This is the first section. Then I will show you each of the two quilts with some information and descriptions of the quilt blocks for both. I hope you are soon inspired by Harriet’s story as I am.
Today (October 29) is the birthday of Harriet Powers, born into slavery outside Athens, Georgia (1837). She was married at 18 and gave birth to nine children. She lived most of her life in Clarke County, where in 1897, she began exhibiting her quilts at local cotton fairs. She was believed to have been a house slave and first learned to read with the help of the white children she cared for.
Powers’ quilts used a combination of hand and machine stitching along with appliqué to form small detailed panels. She then organized these squares to unfold a larger story, much like a modern graphic novel. This teaching style of quilting has its roots in West African coastal communities, and her uneven edging of panels mirrored the complex rhythms of African-American folk music. Through her quilts, she recorded legends and Biblical tales of patience and divine justice.
Only two pieces of her work have survived: Her Bible quilt of 1886 (see photo below), which she sold for $5 in the aftermath of the war, now hangs in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
Her Pictorial quilt of 1888 is displayed in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Powers’ work is now considered among the finest examples of Southern quilting from the 19th century.
Harriet Powers, an African American farm woman of Clarke County, Georgia, made this quilt in about 1886. She exhibited it at the Athens Cotton Fair of 1886 where it captured the imagination of Jennie Smith, a young internationally-trained local artist. Of her discovery, Jennie later wrote: “I have spent my whole life in the South, and am perfectly familiar with thirty patterns of quilts, but I had never seen an original design, and never a living creature portrayed in patchwork, until the year 1886, when there was held in Athens, Georgia, a ‘Cotton-Fair,’ which was on a much larger scale than an ordinary county fair, as there was a ‘Wild West’ show, and Cotton Weddings; and a circus, all at the same time. There was a large accumulation farm products–the largest potatoes, tallest cotton stalk, biggest water-melon! Best display of pickles and preserves made by exhibitor! Best display of seeds &c and all the attractions usual to such occasions, and in one corner there hung a quilt-which ‘captured my eye’ and after much difficulty I found the owner, a negro woman, who lives in the country on a little farm whereon she and husband make a respectable living . . . . The scenes on the quilt were biblical and I was fascinated. I offered to buy it, but it was not for sale at any price.”
Four years later, Mrs. Powers, at the urging of her husband because of hard times, offered to sell the quilt, but Miss Smith’s “financial affairs were at a low ebb and I could not purchase.” Later Jennie sent word that she would buy the quilt if Harriet still wanted to dispose of it. Harriet “arrived one afternoon in front of my door in an ox-cart with the precious burden in her lap encased in a clean flour sack, which was still further enveloped in a crocus sack. She offered it for ten dollars–but–I only had five to give.” Harriet went out to consult her husband and reported that he said she had better take the five dollars.
Mrs. Powers regretfully turned over her precious creation, but only after explaining each of the eleven panels of the design, which Jennie Smith recorded. Briefly, the subjects are Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, a continuance of Paradise with Eve and a son, Satan amidst the seven stars, Cain killing his brother Abel, Cain goes into the land of Nod to get a wife, Jacob’s dream, the baptism of Christ, the crucifixion, Judas Iscariot and the thirty pieces of silver, the Last Supper, and the Holy Family.
In her narrative about the quilt, artist Jennie revealed why she was so taken with it: “Her style is bold and rather on the impressionists order while there is a naievete of expression that is delicious.” In recent times, historians have compared Harriet’s work to textiles of Dahomey, West Africa.
The Bible quilt is both hand- and machine-stitched. There is outline quilting around the motifs and random intersecting straight lines in open spaces. A one-inch border of straight-grain printed cotton is folded over the edges and machine-stitched through all layers.
Harriet Powers was born a slave near Athens, Georgia, on October 29, 1837. At a young age, she married Armstead Powers and they had at least nine children. Some time after the Civil War, they became landowners. Eventually, circumstances forced them to sell off part of the land but not their home. The date of Harriet’s death, Jan. 1, 1910, was recently discovered on her gravestone in Athen’s Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery.
A brief synopsis of the stories, based on what Powers told the woman who bought her quilt, and preserved in the Smithsonian institution:
First Row 1: the first panel (beginning in the upper left) depicts Adam and Eve in the garden of Paradise, at the moment when the serpent is about to tempt Eve. As someone in class suggested, this may be why the serpent still has feet–it didn’t lose them until after the fall. 2: Eve has given birth to a son. Some interpretations see this as a combination nativity/Eve-Abel-Cain, and it seems reasonable to assume that both meanings are intended. 3: Satan and seven stars.
4: Cain kills his brother, and blood pours from his neck. 5: Cain is looking for a wife. 6: Jacob dreams about the angel on a ladder. 7: The Holy Spirit is present in the brown bird-like object; the scene is the baptism of Christ.
8: the crucifixion, with the sun and moon turning into blood. 9: Judas and his silver. The large star at the bottom refers to a star that was seen in 1886 for the first time in 300 years (according to Powers). 10: the Last Supper, seen from above. Judas is dressed differently from the others who are all in white. Not all the disciples are shown. 11: the Holy Family and the star of Bethlehem.
Italicized information above is from the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of American History website page for Harriet Powers’s Bible quilt.
The only other remaining piece of Harriet Powers’ textile art is her Pictorial quilt of 1888. It is held by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Powers’ work is considered among the finest examples of Southern quilting from the 19th century.
Neither of Harriet’s historic quilts is currently on display, which I think is a shame.
Appliqué quilt, dyed and printed cotton fabrics applied to cotton. The quilt is divided into fifteen pictorial rectangles. Worked with pieces of beige, pink, mauve, orange, dark red, gray-green and shades of blue cotton.
Powers is thought to have orally dictated a description of each square of her quilt to Jennie Smith, who had purchased the first quilt Powers made, and arranged for it to be exhibited at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta in 1895. This second quilt is thought to have been commissioned by a group of “faculty ladies” at Atlanta University, and given (together with Powers’s descriptions) as a gift to a retiring trustee. What follows is Powers’ descriptions of all fifteen blocks starting in the upper left and moving to the right.
FIRST ROW: 1. Job praying for his enemies. Job crosses. Job’s coffin. 2. The dark day of May 19, 1780. The seven stars were seen at 12 noon in the day. The cattle all went to bed, chickens to roost and the trumpet was blown. The sun went off to a small spot and then to darkness.
3. The serpent lifted up by Moses and women bringing their children to look upon it to be healed. 4. Adam and Eve in the garden. Eve tempted by the serpent. Adam’s rib by which Eve was made. The sun and the moon. God’s all-seeing eye and God’s merciful hand. 5. John baptizing Christ and the spirit of God descending and resting upon his shoulder like a dove.
6. John cast over board of the ship and swallowed by a whale. Turtles. 7. God created two of every kind, male and female.
8. The falling of the stars on Nov. 13, 1833. The people were frightened and thought that the end had come. God’s hand staid the stars. The varmints rushed out of their beds. 9. Two of every kind of animal continued…camels, elephants, “gheraffs,” lions, etc. 10. The angels of wrath and the seven vials. The blood of fornications. Seven-headed beast and 10 horns which arose of the water.
11. Cold Thursday, 10 of February, 1895. A woman frozen while at prayer. A woman frozen at a gateway. A man with a sack of meal frozen. Icicles formed from the breath of a mule. All blue birds killed. A man frozen at his jug of liquor. 12. The red light night of 1846. A man tolling the bell to notify the people of the wonder. Women, children and fowls frightened by God’s merciful hand caused no harm to them.
13. Rich people who were taught nothing of God. Bob Johnson and Kate Bell of Virginia. They told their parents to stop the clock at one and tomorrow it would strike one and so it did. This was the signal that they had entered everlasting punishment. The independent hog which ran 500 miles from Georgia to Virginia, her name was Betts. 14. The creation of animals continues.
15. The crucifixion of Christ between the two theives. The sun went into darkness. Mary and Martha weeping at his feet. The blood and water run from his right side.
I asked if I could re-blog it, but I decided I’m going to borrow the words and find some photos to possibly enhance them just to put my spin on things. Thanks for the inspiration, Theresa!
I think these words are very good for me to hear now. I have several friends who have just sent children off to college. I have just sent my son out the door to finish his senior year in the town we moved away from (after nearly 18 years — now we are nearly 3 hours away from him). Whether you are off on your own or the person left behind, hopefully these words will be a blessing to you!
A Blessing of Solitude by John O’Donohue
May you recognize in your life the presence,
power and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone,
that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you
intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique,
that you have a special destiny here,
that behind the facade of your life there is something
beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride,
and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.
all photos above by quirkyjazz aka Jill; see creative commons notice
I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. It is so frustrating to be tired, so tired and not be able to let go of being awake. I often get up because after a while lying there tossing and turning and thrashing around makes no sense.
Sometimes I do a crossword. Sometimes I eat a small snack (or a big one). Sometimes I read a book. Sometimes I write. I try not to use the computer or TV, but sometimes I do that, too.
Recently during one of these sleepless nights, I grabbed a book of poetry by Emily Dickinson. I’m familiar with many of her poems, but had not read this particular book all the way through. The book is in three sections: The Poet’s Art, The Works of Love, and Death and Resurrection. I’m pretty sure it was a Thrift Shop find and that it has been on my bedside bookshelf for quite a while.
I found several poems that spoke to me.
As I read, I found many poems that were new to me. Or maybe I found poems that were new to my heart.
I’m not a Dickinson scholar. I’m not even a poet (though I may write poetry from time to time), but it seems to me that she struggles quite a bit with issues of faith and eternity. She seems to be asking if it (heaven, life after death, grace) is real and if it IS real, then how does one wrap one’s mind around the concept of infinity? Of infinite life and of infinite grace?
There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be
Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself –
I love the alliteration of solitude of space and solitude of sea. I think it makes the word “death” seem more abrupt because our ear might be expecting to hear the word silence (or some similar word). And what does she mean about polar privacy? Is it cold and barren? Or is it diametric opposition between a soul and itself? We are left with finite infinity. (Talk about diametric opposition!)
One Joy of so much anguish
Sweet nature has for me
I shun it as I do Despair
Or dear iniquity –
Why Birds, a Summer morning
Before the Quick of Day
Should stab my ravished spirit
With Dirks of Melody
Is part of an inquiry
That will receive reply
When Flesh and Spirit sunder
In Death’s Immediately –
That it will never come again
Is what makes life so sweet.
Believing what we don’t believe
Does not exhilarate.
That if it be, it be at best
An ablative estate –
This instigates an appetite
I admit I had to look up the word “ablative.” I thought it meant empty or blank. I was wrong. It indicates separation from something, separation away from its source. In this poem, I hear some doubt about what happens after death: believing what we don’t believe. This sounds to me that Emily is wrestling with the unbelief. Emily was the original YOLO person! If you only have one life every precious second is sweet. You never know what really happens after you die, so enjoy LIFE.
Death is a Dialogue between
The Spirit and the Dust.
“Dissolve” says Death – the Spirit “Sir
I have another Trust” –
Death doubts it – Argues from the Ground –
The spirit turns away
Just laying off for evidence
An Overcoat of Clay.
In this poem, Emily seems to me to again be standing firmly on the side of Spirit and belief. This dialogue between Death and Spirit ends with Spirit discarding the Overcoat of Clay. So there, Spirit says: I’m living on!
The World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond—
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy – don’t know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –
In this poem Emily seems full of doubt again. The last two lines “Narcotics cannot still the Tooth That nibbles at the soul –” leaves huge question marks hanging in the air. She also says “Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies – Blushes, if any see –” which to me sounds like she is afraid to admit her doubts to herself or to anyone else. She seems to be consoling herself (and us) that even though philosophers, scholars and generations of people have asked these questions there is scanty evidence for the leap of faith. I hear hints of her faith in this poem, too, though: the Species standing beyond Invisible as Music, positive as Sound, Strong Hallelujahs rolling, asking the way — all of these convey to me a sense of hope and of belief.
Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –
From this—experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –
Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Domini’s –
This poem is a valiant attempt to describe infinity. More than valiant. I think she describes it superbly. This is why we are still reading and discussing and loving Emily Dickinson’s words nearly 130 years after her death. I love the idea that Forever is composed of Nows. It isn’t all that different from what we know, except for its infiniteness. Months dissolve, years exhale and it all goes on forever.
As if the Sea should part
And show a further Sea –
And that – a further – and the Three
But a presumption be –
Of Periods of Seas –
Unvisited of Shores –
Themselves the Verge of Seas to be –
Again, she paints us an amazingly detailed and mind boggling picture of eternity using just a few words and images. Seas inside of seas inside of seas and seas with no shores themselves the Verge of Seas — and thus, Emily helps us get a glimpse of Eternity.
God Bless Emily Dickinson. I pray that she is at peace and has all her doubts and questions answered and that Infinity is now her reality.
I don’t do re-blogs very often. But this one is perfect for me now, so I am passing it along to all of you in case it is perfect for you, too.
I follow a blog called “The Mid-Week Message” published by a United Methodist pastor in Cherokee, Iowa. His name is Magrey. He is a friend of one of my dear friends, and though I have not met him personally we have exchanged a few emails. His posts are well written, insightful and often strike me as iron sharpens iron. (Psalm 27:17).
The post I’m sharing is entitled CPR for Your Worried Soul. Magrey encourages his readers to give CPR to their souls. CPR: Cultivate Contentment; Practice Mental Sabbaths; and Revive Relationships.
I’m going to strive to take his advice. Please let me know if you take it, too.
As I’ve been writing this a passage from the Bible keeps spinning through my mind:
“For this reason I say to you,
do not be worried about your life,
as to what you will eat or what you will drink;
nor for your body, as to what you will put on.
Is not life more than food,
and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air,
that they do not sow,
nor reap nor gather into barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not worth much more than they?
And who of you by being worried
can add a single hour to his life?
And why are you worried about clothing?
Observe how the lilies of the field grow;
they do not toil nor do they spin,
yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory
clothed himself like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field,
which is alive today
and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace,
will He not much more clothe you?
You of little faith!
Do not worry then, saying,
‘What will we eat?’
‘What will we drink?’
‘What will we wear for clothing?’
For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things;
for your heavenly Father knows
that you need all these things.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you.
So don’t worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will care for itself.
“Writing is a long process of introspection; it is a voyage toward the darkest caverns of consciousness, a long, slow meditation. I write feeling my way in silence, and along the way discover particles of truth, small crystals that fit in the palm of one hand and justify my passage through this world.” Isabel Allende, Paula
“Writing is a process, a journey into memory and the soul.” Isabel Allende
“I seek truth and beauty in the transparency of an autumn leaf, in the perfect form of a seashell on the beach, in the curve of a woman’s back, in the texture of an ancient tree trunk, but also in the elusive forms of reality.” Isabel Allende, Portrait in Sepia
English: Fungi growing on tree bark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“As I travel through life,
I gather experiences that lie imprinted on the
deepest strata of memory,
and there they ferment,
and sometimes rise to the surface
and sprout like strange plants from other worlds.
What is the fertile humus
of the subconscious composed of?
Why are certain images converted
into recurrent themes
in nightmares or writing?”
The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark. The small truth has words which are clear; the great truth has great silence. Rabindranath Tagore
Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold. Leo Tolstoy
If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end;
if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin,
and in the end, despair. C. S. Lewis
My first true love was poetry. My second true love was Nancy. Since then, my first girlfriend is long gone, but my poetry has long remained. How did this happen?
The biggest obstacle to love and poetry is making it more complicated than it really is. Poems often begin by honoring a whisper barely heard; a feeling vaguely felt; a belief newly formed; an insight nearly overlooked.
And then, often in the most inconvenient circumstances—out comes the spiral notebook, the pen, the computer, the cocktail napkin—and the poem writes itself as you witness its birth.
Poems are as plentiful as dust particles suspended in air.
They are everywhere, waiting to be inhaled, sometimes with a scent of jasmine, sometimes with the scent of a farmer’s field.
Love too is plentiful and all around, a low-hanging fruit on the tree of life that thrives in every climate.
But sometimes a snippet of a poem or a whiff of love seems like it is not enough and then the ruinous pursuit begins. The well-intended packing of additional stanzas and tepid turns of the tongue around a morsel of poetry can obscure its clarity and beauty. And the well-intended packing of conditions, explanations and quotations around love can crush it like pretty stones dumped on top of a fragile flower.
I think I am beginning to get it. So much has come and gone, and yet three things endure forever: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. The love of which I speak and to which I point needs not my tinkering or explanation. Hear now my poem:
“God is love.”
Gracious God, thank you for the poem of life, and the love with which to read it.
About the Author
Dwight Lee Wolter is the author of Forgiving Our Parents, Freedom Through Forgiving (a workbook), and Forgiving Our Grownup Children. He is pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, New York.
Thoughts from the Tromp Queen:
My heart and my days are still too full for me to write anything coherent. The moving process is flowing fairly smoothly, though, for which I am greatly thankful. We’ve met some wonderful people already along the way, and are finding joy in these last few weeks with our dear friends here before we go.
I subscribe to several daily devotional type things that come into my inbox at various intervals. I sometimes don’t take time to read them. Often I open them and quickly skim through to see if anything “clicks” with me that day. Today, this one seemed to pierce right through the tired fog of my weary soul. God is love. That’s it. That is all you need to know. The poetry is there. We just need to let it sink in and live it. Let it live through us.
p.s. I added the pics, so I did exert a little creative effort to share this with you all!
i am a little church (no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
– i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april
my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are the prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness
around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains
I am a little church (far from the frantic world
with its rapture and anguish) at peace with nature
– i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing
winter by spring, I lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)
— e. e. cummings
from 95 poems
i am a little church sung by Texas Tech Women’s Chorale (This is not my choir! I think we sing it better than they do…)
Choir directed by Dr. Carolyn Cruse Music composed by Daniel Brewbaker Based on poetry by e.e. cummings, this setting is dedicated to the composer’s mother on the occasion of her 87th birthday.
i am a little church (no great cathedral) far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
I played this lovely song in a small country church this morning for the wonderful women’s choir I accompany.
The windows were open and a warm breeze was blowing. Today was one of the very first truly nice spring days we have had this year. The grass is getting quite green. The birds were chirping in nearby trees, bushes and in the nearby fields.
The church was full.
Full of singers.
Full of congregation members.
Full of music.
Full of friends.
Full of love.
My eyes were soon full of tears as our director, my friend and respected colleague of many years, read the poem out loud with great care and expression to the congregation before the women began to sing it.
The words were so beautiful.
The song is beautiful and deeply moving.
Tears were streaming down my face for most of the song this morning: tears of sadness/joy/grief/gladness.
One of my dear friends said it this way: “You cry for beauty.”
I will try to share some of the thoughts that were flowing through my mind as we sang and I played this morning.
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april
I am most definitely not sad that sun and rain have finally made april — finally on april 28!
my life is the life of the reaper and the sower
My life (mother, teacher, musician) is very much that of a reaper and a sower. Yesterday afternoon I was recognized during my daughter’s final Children’s Choir concert for my seven years directing and teaching the youngest singers. All singers who had ever been in my choirs (current and past) were called onto the stage for a photo opportunity. I was astounded at the number of children! Teachers do not often get the chance to see several years of their students at the same place and time. I say this very humbly, but it is a great joy to hear from former students (and parents and grandparents) that they love to sing, love music, are still singing and that they love, remember and are thankful for me. Seeing their smiling faces and gathering the hugs they freely gave is a joy that will stay with me forever.
Motherhood is very much a long term investment. My babies are now teenagers. I often think to myself, “I gave up my career and 17 years of my life and this is what my child is saying/doing/being?” Though I am deeply proud of both of them, but at times they can be excessively exasperating. I hold onto the thought that I am sowing seeds, that I am training them up in the way they should go, that I am giving them roots and wings.
(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness
My recent weeks have been filled with finding and losing and laughing and crying and with sadness, joy, grief and gladness as well. My family is on the verge of finding a “new” normal and of losing our “old” way of life (huge impending move and career change — see older blog posts). I have laughed through tears, and felt joy mixed with sadness so often that it has nearly become my new default emotion.
around me surges a miracle of unceasing birth and glory and death and resurrection:
I felt this very keenly in this lovely little church surrounded by greening growing fields, chirping singing birds and not far away, a small silent rural cemetery. (Another of the choir songs this morning was “May the Circle Be Unbroken” — birth, life, death, resurrection — the great unbroken circle.) Sometimes the eternal can feel very much present and immediate. I felt that.
i am a little church at peace with nature
I realized this morning again what a precious gift this life is. Faith, hope and love abide: these three.
But the greatest of these is LOVE.
I will treasure the great gift of this morning:
having a “moment” that stands still in time and memory in that beautiful little country church with wide open windows filled with bird songs, music, friends and love. winter by spring, I lift my diminutive spire to merciful Him Whose only now is forever: standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence (welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)
“Let the beauty of what we love be what we do.” — Rumi
I have a necklace that has this Rumi quote on it. This is what I endeavor to do with my life every day. It isn’t always easy to stay focused and to be in that zone of creativity/beauty/joy, but I do make that my goal.
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” — Rumi
Doing things from your soul. Yes, it takes energy and some days you just would rather be a slacker and stay home in bed. But once you put yourself out there and get moving, you realize that who you are and what you do matters greatly to those around you. I have been experiencing and living in this river of joy this week. The college students in the choirs I accompany surprised me at our last concert with bouquets of flowers and much pomp and circumstance. (There was a throne, a crown, a dozen red roses, a bouquet of flowers, a box of tissues, and alumni returning to sing with the choirs not one but TWO songs sung in my honor!!) I was overwhelmed by their generosity and by the things they said and did to express their love and appreciation. They gave me a scrapbook full of letters. Some were beautifully illustrated and amazingly creative and others were written on plain paper with a pencil. ALL of them touched me deeply. They all in their individual styles shared stories, memories, gratitude, appreciation and wishes for a bright future for me. I was and am overwhelmed. Did I already say that? Well, I was. I am. What a wonderful thing to be told that I have made a difference to and had a positive impact on so many of these young lives! I will never forget what they did for me. Their words and actions will stay with me in my heart forever right with the memories of all the joy and music we’ve shared over the years.
“I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
How its waves of glory roll;
It is like a great o’erflowing well,
Springing up within my soul.
There is Joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Oh, the half has never yet been told!”
— Barney Warren (hymn written in 1900)
“But listen to me. For one moment quit being sad.
Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you.” — Rumi
These quotes about being quiet to listen for blessings dropping and about choosing joy are ones that I also find inspiring. My mom and I were just talking about this today. I said, “Some people are just determined to be unhappy.” True! It takes a certain core of fortitude to seek out and choose to recognize (and then embrace!) the joy. It is always there. Sometimes it is deeply buried and we feel the darkness settling in. Living through those times takes endurance, family, faith, friends — most of all it takes LOVE.
“We can not cure the world of sorrows but we can choose to live in joy.” — Joseph Campbell
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen
“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” — Ps. 30:5 New Living Translation
“Yahweh, your God, is in the midst of you, a mighty one who will save. He will rejoice over you with joy. He will calm you in his love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” — Zephaniah 3:17 WEB (World English Bible)
A dear friend of mine sent me this scripture from Zephaniah recently when we were needing to make the decision about taking the new job and moving to another city. I really like the imagery of being calmed with LOVE and that an eternal being (God) would rejoice over me with singing.
Another friend reminded me of this Dr. Seuss wisdom:
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
— Dr. Seuss
I have shed many, many tears this week:
Many, many tears of Joy —
A few tears of sorrow.
I also smiled. I smiled a LOT.
I am sad that it is over.
But I am VERY, very, very glad it happened.
I didn’t grow up with Lent. I’m not sure I even really knew what Lent was until at least college, possibly even after college. After we moved to Wisconsin, however, we ended up being Lutherans. I learned more about what Lent was then, but I still always thought of it as more of a Catholic “thing.” But since I was an active organist/pianist during those years at the ELCA church, I was intimately involved in the service music for each season. As I played, I learned. I learned about the liturgical seasons and colors. I learned about special days like Christ the King, All Saints, Epiphany and more. (For instance, one perk of being the organist is that you sometimes get to eat the leftover communion bread — usually homemade! — and drink the wine since it can’t be thrown away.)
During the “Lutheran years” I learned to love Lent.
Lent is a journey.
It has never been about giving something up for me.
It isn’t about denial (in my opinion).
It is about seeking something out.
It is about the mysteries of grace and love.
It is about the people with whom we share this journey on earth.
One of my favorite movies is Chocolat. If you’ve never seen the movie, I won’t spoil it for you — but it does a wonderful job of letting us live one season of Lent through various people’s eyes in a small village in France. If you have time, I highly recommend watching it. I also highly recommend that you have some very good quality chocolate to eat while you watch it! You’ll see why.
I’m considering a couple of ways to honor this Lenten season.
I found them on Fat Pastor’s blog. One is taking 40 photos, one a day through Lent.
The other is writing handwritten notes to people, also one a day for 40 days.
I will be behind on either choice, I’m sure — once I decide which to do.
That’s just how I roll.