When I am writing, I roll words around in my mind like I am tasting something. Reading a word, speaking a word,hearing a word, or writing a word may be as breathtaking as holding a lovely piece of glass to the light. As a mother, I delighted in a baby’s first word. The first word a child reads for himself brings a sense of accomplishment for him and encouragement from others. Of course, we find meaning as we begin to string words together in thoughts and sentences, and the words used in the craft of story telling are amazing tools, but a single word when considered alone can be a source of amazement.
My husband, Joe, and I had the same English teacher in high school. Mr. Everett loved the word murmur . A musical friend’s favorite word is alleluia. I love the words dappled and candlelight. Author and world traveler Francis Mayes says that two of her favorite words are linked together: “departure” and “time”. Poet Molly Peacock says she first fell in love with the word joy because it had a circle inside!
I think I fell in love with poetry because I love tasting the words and looking at them through the light.
I think Gerard Manley Hopkins may have felt that way, too.
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:
These garden chairs remind me to come and sit for awhile. They are good pondering chairs. A phrase from a devotional prompt suggests if I am to “live in a moment, poke around it, feel its texture and know its color and nuance”, I need to sit with it long enough to know and sense God’s presence sitting with me.
Sometimes sitting with a moment and sensing God’s presence can happen in a prayer garden, a waiting room, or even while I am doing something…slicing strawberries with a grandchild, gardening, working. I believe my homework can have these sitting moments. This comes harder than the still and the beautiful circumstance, but it happens when I find the still and the beautiful whatever I am doing.
I consider in what ways I can be deliberate so that the sweet tension of rest and work, reflect and respond, commune and connect, worship and serve is balanced. I can be engaged with God, and at the same time recognize and respond to the connection He desires for me with people and work. Is this daily choosing and juxtaposition practicing the presence of God? I think so. I know He is present. I don’t practice Him like piano, stopping when I think I have it or when I have done enough and have another task. He is and He is with me.
I have loved magnolia trees as long as I can remember. My childhood home was next door to a school yard lined with these magnificent trees. Along with making mud pies and play dishes out of hydrangea leaves, I loved to play under magnolia shade, breathing the fragrance of giant creamy white blooms centered with honey colored pollen that drew the attention of bees and inventing infinite ways to play with the cones and scarlet seeds which remained when petals fell off. Sometimes we cut a bloom to float in a bowl of water inside, being careful not to touch or brown the petals which were each bigger than my hand.
When our boys were young, our family loved living for awhile in an old Victorian house that had a huge magnolia tree in the front yard. I could lean from the second story porch to breathe in the unique fragrance when it bloomed.
Some years later would find us living far from the magnolias of Texas, in Indonesia. There, in the palace gardens of Bogor, I found a magnolia tree! Although I visited there a number of times, I never saw it bloom. I thought perhaps that tree, like me, survived but did not thrive so far from home. Later I learned that magnolias are considered native to Southeast Asia as well as the Southern U.S. but that older trees which are moved do not do well because their roots are different from many trees so moving is hard on them.
Now, once more I have a magnolia tree in my yard, and treat myself to bringing one bloom inside. A magnolia bloom declines quickly, but its color and texture draw me in a new way as the snowy layers turn to ivory, then soft peach, sepia, and finally look like caramel colored leather or suede.