Feather on the Breath of God
pay attention, be astonished writes Mary Oliver.
be still and know says a Psalm poem
what will surprise me today?
am I ready to receive that gift?
rustic arbor of arching branches
twisted in patterns of Gothic lace
inviting me to look beyond
Easter may be a noun defined by a day of family gathering, celebrations like egghunts and pastel dresses, and a special church service. But Easter is more – an action word. Like wonder and worship, it is also a verb.
“It is like a display of spiritual fireworks dazzling us with each burst: LIfe! Power! Love! Triumph! Transformation! Hope! Joy!” ~ Bobby Gross, Living the Christian Year
This print of an original artwork by David Arms hangs in the dining room of our home. It is rich with symbolism, as is all of David’s art. On this Saturday that is called silent because Christ has been crucified but not yet risen, I stand and consider the meaning portrayed by the artist and more importantly, the meaning and mystery of all that Christians celebrate in their remembering during Lent, the week called Holy, and this time when we wait in vigil and anticipation of Resurrection. I am Eastering. Each year that passes (now 76 for me) I am more aware of all that I do not know yet all that I know that I have been given. The name of this painting is The Last Supper.*
*This is the story of the Last Supper portrayed symbolically. The sparrow is the most common and lowly of man. The blackbird represents sin. The nest with the three eggs (home in heaven with the trinity) is where this scene is leading. The floating table meaning God is in control. And most importantly, the white dove is Jesus.
bare branches reach
waiting in a gray veil
to wear green again
On Christmas day, Nora and I rode in the back seat of our car to church, watching for trees. She said the leaves were all gone away and I agreed. I said they would come back in the Spring and be here for her birthday. This is an often repeated story recently as she widens her 2-year-old world to pay attention to things that go away. I thought of this the last few days in our early morning fog. Most mornings, I can see beyond our fence and across the lake to a house that is being built there. I see duck families and herons on the water. But the fog here obscures all but the most pronounced and closest objects. So it is with these days approaching year’s end. I know what recent days have looked like, but the new year coming holds no clear vision for me. I am called to trust, to practice discernment, to watch for markers that remind me I have been and will be guided.
“Spiritual discernment asks us to pay attention…on many levels: to sensus fidelium ( the collective ene of the faithful), to read widely and deeply the best ancient and contemporary thinking, to pray, to attend to the prick of conscience, to watch, to wait, to listen.”
~from “Passing Angels: The Arts of Spiritual Discernment” by Wendy M. Wright in Weavings, November 1995
Today, almost 4 weeks later, Nora holds her growing leaves close and says she loves them. Their blooms should be ready to grace our Christmas dinner table!
She loves her baby brother even more! Oliver has many adoring arms to reach for him. He has grown too, a much more amazing miracle than the paperwhites. It has been fun to watch growth and blooming. Tending the blooms and the baby has given particular grace and meaning to these days of Advent, to my reflections of another baby and the way He changed the world.
Most days begin with prayer and thanksgiving – for years now I have kept a gratitude journal. This reminds me to focus on all the everyday ordinary blessings I receive as grace. When we gather for a meal as a family, we hold hands and give thanks for our food. Nora calls this our “Maymen.” The table is the same one I mention below in an excerpt from my blog post in 2014.
I am remembering childhood meals around my Terrell grandparent’s table in Smith County, Texas. There were hearty breakfasts with farm fresh eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, dinners (at lunchtime) that often included peas and tomatoes from their garden and an iron skillet of cornbread cut into wedges.There were suppers, often the same food reheated or a bowl of soup, and Sunday dinners after church. There were holiday meals at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas where the table and kitchen were both filled with chicken and dressing or a ham, plus those garden fresh vegetables which had been put up into canning jars. To follow, there would be an assortment of sweets – cookies, sweet potato, pecan, and mince pies, and often a pound cake. The food and occasion might vary, but there was always the same beginning: This, too, was something I could count on. Papa Terrell would say grace. Today we may say a blessing or give thanks, but he always said grace. The words were always the same, and rattled off so quickly I could never understand them. But his posture spoke to my heart with no need for words. Over 70 years later, now I see him clearly in my mind: gray head bent forward and bowed in humility.
“We offer grace at table as a form of waiting with confidence…reciting such a prayer is sometimes referred to as a way of preparing to receive all that has been granted to us. We offer grace in amazement that even the good things we have rejected are being offered again. And then we eat, and the food meets an earthly need of our souls, and we are made whole.” – Cynthia Rigby, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary*
For me, the calendar days designated to Thanksgiving are a wonderful approach to beginning of Advent exactly because of this waiting with confidence…preparing to receive all that has been granted to us. Our family will gather once again around the old oak table, the very same one that Grandma loaded with food and where Papa said grace.
This bloom on a small container potted shrub reminds me of another purple bloom, in another place, the garden we moved away from a few months ago. It also reminded me that I still need to sit, that I need to be still. The birds and flowers are different, but there are yet the settling and knowing, the holy moments.
“Sitting in your garden is a feat to be worked at with unflagging determination and single-mindedness – for what gardener worth his salt sits down. I am deeply committed to sitting in the garden.” – Mirabel Osler
Sitting still is necessary for so many things: I listen better when I sit still. I hear things unheard when I am crunching on the gravel or digging or clipping. The butterflies and hummingbirds come closer when I am still. The cardinal pair lingers longer on the fence. Appreciation and savoring of beauty may run after me when I am on the move but they settle around my shoulders like a soft cover when I sit still. And in the stillness I begin to settle – the cloudy debris of things which can fret and hurt begin to drift to the bottom, leaving pure, clear knowing. Holy moments can happen when I sit in my garden. (Reposted from this blog, written on August 17, 2013.)
Still true, in a very different garden. Three years ago, this is the picture I posted, a different purple bloom on the Vitex tree in that garden.
Reno, Nevada. July 24, 2016
Deep roots fasten in dry rocks
Still strong and alive
Hope ever green