Skitterings

Winter morning, below freezing, ground covered with thick layer of frost like unto snow. Oyster-gray sky streaked with clouds aflame with sunrise. Breathtaking colors. I drive to work, looking for magisterial hawks perched on power lines. None to be seen. At the corner where the patch of woods has been cleared, old tobacco barns are melting into the stubble, overlaid with a thin veneer of crystal. So beautiful, I say aloud. Something pure remains in the devastation. I cannot think of what. I drive on, pondering destruction and human hunger for it.

In the new rose-light little birds skitter up from the wood-edged fields. What type of birds they are, I cannot determine, just upward movement and wings. A strange line plays in my head: This day your life will be required of you. I suppose it’s born of constant murder in the news and too much reading, this very morning the strange coincidence of Diana, Princess of Wales, attending the funeral of Princess Grace of Monaco, who died from injuries sustained in a car crash. Did the struggling Diana sense any foreshadowing?

Why am I even thinking of these things during such a glorious dawn?

A shape swoops from the right, directly in the path of my car…surely a bird. I hear no thunk. I see no skittering escape in my rearview mirror.

The bird—if in fact it was—must be caught in the grille of my car. This happened once, long ago, when I was driving a different vehicle: I discovered a dead cardinal hanging partway under the car. Why, why do they fly so low?

I will have to stop and check. There’s nowhere to pull over on these winding backroads frequented by too-fast drivers and farm equipment.

There’s a tiny church tucked in the woods up ahead, past the intersection. Steep driveway, deserted area, but I have to get out and look.

Nothing ensnared on the wide chrome grille of my old car. Beneath the grille, however, are unscreened compartments and there, on the dark, recessed shelf, is a bird.

Alive and moving around. Gray, orange, and cloud-white, like the morning.

Oh, bird.

I take off my heavy black cardigan, wrap it around my hands, and reach in.

Gently, gently… then a soft, warm weight is in my sweatered hands. I make sure to cover its wings to avoid panicked and possibly injurious flapping. Its head is gray. Small gray beak opens and closes without a sound. Its eye, turned toward me, has a faint purplish hue, slightly reminiscent of my pet parakeet when I was six. The gray back and pale-orange coloring on the breast had me thinking robin, but now I can see it’s not. I don’t know what kind of bird this is.

Oh, little bird. I am sorry. As if my speaking will help, somehow.

I cannot stand here gawking at it. The creature has survived the trauma of my car; I don’t want it to die from terror of me.

I think of being in the hands of God.

Please don’t let it die, I pray. Is this a selfish prayer? I don’t know how badly the bird is damaged.

And what am I going to do with it now.

The woods…I skim for a sheltered spot. I step in the leaves and a sudden sound startles me: a rabbit goes skittering away, its big white cottontail bobbing against the sepia scenery. I had no idea it was there. What else is here that I cannot see—? I am shivering. I find a small ridge of leaves and pine straw by a bit of barren brush and there I lay the bird.

The bird turns itself from side to breast, facedown. There’s a bit of white edging on its tail feathers. I wish for to something cover it. The morning is so cold. My sweater might entangle its legs; scraping pine straw over it might alarm it.

I will go. I will not stay to see the outcome. It will recover, or it won’t. I recall the woodpecker that flew smack into the glass wall of the school where I work; it landed on its back in the flowerbed mulch and lay so still I was sure its neck was broken. Within a moment, it managed to flip itself right side up, ruffled its feathers, and flew off—zip!—as if nothing had happened. The robin I extricated from the grille of my sister-in-law’s car, having traveled miles down the interstate at 70+ mph, hopped around my backyard for a day before it flew away. Birds are hardier than they look…at least robins and woodpeckers are.

Still.

Should this pretty little bird die or recoup…it will be in its own natural setting.

In the hands of God. Not a sparrow will fall to the ground apart from the Father...

It is hard, yes, to leave it there and walk away. But I have done so before. With people whom I loved very much.

It is Yours.

Back in the car, I circle the tiny church named for St. John, heading on toward crystal-coated fields and misty-mirror ponds and the work that lies ahead. The little bird will never know that I will remember it, that it’s now part of me, stuck to my soul as long as I live. I know it and that is enough on this cold, fiery-sky morning, orange and gray, breathtaking glory tinged with, but not diminished by, loss.

“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”Psalm 139:9-10 (my favorite of the Psalms). This is the view leaving my neighborhood.

As best I can determine: My unexpected passenger was a female eastern bluebird.

DSC_3019e eastern bluebird–female. jjjj56cpCC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Goals

What shall I say of my goals, as the year comes to its close?

I had a few. Some I accomplished. Some I didn’t. A few were work-related. Most were not. These I never articulated; they were just on my heart every day, from my rising to my sleeping.

That’s the thing about goals: personal commitment-keeping. They’re desires of your own heart. Aspirations. No can set them for you. They come from within. They become your own bar to reach, for the stretching of your own wings, as far as you wish. The extent of your growth is up to you.

I learned much by watching birds this year. This was an unplanned goal. One hummingbird materializing by the pines in my backyard, hovering long enough for me to take note, led to the purchase of a hummingbird feeder (and another, as more hummers appeared) and an incessant thirst to know more about these endlessly fascinating creatures. Day by day, my sense of awe deepened.

Awe is a vital element for vibrant life in this world. I looked for it and it found me. Like that hummingbird. For two years running, awe has been my guiding idea-word and its payoff, beyond compare. I find it everywhere but not in everything. Not in material things, for they never fully satisfy and pursuit of them potentially enlarges the void. In my previous post I wrote about the universe being a dark place (check out the jellybean analogy from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). Yet there is light. I am awed by the stunning brightness of the planets each night; Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn have become like family. I’m always looking for their return. They inspire the same thirst in me as the hummingbirds: can I get closer to them, know more about them, learn from them?

In the end awe, for me, is about the divine design of things, the Creator’s reflection in the created. There are intrinsic, intricate, infinite lessons to learn and my time above the Earth’s crust grows shorter. There’s a sacred interconnectedness to it all… from a solitary hummingbird to the solar system to the scent of baking bread to the ability to love and be loved and my own DNA so evident in my baby granddaughter’s face… every particle a poem, a song, a ribbon of light.

My ultimate goal for every day is to keep myself open for awe and to be grateful.

I have done so. I am doing so.

I didn’t create an official list of resolutions or goals for 2022. I carried them in my heart and lived them, as I will for this new year on the cusp.

But I did write a few things… this is my 365th post of the year. Something I’ve never accomplished before.

Day by day, moment by moment, the story of life unfolds. Goals are attained the same way.

My wish for you: Believe. Let awe weave itself around you and through you.

And write.

See how you grow.

The unused goal page in my my plannera bit of seed, if needed

Light bucket


to the astronomer
light bucket
means a telescope
with a wide aperture
and parabolic mirrors
that collect
and reflect
great quantities of light
from objects
in deep space

for the universe
is a dark place

to the starry-eyed poet
light bucket
is a means
of picking up bits
of divine spark

for keeping
the mind’s aperture wide
the soul and spirit aligned
humanity’s parabola
so intelligently designed

for collecting
for reflecting
great buckets of light

for the universe
is a dark place

Image. Danielle Scott. CC BY-SA 2.0

Spiritual Journey: Holy

Why is it that, as I began to think of a November theme for my Spiritual Journey writer-friends, that the word holy came to mind?

I suppose it was connected with the start of the holiday season…holiday, from the original Old English, hāligdæg, means holy day.

I am writing this on a holy day to many around the world, All Soul’s Day. Following All Saint’s Day. Following All Hallow’s Eve…a holy triduum for remembering the dead, collectively known as Allhallowtide. On Halloween morning I saw a mystical fiery rainbow in the clouds, a colorful band of light joining earth to heaven. Genesis 9:13 played in my mind: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. A promise from God. There’s also a rainbow around the throne of God (Revelation 4:3).

Holy. As in hallowed.

I think of votive candles lit in memory of deceased loved ones, the bright flames driving the dark away, the way that hope does in the despairing soul. So many holy-day observances involve the lighting of candles.

My little granddaughter had her first birthday at the end of October. A solitary candle burned on her cake, representing her one year of life.

Holy.

It also means blessed.

For me, holy is closely linked to my life-word, awe, in that they encompass the divine and a reverence for it. Even a shadowing of fear. When I was a small child attending church with my grandparents, I sensed all of this on entering the sanctuary, long before I had words to convey it. I did not know, then, about the ancient Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle where God’s presence dwelt, that only the High Priest could enter it once a year to make atonement for the Israelites, and that anyone else trying to do so would die. Even the High Priest had to prepare with great care.

Holy. It means sacred, consecrated, set apart.

The ancient Jews considered the Holy of Holies the spiritual junction of heaven and earth.

I looked at all the white-rail decor in that long-ago Methodist church and could not understand, describe, or convey…but I sensed holy and trembled.

My other granddaughter, age six, was baptized recently. I watched her, robed in white, descending into the baptismal pool where the preacher—her stepfather, my son—held out his hand to her. Her little face was aglow with the faith of a child (the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these), looking up at her dad with absolute trust. My son was overcome with emotion.

Holy. Pure.

My spirit clings to the word. Although it seems like life is often consumed by an ever-raging sea of unholiness, the holy is always there, like a luminous lifeline. It shines in faces of children. It swells in birdsong, in music so beautifully composed that it draws tears. It lives in extraordinary, self-sacrificial acts of love. It manifests itself in healing. In forgiveness. I see it often in nature, obeying its patterns, displaying such breathtaking glory and wonders that one forgets the brokenness of things. Yes, when the slant of light is just right, one gets a shot of awe, a glimpse above and beyond, a perceiving of holy. Of the presence of God. Like a fiery rainbow on Halloween morning.

In the end, it is all a matter of opening the soul to seeing.

Here’s to finding the holy in every day of the journey.

I wrote a poem about the rainbow on All Hallow’s Eve; people forget the Christian connections to the day.

Spiritual Journey Friends, please share your links in the comments below – blessings to you all!

River dream

I cannot say, Child, what you might be experiencing within, but I can tell you I dreamed
that we were sailing along a river with green overhanging boughs
and that the waters before us were only troubled by a succession
of indentations made by tiny feet running rapidly across
—a little Jesus lizard, there in the recesses, trying to catch
or, on second thought, cavorting with, a dragonfly which shimmered and skimmered
away just as the swan drifted into view, its white feathers transforming as it neared,
changing from white to gold flushed with crimson
and then the eagle, gliding low over the glimmering water, huge, like life itself,
its curved yellow beak closed, its sharp eye affixed on us, not on the hunt,
merely acknowledging our presence
and so we drifted on and I didn’t even realize until the shore loomed
before us, rocky and steep, that we’d been riding in a little wooden boat
that navigated the river by its own power, not ours, to land us
right where we needed to be, and that we’d be able to navigate
this embankment, too, for there amid the stones and earth were steps
perfectly placed for our climb.

Cincinnati – Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum ‘An Unreal Moment, and a Gift.’David Paul Ohmer CC BY 2.0.

*******
with thanks to the Two Writing Teachers community
for the place to share Slices of Life
even when they are but dreams

The baptism

Faith of a child

pure and bright

trusting the shepherd

for guiding light

*******
in celebration of my granddaughter’s baptism
by my pastor-son

“Behold our God shall live with us, And be our steadfast Light,
And we shall e’er his people be, All glory be to Christ.”

—Dustin Kensrue

Acts of faith haiku

do it anyway
acts of faith are rewarded
refueling the soul

One little ruby-throated female visited the feeder this afternoon. Although days had passed without a hummingbird sighting, I refilled the feeders and left them out anyway, in case…

Endurance

inspired by Bible study of James 1:1-12

Crucible:
an earthen container
able to withstand
intense heat until
the precious metal
within is purified,
its imperfect portions
sparking off in the air

comes from medieval Latin
crucibulum
meaning ‘night lamp’
possibly one which hung
in front of
a crucifix

perhaps in
cavernous darkness
on crumbling stone walls
a feeble lantern
reflecting on the last
tangible hope
that weeping endures for
a night
but joy comes
in the morning
whether the current battle
is won
or lost

a flickering halo
in the shadows
where faith responds
while carrying
staggering loss
crushing burdens
utter depletion
still believing
still living by
the stillness in
the soul
still trusting in God
despite all

endurance

there’s holiness
in it

Endurance. Mohammadali. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

New Oxford American Dictionary

Spiritual journey: Community

When I think of community
two words come to mind:
commune
and
unity.

To commune
implies awareness
listening
appreciating
expressing
from a wellspring
in one’s soul.
Sometimes with words
sometimes with actions
sometimes in just being
and being
deeply connected.

Unity implies a connection
so profound
that many become one
a whole made strong
because of its parts
because of the desire
to be together
seeking the good
of all.
Unity wears the cloak
of altruism
and walks with
amazing grace.

That brings
another word
to mind…
communion.

In the end
community is
infinitely more
than proximity.
It’s a true work
of heart.

*******

1 Corinthians 1:10, various translations:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. —ESV

I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. —The Message

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.—NIV

with thanks to Maureen Ingram for offering the prompt of “community” for our Spiritual Journey Thursday community of writers



Something sacred

Summer evening
after dinner
the three of us
are riding home
through the countryside

late-day sun
is amber-bright
when giant raindrops
begin to slap
against the windshield

Raining while the sun shines,
says my husband
from the passenger seat
(I’m in the back;
the boy is driving)
—there’s got to be a rainbow
around here somewhere

The boy makes the left turn
—There it is, he says

wide shimmering bands
hanging in the air
like a gossamer curtain
touching the road
right before us

breathless, we ride
right through it
to find another
and another
just ahead

so many rainbows
gleaming down through
the trees
over the fields

heaven’s glory bending
to caress the earth
a prismatic promise
poured out

all along
our way home

At the end of the rainbow. Mara ~earth light~. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

I didn’t get photos, alas, but the rainbows touching the road before us yesterday evening happened to be near the spot where my husband and I saw an eagle sitting majestically by the roadside back in early 2019. In this picture the background is dark whereas our scenery was vivid green in the amber-gold light of late day… but there’s an eagle, and the sojourning child carrying solace and security in the form of a teddy bear in a backpack speaks to me.

Something sacred is in this place.