Monthly Archives: August 2016

Daily Bread

Give us this day our daily bread. The Lord’s Prayer

It’s been a hectic five days. A drive to Pennsylvania, a Microtel overnight near the airport, and toting my older son’s bedding and clothes into his new freshman dorm room on day one and two. A 320 mile drive home, a short night and a day of laundry and gardening on day two and three. Day four was a three hour trek to New Hampshire for a visit with my Arizona residing brother and a night in my sister’s home. Then came the family dinner out and the drive back to Wareham with my younger son on day five – all this done just in time to get ready for the beginning of his high school years tomorrow. After that, with a little planning and luck, my family life will return to its usual routine.

Driving home last night, I asked my son what he’d like for his first school lunch: a tuna sandwich on regular bread, cheddar goldfish, homemade chocolate chip cookies, fruit and a full water bottle. After so many days on the road and so many good meals in a variety of restaurants, with his brother living away from home for the first time and a new school year beginning, he just wanted familiar food.

I love trying new restaurants and spending time with siblings who live too far away to see every day. I am happy for my older son beginning his adult life in a new, exciting place. It’s time for my younger son to move from childhood to adulthood. These are blessings I thank God for every day. But it’s all happening at once, and it’s tiring. For that reason, I am grateful for a return to putting healthy, familiar food on my dining table: it’s a nourishing and creative act that feeds the body and restores the soul. Sometimes, the literal take on a prayer is the one that sustains.

Fire and Ice, part 2

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

[Robert Frost, Fire and Ice, part 2]

I can’t say that I’ve ever destroyed anything or anyone in passionate fury. I’ve never been hijacked by such intense emotions. Crimes of passion, destruction and death delivered in the heat of the moment – I have been spared such fire.

I can’t say the same for ice. Every so often I’ve felt calculating, frozen fingers squeeze my heart, wringing out whatever compassion lay within it. No seeing red, just a clarity of thought without love or sympathy. Plans for destruction, the steps and the cost, so simple to take from idea to action. It’s the closest to hate I’ve ever been, and closer than I’d like to be again. It is the closest thing I have to a fatal flaw, this dispassionate and calculating persona. I’ve never unleashed it, but I’ve been tempted. What stopped me? I can’t say, exactly. A small voice that refused to be frozen into silence or the Spirit blowing warmth into my frosted soul. Whatever it was, I still get on my knees every so often and thank God for its love and sanity.

Save us from the time of trial. The Lord’s Prayer

Photo on 2015-02-12 at 08.27

Fire (and Ice)

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire,

I hold with those who favor fire.

Fire and Ice, Robert Frost [Untermeyer, Louis, Intro. and Commentary, Robert Frost’s Poems, New Enlarged Anthology of, “Fire and Ice,” New York: Washington Square Press, 1971, p. 142]

In four lines, Frost names what can destroy the world. All-consuming passion burns everything within its reach – good, bad, or indifferent. It’s a cautionary tale in verse. Be careful what you do with your passion, warns Frost; it can destroy your world just as easily as enliven and illuminate it. My passion can make life an extraordinary show of fire and light. If I don’t temper it with patience and love, it will just as easily consume me and disfigure the lives of others.

Save us from the time of trial… Lord’s Prayer


Hesse’s Garden Words

He wrote Siddhartha and Steppenwolf. Today I found Hesse’s Hours in the Garden and Other Poems a few books down from Neruda’s Odes to Common Things. Since I came to the library to tidy up the learning garden materials, and since I’ve spend so many hours in the garden here, I brought it home. His first poem, written in 1939:

Page from a Journal

On the slope behind the house today

I cut through roots and rocks and

Dug a hole, deep and wide,

Carted away from it each stone

And all the friable, thin earth.

Then I knelt there a moment, walked

In the old woods, bet down again, using

A trowel and both my hands to scoop

Black, decaying woods-soil with the warm

Smell of fungi from the trunk of a rotting

Chestnut tree – two heavy buckets full I carried

Back to the hole and planted the tree inside;

Carefully I covered the roots with peaty soil,

Slowly poured sun-warmed water over them,

Mudding them gently until the soil settled.

It stands there, young and small,

Will go on standing when we are gone

And the huge uproar, endless urgency and

Fearful delirium of our days forgotten.

The fohn will bend it, rainstorms tear at it,

The sun will laugh, wet snow weigh it down,

The siskin and nuthatch make it their home,

And the silent hedgehog burrow at its foot.

All it has ever experienced, tasted, suffered:

The course of years, generations of animals,

Oppression, recovery, friendship of sun and wind

Will pour forth each day in the song

Of its rustling foliage, in the friendly

Gesture of its gently swaying crown,

In the delicate sweet scent of resinous

Sap moistening the sleep-glued buds,

 And in the eternal game of lights and

Shadows it plays with itself, content.

[Hesse, Hermann, Rika Leser, trans., Hours in the Garden, “Page from a Journal,” New York: Farrar, Straus, Girroux, 1979, pp. 2-5]

Note: fohn is a warm dry wind blowing from the northern slopes of the Alps.

Life goes on all around us. Plants live and die, and so do we. Who will remember our names decades from now? Who will remember or care that we once walked this earth? In the grand scheme of things, we count for little if we only count what is credited to our names and remembered beyond our days.

I will not be remembered beyond the few people I love, who love me. That’s as it should be. But the plants I tend, the children I’ve spent time with, the prayers I’ve offered? The world would be very different if I hadn’t done such things.

I’ve done my best to keep faith with the world and the lives it holds. It’s a small price to pay for the beauty, love, and holiness that I’ve found here. It’s more than enough to play a small part in this holy endeavor called creation. It’s blessed and sacred. I, too, am content with the eternal game of lights and shadows that is my life.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze… (Gen. 3:8)

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) was a German born Swiss poet, novelist, and artist. His works explore what it means to live an authentic human life. Siddhartha is still required reading in many high school and college programs.

End of the season

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what was planted…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 NRSV

Reading and Eating, the library’s summer reading program, ends this week. Heartfelt thanks to all who gave the program grants and volunteered time, a table of garden snacks, and a show by the Hula Hoop Lady will finish it up. A power point presentation will show children and adults in the garden, listening to stories, and making crafts. Families will turn to cool weather pursuits and school supply shopping. By next week, program supplies will be sorted and boxed. Leaders will review each day’s story and activities. Unripe tomatoes and still buried potatoes will be gathered without a children’s garden lesson or home made snack.

I’m going to miss my time as the library gardener. Finding squash and counting butterflies with preschoolers made the world new again in my eyes. Sharing recipes for herbed dipping oils and marinara was a joy – and a reminder of how fun it was to do these things with my own two sons in years past. This is a grace if anything is.

I’m ready to let this season go. It’s a lot of work to plan and prepare garden lessons every week. I’m tired of keeping track of the number of participants, of what worked and what didn’t, of saving receipts and recipes – all necessary for planning next year’s program. Other things need my attention and energy.

I’m happy with what grew in this year’s garden and even happier with the love of nature that’s grown in the children who came to water and gather. This season of growing the garden is ending, as it should. The season of growing young gardeners and nature lovers? Not so much. After all, seasons end and return to begin again. Who knows who might be tending this garden long after my season ends? If this summer is any indication, the garden is in great hands. So is the world.

You don’t stand a chance

You don’t stand a chance against my prayers

You don’t stand a chance against my love

[Robbie Robertson & the Red Road Ensemble, Ghost Dance, Music for The Native Americans, Capitol Records, 1994]

It’s a song about spiritual power and a restored land. Plains indians danced the Ghost Dance to resurrect the dead, heal the land and restore the its caretakers – the native peoples. Some believed it would get rid of the white people who had taken away their way of life, starting a political revolution that would restore peace. Others believed that the peaceful, non-violent behavior it engendered would restore political peace. Either way, it came from remarkable spiritual visions and it brought hope to people in desperate need and dire circumstances.

In December of 1890, at Wounded Knee, hundreds came to dance the Ghost Dance. Believing that their dance would protect them, even from bullets, they danced the outlawed dance. A gun went off, United States Army soldiers panicked, and soon 250 or so men, women, and children were dead.

There is no magic song that can stop bullets from tearing into living flesh. There is no dance that can bring peace to people whose lands and cultures have been banned. But what if the dance is a prayer?

Prayer isn’t magic, but it’s powerful. It can bring peace and forgiveness. It can and does create a new world. Praying for those who harm us may not save our lives, but it can lift our enemies into the embrace of God. On this side of life or the other, no one stands a chance against the power of love. Who’s to say when such prayers will create heaven on earth?