When I think of the patience I have had back in the dark before I remember or knew it was night until the light came all at once at the speed it was born to with all the time in the world to fly through not concerned about every arriving and then the gathering of the first stars unhurried in their flowering spaces and far into the story the planets cooling slowly and the ages of rain then the seas starting to bear memory the gaze of the first cell at its waking how did this haste begin this little time at any time this reading by lightning scarcely a word this nothing this heaven
Today I’ve been tossing out most of my beloved Touchstone and Gilbert magazines, but not before I glance at notes I’d written to myself on their covers ten or more years ago, suggesting to my mind and pen (and keyboard) topics to muse and write about. I have accumulated several boxes of such periodicals, including cooking and gardening magazines as well, every issue containing provocative information and knowledge that I hoped to incorporate into my daily life, both the active and contemplative aspects.
One of them that drew me in was short enough to reread this morning: “It All Depends: on Randomness and the Providence of God,” by Philip Rempel. Rempel compares the Enlightenment view of the cosmos as orderly clockwork to the postmodern concept of it as random and chaotic. Both end up being “dead and dreary,” especially when contrasted with the reality of the world we see in front of us, and described in the language of Christ and the church.
“For the world we observe if we open our eyes is indeed a universe filled with both structure and freedom, but the structure is never a rigid structure and the freedom is never a lawless freedom. As in a dance, or all art for that matter, where rules and creativity must work in tandem to produce something of meaning, so it is with the universe. In some sense we are part of a cosmic dance, but the dance must be structured if it is to have meaning; a universe of arbitrary motion is just as unsatisfying as a universe without motion.
“The existence of every created thing, and thus its role in the dance, is entirely and continually dependent on God, and so our movement through the cosmos and through time, which is our response to his love, must be continually focused on him and directed towards him. Particles and probabilities, and people and planets, are all twirling through the cosmos in response to God’s loving call.”
They talk of triumph of the machine,
but the machine will never triumph.
Out of the thousands and thousands of centuries of man
the unrolling of ferns, white tongues of the acanthus lapping at the sun,
for one sad century
machines have triumphed, rolled us hither and thither,
shaking the lark’s nest till the eggs have broken.
Shaken the marshes, till the geese have gone
and the wild swans flown away singing the swan-song at us.
Hard, hard on the earth the machines are rolling,
but through some hearts they will never roll.
The lark nests in his heart
and the white swan swims in the marshes of his loins,
and through the wide prairies of his breast a young bull herds his cows,
lambs frisk among the daisies of his brain.
And at last
all these creatures that cannot die, driven back
into the uttermost corners of the soul,
will send up the wild cry of despair.
The thrilling lark in a wild despair will trill down arrows from the sky,
the swan will beat the waters in rage, white rage of an enraged swan,
even the lambs will stretch forth their necks like serpents,
like snakes of hate, against the man in the machine:
even the shaking white poplar will dazzle like splinters of glass against him.
And against this inward revolt of the native creatures of the soul
mechanical man, in triumph seated upon the seat of his machine
will be powerless, for no engine can reach into the marshes and depths of a man.
So mechanical man in triumph seated upon the seat of his machine
will be driven mad from within himself, and sightless, and on that day
the machines will turn to run into one another
traffic will tangle up in a long-drawn-out crash of collision
and engines will rush at the solid houses, the edifice of our life
will rock in the shock of the mad machine, and the house will come down.
Then, far beyond the ruin, in the far, in the ultimate, remote places
the swan will lift up again his flattened, smitten head
and look round, and rise, and on the great vaults of his wings
will sweep round and up to greet the sun with a silky glitter of a new day
and the lark will follow trilling, angerless again,
and the lambs will bite off the heads of the daisies for very friskiness.
But over the middle of the earth will be the smoky ruin of iron
the triumph of the machine.
Even though his older brother is the one I call Pathfinder, my son Soldier took the lead in planning our family outing yesterday. Both of them wanted to include not only a hike but some beach time, coming as they did from places where one can’t make a day trip to the ocean.
All eight of us were able to go in one car, which added to the fun. The children who had recently endured 12-hour days on the road were cheerful, even though it took us a while to get to our destination, a beach farther south than we usually venture: Limantour. The main thing I always retain in my memory of this beach is that it faces south, so it is a little warmer than many North Coast beaches. It is on a long spit of land on Drakes Bay, named for Sir Francis Drake. In the article, “Drake in California”, you can read the many keys to the identification of this bay as the place where the explorer thanked God for a safe haven.
This map shows you where we were in relation to San Francisco:
And this next one reveals Limantour Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore:
We piled out of the car at the trailhead and hiked about two miles out to the beach, through dense woods opening up from time to time to views of the estuary and wide blue skies; irises in three shades of violet and purple dotted the sunnier banks. Under the trees stands of giant nettles extended back into the dappled shade, with swaths of forget-me-nots or candy flowers at their feet by the path.
It was the sort of hike where Grandma, with one or two companions, falls behind the main group to examine and hopefully identify wildflowers, and then eventually catches up when the group stops to wait. Liam spied the Indian Paintbrush first.
The trail was bordered by a lush jungle of trailing blackberry and manroot, strawberries, buttercups and ocean spray. I couldn’t stop for everything that was interesting, and I can only mention a few of the hundreds of plants. But at the time, I pointed out to anyone who would listen, how conveniently the plantain herb was growing near the nettles: if you were to get a nettle sting, you might chew up a few plantain leaves into a poultice to put on the burning flesh to soothe it. Or so I’ve been told many times.
In spite of my lagging, we arrived on the beach and oh, what a lovely, clean and white expanse it was to behold; we didn’t pause, but walked right on out to the shore.
We had brought along three kites, so all the children had plenty of time
holding the fliers against the wind. It was a perfect day for that.
This one above, once it got up, flew by itself all afternoon at the end of its tether,
while we ate a picnic on the sand, and the men dug holes for the waves to flow into.
Then it was time to reel it in, and head back out the way we had come.
It was only on our way out that I had time to really notice these grand bushes of purple lupine, a relation no doubt of the big yellow version I’ve seen so much of farther north, and have even grown in my garden.
Almost the last thing I took a picture of was a baby rattlesnake lying still as could be on the path. It was too young to have rattles, but as we stood around looking at it, the other adults told us about how the shape of its head and neck helped them identify it as a rattlesnake, and how the venom of juveniles is very potent.
I couldn’t see his eye until I saw the picture I had taken enlarged; he was definitely alive and awake. We were told that rattlers aren’t able to strike effectively if they are not coiled up. But we moved on very soon, stepping around the rattleless tail.
My family all departed this morning very early, before the sun was up, and while fog was still lying low in the neighborhood. All day I’ve been reeling myself in! I had hoped to go to bed early tonight, but instead, before I move on into May — coming right up! — I wanted to finish my story of kites and wildflowers, and my dear people.