Category Archives: nature

A child who can learn from the bird.

Mags and I are reading The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air together, and so far it is delightful to be in this mini book club with her. Once her copy of the book arrived she dived in with alacrity and even put the perfect amount of pressure on me, in the form of a meek suggestion, to post our responses as close together as possible.

So here I am, just where I want to be, challenged, but not alone, being in alliance and camaraderie with a friend who welcomes the exercise. I do feel that my engagement is feeble… or perhaps the situation is that Kierkegaard has revealed the feebleness of my soul.

Søren Kierkegaard published the first edition of this work in 1849, but he continued to think about the subject and to write about it in his journals. The translator Bruce H. Krimmse tells us this in the introduction, and quotes from the journals, reflections that I rather wish I hadn’t read, because what’s in the first half of the book itself is quite adequate for stripping away any sentimentality I might have about birds and flowers. As Krimmse says, “[Kierkegaard] never permits the reader to ease up on the oars and drift in an intellectual, ethical, or spiritual sense.” Also, these further explanations were confusing to me, whereas most of the first discourse was more accessible. Maybe this was one of the introductions one should read after.

Kierkegaard begins the first of the three discourses in this little book by telling us what is wrong with “the poet’s” response to Christ’s sermon in Matthew 6. I will put that scripture passage right here so you can review it if you want, or you can skip past easily:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The poet, our guide tells us, hears this and despairs of learning anything from the bird, having a sort of romantic notion of the ease of the bird’s life, and “wishing” that he could be bird-like, but having excuses. He sounds humble and childlike, but he “lacks the earnestness of eternity.” However, “The gospel is so earnest that all the poet’s sadness fails to change it….”

We are exhorted to be childlike in a different way altogether, and here I find the image or ideal of the child as Kierkegaard describes him to be a striking contrast to what is expected by most people in the last several decades:

“…the child never says, ‘I cannot.’ The child does not dare to do so… precisely because the child does not dare say, ‘I cannot,’ it is not therefore true that it cannot….” There follows the same thought repeated in various ways, and I am grateful for this repetitive aspect of the author’s style, because I need these things drummed into my noggin.

Okay, so once we have got that essential point, that if God tells us to do something, it follows that we can do it — what is it we shall do? I use the word shall because Kierkegaard very clearly uses it as distinct from will, a distinction that I think has been all but lost since sometime in the last century. Now we might say, “I will learn from the bird, even though I don’t want to.” The child of Kierkegaard’s day would say, “I shall learn from the bird, even though I do not will to do so.” But wait – he wouldn’t dare to say that, or even think it!

Our assignment from Christ: to learn from the lily and the bird, and to seek the Kingdom of God first. I need to work harder to write a proper response to the remainder of this discourse, and publish it later, because that part is the meat of it, and the birdsong.

p.s. I used dived instead of dove above when referring to what Mags did because, although Americans use dove twice as much now, Mags is British, and they still prefer the older form. So do I.  🙂

The freedom of the moon.

THE FREEDOM OF THE MOON

I’ve tried the new moon tilted in the air
Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster
As you might try a jewel in your hair.
I’ve tried it fine with little breadth of luster,
Alone, or in one ornament combining
With one first-water star almost as shining.

I put it shining anywhere I please.
By walking slowly on some evening later
I’ve pulled it from a crate of crooked trees,
And brought it over glossy water, greater,
And dropped it in, and seen the image wallow,
The color run, all sorts of wonder follow.

~ Robert Frost

A warming winter sunshine.

When I first sat down at the computer to begin this post, I checked the weather also and the temperature was 79°! I had surprising good sense then, to know that I must postpone writing, and hurry back out into the sunshine. The house was cold, though it was a little warmer than usual because I had stoked the wood fire before going to bed last night.

I dragged the tarp off the woodpile and brought armloads of logs into the garage and the house. Tomorrow the more typical weather will return, and I’ll build fires again.

On my walks this week I was surprised to see the pussy willows out! Today I walked on the golf course for a hundred feet or so trying to get back to the creek path, and I saw lots of English daisies that had escaped someone’s yard and were well established, growing in the turf.

NOT pyracantha, but cotoneaster

I’ve been complaining about February and saying that I want to be in Hawaii next winter, which is silly when I live in such a mild climate. I know I’ve been grumpier than usual partly because of various inconveniences of the remodeling. Experienced altogether over a year’s time they feel like afflictions.

I never thought the disruption — of my solitude, my routine, and my “nest” — would last over a year. At least two of the important persons will tell me things such as, that they are coming “in the next two hours,” so I wait around and don’t take a walk or run errands, but then they don’t come at all. If I run the errands at night, I get to bed late, but the workers might arrive at 7:30 the next morning. I’m sort of stuck here a lot, but with not much I can do of my usual housework. (That’s why I’ve been able to write more blog posts lately.)

But “Richard the Wonderful” is the main carpenter, and he is always my friend. 🙂 Today he was finishing the prep work for the bathroom tile, including this Valentine pink stinky waterproofing stuff that had to be painted around the tub/shower.

I was glad the day was so warm, because it gave me a chance to make use of another improvement in my upstairs arrangement. The new passageway between my bedroom and the sewing room also allows for a cross breeze from the front of the house to the back, and I opened those windows to let the smell out. This option will make a big difference during the rare heat wave, to be able to get that draft going as soon as the sun goes down and cool off my bedroom so I can sleep.

In my garden, the asparagus spears are emerging!

The east side/front of my house only gets a good amount of morning sun in the upstairs rooms, of which my new sewing room is one. Long ago we used to do our homeschooling in that big room (now divided into two) because on clear winter days it was by far the warmest place in the house. As soon as possible I’m planning to get a cozy chair in which I can sit by the window and bask on chilly mornings. I expect to look something like this lady when I do.

But now, my feet are already cold, so I’ll go tuck them under some blankets!

(painting “Morning Sun” by Harold Knight)