In my travels over the last nine days, I visited three of my children’s families and was able to be present for big events: the baptism of Annie last Sunday in Oregon, and the high school graduation of Pat in California, just yesterday evening.
While the first of 500+ graduates began walking across the stage to receive their diplomas, I felt my phone vibrating, and since I was expecting some news, I opened it up…. and found the announcement of a new grandchild entering the world, my eleventh grandson, born to Soldier and Joy. He is healthy and beautiful. 🙂
I haven’t had a chance to meet him yet, but I know already that he is like a bit of Heaven dropped down into our lives. His two brothers Liam and Laddie probably won’t see the new arrangement in quite that way, and will have to wait a while for Brodie to participate in their rough-and-tumble playtimes. Given that he is still small and tender, and in spite of the fact that his eyes aren’t likely to be blue, this poem from romantic (and Scottish) George MacDonald seems appropriate to express my thoughts and to accompany our celebrations:
Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into the here.
Where did you get those eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.
What makes the light in them sparkle and spin?
Some of the starry twinkles left in.
Where did you get that little tear?
I found it waiting when I got here.
What makes your forehead so smooth and high?
A soft hand stroked it as I went by.
What makes your cheek like a warm white rose?
I saw something better than any one knows.
Whence that three-cornered smile of bliss?
Three angels gave me at once a kiss.
Where did you get this pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.
Where did you get those arms and hands?
Love made itself into bonds and bands.
Feet, whence did you come, you darling things?
From the same box as the cherubs’ wings.
How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew.
But how did you come to us, you dear?
God thought about you, and so I am here.
–George MacDonald from At the Back of the North Wind
I’ve been out and about in spite of the weather and my cold – that is, via my computer. Here are some things I’ve found. The last one may be the most interesting, so don’t miss it.
**I learned something about stars and their colors when they are out of focus.
**On the topic of the skies and the weather, I have only this week noticed a way of talking about weather systems as “pieces of energy.” It’s probably not new; do TV weather forecasters use this phrase? This from a recent email:
RAIN WILL SWITCH OVER TO SHOWERS BY LATE IN THE MORNING OR EARLY IN THE AFTERNOON ON FRIDAY. A SECOND PIECE OF ENERGY WILL QUICKLY MOVE TO OUR REGION WITH ANOTHER ROUND OF RAIN FORECAST FOR FRIDAY EVENING INTO SATURDAY.
**Last year I was very interested when Podso listed some things she has learned about life, that is, how to have good days. I wonder what my list would look like, if I could ever get past my usual endless analysis to come up with one?
**DeAnn has a good collection of thought-provoking quotes on her blog, which is where I read one taken from a book I read last summer. I don’t even remember reading this paragraph then, and that makes me think I should go back and read the whole thing over again.
“It is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over any soul he loved, even if that soul know him not, bringing him inwardly close to that spirit; a power that cannot be but for good; for in proportion as selfishness intrudes, the love ceases, and the power which springs therefrom dies. Yet all love will, one day, meet with its return.”
~ George MacDonald, Phantastes
**Owen White has a faith-literary-art challenge going on at his blog The Ochlophobist. Entries must be titled in this form: Why I am a ________________.” And in that blank spot you are to place your faith designation, to the degree of precision you prefer.”
Some of the resulting titles in the entries that have been posted so far: “Why I am a slightly miserable but motivated methodist,” “Why I Am Still an (Orthodox) Christian Who Mans His Post”and “Why I am a non-believer who still goes to church.” The content of the entries includes many poems, music on YouTube, works of visual art, and prose.
After you read the rules and see what other people have done (entries have been posted for several days now) to meet the challenge, maybe you also would like to engage with this exercise. I had to push myself to not be too perfectionistic about it, and managed to put together my own entry. I hope you will, too!
At about 5,000 feet up into the mountains I usually turn off the radio or story, open all the car windows, and breathe deeply of the pine and cedar scents that are so exhilarating. They make me think, “Why oh why have I stayed away so long? How will I bear to go back down to the air of the flatlands?”
But this summer — it didn’t happen that way. At about 3,000 feet I got lost, or at least confused, by taking a couple of wrong turns. When I realized my mistake, it took me a half hour to get back on track. At 4,000 feet, even though it was still 86°, I opened the windows under tall pines, but all I noticed was my shirt hanging in the backseat, as a sleeve started flapping in the rear view mirror.
And I watched the thermometer drop 20 degrees in 20 minutes, as I climbed into the forest. I saw the elderberry bushes in bloom, those tall and friendly plants I’d learned about two years ago, and more than one upland meadow with black cattle grazing. Maybe it wasn’t late in the day for summertime, but I’d forgotten how the sun would go down early, because the trees are so tall, and the valleys deep. I discovered that my jaw was sore – evidently I’d been clenching it, so there must have been some anxiety about the time underneath my excitement over all the irresistible photo opportunities.
Where the road crosses a bridge over a creek I stopped to catch the fishermen in the twilight, and found an orange wallflower, that lacking a wall, made do with a post.
The thermometer dropped another twenty degrees in the last hour of my drive, as I got higher and higher and still obeyed the call of the wildflowers to stop and take their pictures — because after all, they might be gone the next time I passed their way! Their glory is short-lived, except for the Pearly Everlasting that seems to hang on and on making a white border by the roadside.
Leopard lilies bloomed in the wetter areas, but the penstemon and paintbrush grew right out of the granite gravel next to the pavement, where they also get the maximum of sun exposure.
And then, after a journey of eight and a half hours (it “normally” takes me six) during which the temperature ranged from 102° to 57°, I arrived at the door of our beloved cabin! I had by this time forgotten the advice of one of my friends, when I told her about my anxiety: “Breathe deeply when you get in the mountains.” I’m sure when I was sitting at home in the morning and read that message I must have thought, “Well, that comes naturally!”
When I unlocked the door and walked in, I noticed a new sign on the wall:
I obeyed that word, too, but I was only thinking of how I needed the conscious inhalation to help me relax. It wasn’t until I was lying in bed an hour later that it dawned on me I hadn’t smelled the trees. Was it the drought that was making them hold every droplet of moisture in their needles? Was I to spend several days in their company and never get that mountain perfume? Two years ago when I last was last here, smoke from a huge forest fire in Yosemite was filling my senses with the scent of burning trees.
It was the bone-penetrating, soul-healing quiet of the mountains that most affected me during this visit. I was completely solitary for my first evening and morning, and that turned out to be enough time for an intense healing session.
I sat on the deck reading in the morning. Two birds twittered a call-and-response from one Lodgepole pine to another. Up there the sun is baking, and the altitude takes your breath away – or more precisely, takes the oxygen from your breath – and everything combines and causes a heavy sleepiness to fall on you…. Before noon I had to lie on my bed to take a nap. But in the cool of the bedroom I revived and didn’t sleep. I read more in George MacDonald’s Phantastes, the book that C.S. Lewis said “baptized his imagination.”
The protagonist of the story, who is exploring Fairyland, encounters a lovely and deep blue pool: “Led by an irresistible desire, I undressed, and plunged into the water. It clothed me as with a new sense and its object both in one. The waters lay so close to me, they seemed to enter and revive my heart.”
When in my imagination I experienced that Living Water with the swimmer in the story, it was as if the silence of the mountain morning were the pool of God’s healing presence for me at that moment. Then I knew another reality I had read about a few pages before in that book, “Tears are the only cure for weeping.”
One doesn’t like to imagine breathing water, and I hadn’t yet managed to detect that comforting mountain aroma in the air that I drank hungrily, but stillness and peace were in plentiful supply, and were oxygen for my spirit. That sort of peace is so unfamiliar, it is at the same time both soothing and thrilling.
I was soon to have more good company, both human and atmospheric, and I will tell more about that next time.
“Our Lord had no design of constructing a system of truth in intellectual forms. The truth of the moment in its relation to him, The Truth, was what he spoke. He spoke out of a region of realities which he knew could only be suggested—not represented—in the forms of intellect and speech. With vivid flashes of life and truth his words invade our darkness, rousing us with sharp stings of light to will our awaking, to arise from the dead and cry for the light which he can give, not in the lightning of words only, but in indwelling presence and power.”