Tag Archive | winter

Winter Still Life with Red Shovel

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Not the Grand Canyon, 

not Niagara Falls;

merely the snowy deck and roof

of a neighbor’s house, a still life framed

by my dining room window,

sun-painted tree shadows lacing

the whole in intricate, abstract patterns;

steps inviting me to walk

into the picture, to sit a spell

at the empty table, to consider

that idle shovel in the corner,

bright red reminder that, though there is so much

work to be done, work to salvage justice,

work to honor truth, work to love the neighbor,

sometimes it is good to set aside our shovels

for a time, simply rest, renew, re-ground

our lives in simple still-life splendors

that abound in unexpected

corners of our lives.    

Magdalene Crocus

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Burst of sun-soaked brightness,

brave against the winter’s brittle shards of

last year’s grass; like Magdalene,

I want to clasp and hold these beauties close;

force them to linger, gentle paint, refresh

the withered fringes of my fingers, eyes, and soul;

but holding on would only mar the fleeting

beauty of their fragile strength; like them, I too

am but a passing guest in this grand wonder

of a world; so let it be its yellow, purple,

crimson, heart-breaking, beautiful self;

enjoy! enjoy! these little flowers say,

savor every color, every promise sprouting

from winter’s gray, forbidding cold; but

fingers always open; springtime hearts as well.

Un-sheltered: A Lenten Meditation

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          The little sparrow peeks out the tiny door of our new bright blue birdhouse, and my heart skips half-a-beat. I find myself captivated by his wee head happily framed by his new-found shelter. How does such a tiny warm-blooded being, I wonder, survive in the frigid winds this winter has brought us? I do some checking, and I learn that he has a much higher metabolism rate and a higher body temperature than we humans have. That he probably grew extra feathers last fall, feathers coated with an oil that provides insulation and water-proofing. That when he fluffs his feathers, he creates air pockets that give him even better insulation. All of this helps, I’m sure, but still I’m happy that this little one has found some extra shelter in our little birdhouse.

          So many others I’ve seen lately in the news have not found the shelter they so desperately long for and need. There’s the shoeless orphan boy standing in the frigid snows of North Korea. The Syrian father brooming snow off the tent that serves as a temporary shelter for his refugee family. The aged Ukrainian man carrying a bucket of coal through the snow to try to keep his family warm while war rages through the streets of his town.

          All so defenseless in these Lenten days of arctic cold. I say a prayer for that North Korean orphan, for that Syrian father, for that aged Ukrainian gentleman. I say a prayer for greater justice and peace in our troubled world, and for all who lack shelter in these bitter cold late winter days.

          I look again at my sparrow’s tiny face. At the cold trees and the snow-covered ground. And I give thanks that the One to whom I pray is One who cares about shelter for all creatures. Cares enough that he un-sheltered himself and came to earth for us and for our salvation. Lived among us and taught us to care for each other.  Fed the hungry and healed the sick, all the while having no shelter for himself, nowhere to lay his head. I give thanks that he un-sheltered himself yet further on the cross, stretching out his arms, the very Wings of God, to shelter every tiny life through all of time, through all eternity.

          Mystery beyond comprehension.

Winter Sunset Prayer

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Pastel fingers close another winter day;

night wraps its cold around the trees,

the rocks, the tiny lives that move

across the fragile surface of our world;

trees reach up hungry for the light, as

darkness swallows branches, twigs and

bark, the timid chattering of feathered,

furried creatures, hushed and hidden now in

shadowed crannies of the earth.

*

The darkness hints of other nights;

farewells past, those yet to come;

laughter silenced, light withdrawn;

shadows in a valley that awaits.

Lady of Day, Lady of Night, pray for us

now and in the hour of our death.

*

Pray for us as pastels shimmer just

beyond our earth-bound sight,

whispering soft against the night,

against the loss, against our fear and dread.

God of beginnings, of endings—all One,

hear our tremblings, hold our sighs;

paint our coming nights with palette soft,

in sunset hues that limn for us tomorrow’s

hope—a morning-shine, a painting bright,

a day that ever will begin.

 

Packing Up Christmas

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I pack it all away,

the lights, the ornaments;

the stress, the crèche, the candles—

tuck it all in boxes crammed with

memories—some merry, others

not so very; make room once more for

ordinary days of all that is to come,

waiting now beneath the frozen ground.

*

The carols, push and stuff them as I may,

refuse the box; insistent grace notes

dangle in the turning year, echo in the

empty crevices of life, hum through days

icicled with worries, pain, or simply green

with far too much–too much of everything

that clings and freezes up our souls.

*

“God with us,” the carols sing across

our smiles, our salty tears; “God with us”

through all the year until December

reappears to hang our Christmas lights on

hopeful trees to sing yet once again

that promise old but ever new:

God tucked away in a manger,

of all places, to laugh and dance and

weep with us through greens and

yellows of the year, in the bleak

midwinter days, through all the noisy

bluster of our lives; star of wonder

in all our silent nights; our

silent nights holy, our

silent nights not.

 

Advent Snow

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The wind mere angel whisper on this

cold December day; virgin snow

spreads soft across the fallen

acorns and forgotten leaves.

Sparrow cocks her head to listen to

the solemn silence ringing through the

emptiness of trees; Squirrel stands upright

with folded paws, reverent beneath this

white cold falling from the skies; the world

is washed; the snarls of pain are hushed;

hushed, too, the noise of anxious rush to

prove our worthiness to be alive;

stillness blankets shrubs and rocks,

the railing on my deck,

our fears and greed as well.

*

It will not last. I know.

Gray slush will soon collect

along the streets; grime will

cling again and crawl beneath

our skin, and war and hate will

clang across the world; but in the

quiet of this winter white, I stubborn

light my Advent-candled hope; await

the Child who will one day unfurl this

pristine interlude of peace until it

fills the whole of space, the whole of

time, beyond the reaches of the farthest star.

Of Windows and Walls–a Photo Essay

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There are days when my walls feel thick. Oppressively thick. Thick and dark, as though they’re pushing in on me and taunting my CFS/ME persistent need for rest. Days when I simply want to be outside these walls. Out and “doing,” rather than simply “being,” forever sitting on the maroon and cream colored roses that pattern my sofa. It’s not that I’m never able to be out and about.  I am able at times to take short walks, enjoy an occasional visit with a friend, even attend worship now and again.  I am grateful for each of these, but I so wish they were not so infrequent.  

I’m grateful, too, for my sturdy walls and their protection from the bitter cold of January. From the heat of August. From rains and snows and winds. Grateful for these walls, oh yes. But there are days of weakness when I want to break them down and simply be done with all this resting. Exchange my sofa roses for the lilies and the iris that grow outside the confines of my barricades. I do not always like my walls.

But I have windows too. Bright openings in my walls. Openings that calm and reassure. That pull me out of torpor. That open up my walls, push back their taunts, and call me to a place of mindful, humble praise.

One of my windows, the window that watches while I sleep, looks to the west, through branches of an aging dogwood tree. One dogwood branch in particular has become a special friend. Constant in presence. Constant in attentiveness to mercies and beauty new every morning.

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Her white blossoms greet me each spring.

 

 

 

 

 

winter lace

 

 

 

In winter, she sometimes tats a delicate lace of snow…

 

 

 

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…or tosses soft balls of cotton clouds into the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

In the evenings, I often see her through the window, waiting beneath a darkening sky that evokes in me a sometime shudder. Recently, however, there was a different night. I went to close the blinds but opened them instead, transfixed by bursts of light breaking through the menace of the black. Bursts of the Beyond, bursts of Light that shines, of Light no darkness will ever overcome.

 

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Other evenings, not many, but a few, a grand cacophony of soundless color arches through the vastness of the sky. It’s then I almost hear my branch friend’s silent laughter chortling to defy the taunts of my thick walls.

 

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Another window opens up directly across from the sofa roses of my rest. In spring, the vista through this opening is soft and promising, singing gentle songs of busy growth, renewal; sheer joy in all that is alive.

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In the heat of summer, these same branches splash right through my window, bringing with them a sea-green coolness—so welcome and refreshing.

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Then in the fall, the brilliance of the branches once again lights up my indoor space. Beautiful, but a bit foreboding as well. Drawing me into reveries of dyings I have known, more dyings that will come—for friends, for loved ones, one day for me. “Let them be,” I softly pray, “let them be endings both as bright and as unassuming as the falling of these radiant leaves.”

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Through this window, too, in every season, my sea-toned wind chimes sparkle, some days with a stillness that quiets every fear that threatens me. Other days they skip and dance, almost bringing the wind inside to ruffle my hair and lift my sagging spirits.

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Windows. They make me rich with wonders manifold. These wonders don’t exactly make my walls come Jericho-a-tumbling down. But windows have a way of pushing out the walls. A way of letting in the light. A way of lifting me, opening me, connecting me with what’s beyond. And I am grateful.  

Grateful and aware. Aware that there are many in our world confined behind walls far thicker than mine. Walls of painful, crippling illness. Walls of oppression. Walls of punishment. Walls of prejudice and hate. Walls often with only tiny windows or with no windows at all. Walls that shrink minds and souls. Walls that leave spirits damp and dead.

So as I lay my window thanks upon my altar of gratitude, I lay as well a prayer for windows everywhere. A prayer for windows that will enrich, encourage, and embolden all who live behind life’s walls. A prayer for hastening of that day when walls—all walls—will be no more.