Late summer vacation thoughts and poems...

I am heading BACK out for a week of late summer vacation starting tomorrow - and I LOVE this season. It is already starting to grow cooler in the Berkshires - it hasn't been much of a summer given all the rain - and as it comes there is a clear shift in sunlight upon us.

Poet Donald Hall speaks of the "growing darkness" that matures into New England winters. Some people hate and fear it while others cherish the way the darkness envelopes the soul in a deep, quiet meditation. After 10 years in the desert Southwest, I tend to grow weary of the final dark days of winter but really enjoy the early descent. So while it is coming, I will be out in the late summer sun to play... poet Mary Oliver puts it like this:

The mockingbird
opens his throat
among the thorns
for his own reasons

but doesn't mind
if we pause
to listen
and learn something

for ourselves;
he doesn't sop,
he nods
his gray head

with the frightfully bright eyes,
he flirts
his supple tail.
he says:

listen, if you would listen.
There's no end
to good talk,
to passion songs,

to the melodies
that say
this branch,
this tree is mine,

to the wholesome
of being alive
on a patch

of this green earth
in the deep
pleasures of summer.
What a bird!

Your clocks, he says plainly,
which are always ticking,
do not have to be listened to.
The spirit of his every word.

This will mostly be an "alone" vacation week as my honey has to be at work. I hope to travel South to see my father. He is the same age as the late Senator Kennedy. For a host of reasons I am painfully aware that every day is precious and another season cannot be taken for granted; so I will take a road trip to Maryland by myself and use it as a time of quiet reflection and solitude. Wendell Berry's poem comes to mind...

The longer we are together
the larger death grows around us.
How many we know by now
who are dead! We, who were young,
now count the cost of having been.
And yet as we know the dead
we grow familiar with the world.
We, who were young and loved each other
ignorantly, now come to know
each other in love, married
by what we have done, as much
as by what we intend. Our hair
turns white with our ripening
as though to fly away in some
coming wind, bearing the seed
of what we know. It was bitter to learn
that we come to death as we come
to love, bitter to face
the just and solving welcome
that death prepares. But that is is bitter
only to the ignorant, who pray
it will not happen. Having come
the bitter way to better prayer, we have
the sweetness of ripening. How sweet
to know you by the signs of this world.

These past two weeks back at church - preparing for a new season of ministry and mission, study and service in the Spirit of Christ - have been full: there is a new staff musician to hire, new worship and adult forums to set into place, new small groups to organize, a new website to launch, a mission trip to plan as well as a renewed evangelism team to recruit and train.

One of the challenges of being a part of a small, renewal community involves consensus: it takes a lot of work - and even more time - to bring 70+ people to common ground. In a worship community of about 100, however, if you don't have that consensus then trust can evaporate quicker than spit on a Tucson highway. No, in a smaller community, finding common ground is essential if real change is to happen. My prayer for this time away, then, has something to do with learning again how to wait and be nourished in the waiting. One helper is Robert Frost...

Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

That crossed me from the sweet things,
The flow of - was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Downhill at dusk?

I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they're gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.

I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
the petal of the rose
It was that stung.

Now no joy but lacks salt,
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love
The sweet of bitter bark
and burning close.

When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,

The hurt is not enough:
I love for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough
To all my length.

So off I go to the road - to the South - to my father's - alone (armed only with a few books and my IPOD.) More as it unfolds like the songs suggests...

NOTE: just after getting plans in place to head out to see my dad I was notified by my sister that he has been hospitalized. He fell and dislocated his shoulder and had an allergic reaction to pain meds - and is now on a ventilator. More as it unfolds...
photo credits: dianne de mott @


RJ said…
thank you my friend...
Black Pete said…
Travelling mercies, man.
RJ said…
thanks, brother... what a year!
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