Stand and Stare

October 18, 2018 at 0807AM - God_s majesty in today_s sunrise. I marveled all the way to work.

Sunrise over the Rappahannock River

Life is so busy, isn’t it? We run here and there—work, home, school, children, errands, entertainment, church. There is always something that needs attention. Or we need to catch up with our friends and followers on social media. Or catch the latest movie. Or make sure to tidy the garden before the first frost. Or the million other things we need or want to do.

So many times I run like a hamster on a wheel to do everything required. Between my responsibilities at work and home, there is little or no breathing space left in the schedule. Mail and newspapers alone can get out of control quickly. I need to cut back plants and weed the garden, as well as run errands and help my husband with needed paperwork.  Then there are the untidy closets and drawers, beckoning for me to come and sort things out, to donate and discard, and to tidy them so that we don’t wasting precious minutes, wading through junk.

I want time to read for fun or edification so I try to carve out time for reading every day. Creating a new blog post or working on a book I’m trying to write also take time. I’d like to get back to knitting and sewing and make curtains for the bare windows in my book room.

I spend precious time in the kitchen, cooking meals for the family, baking food for them and others in need, and endless cleaning up after those many meals and snacks.

If I do everything I need to do, never mind want to do, I notice I’m running myself ragged, like a piece of rope, frayed until worn to only the merest thread holding it together. I feel like that piece of rope all too often, and I know why I do. It’s because, in all of my to-do lists and musts, I have forgotten to stand and stare.

Have you read Leisure by William Henry Davies?  I don’t remember when I first read it, but it resonated so strongly that I have never forgotten it.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Do we make time to stand and stare? Do we make time to:

  • look at the beauty of a sunrise or sunset instead of fleetingly glancing out our car windows as we rush off to the next appointment
  •  pause by a rose bush and touch the pale pink petals while inhaling the sweet scent of a newly opened bud
  • walk through the dew-drenched grass in the early morning and listen to the birdsong echoing all around us, praising the God who made the world
  •  sit on the porch during a thunderstorm and watch the lightning and streaming rain from a place of safety, but open to the wind and sound
  • look at the sunlight streaming in the windows over a table with a stack of books and a teacup, full of hot tea, waiting for us to stop and take a sip, then another and another while inhaling the steam and cradling the warm bowl of the cup in our hands
  • sit quietly in the evening with a glass of wine or water, meditating on the past day and thinking about all the little things for which we are grateful
  •  spend a few moments every day in thanksgiving for the simple pleasures, which are all around us and so easy to find if we choose to look

Do you take time to stand and stare?  Or do you, like I, forget that life is so much more than busyness and obligations and duties and shoulds and oughts? How many times do we forget that sometimes it is our business is to be quiet, to wait, to wonder, to meditate, and to think great thoughts? Let’s not spend this precious life merely racing from day to day without standing and staring and noticing our surroundings.

How do we make the time though? With so many people needing us and tasks set before us, how do we turn away from the neediness of our worlds?

I don’t have all the answers but I think that if we want to meet the needs of those around us, we will do it better if we have a regular time to stand, to think, to plan, to wonder, to understand the whys of what we do rather than just throw ourselves headlong, to meditate on the truths of what we believe so that we can more fully follow through on those beliefs.

It is easier, for sure, to rush through life without thinking. But join me in rebelling against that hamster-wheel type existence. Stand. Stare. Look. Think. Enjoy.

Life will be richer and more full of joy and wonder if you and I take the time each day, if only for a moment or two, to stand and stare.

April is Poetry Month – April 2

One of my favorite poets is George Herbert, especially at this time of year.  He wrote so much poetry about the Lord, the Christian life, and the Church.  I recently read an article about him, which reminded me again of why I enjoy his poetry so much.

Here is one of his poems that I particularly cherish:

“Perseverance”
My God, the poor expressions of my Love
Which warm these lines, and serve them up to Thee
Are so, as for the present I did move,
Or rather as Thou movedst me.

But what shall issue, whether these my words
Shall help another, but my judgement be;
As a burst fowling-piece doth save the birds
But kill the man, is sealed with Thee.

For who can tell, though Thou has died to win
And wed my soul in glorious paradise;
Whether my many crimes and use of sin
May yet forbid the banes and bliss.

Only my soul hangs on Thy promises
With face and hands clinging unto Thy breast,
Clinging and crying, crying without cease,
Thou art my rock, Thou art my rest.

–George Herbert

April is Poetry Month – The Flood Edition

Rain, rain, rain.  So much water.  The backyard and the sideyard and the frontyard all have streams running through them. And our basement is a lake.  So, in honor of our “flood”, here is a poem about floods:

The Floods

by Rudyard Kipling

 

The rain it rains without a stay
In the hills above us, in the hills;
And presently the floods break way
Whose strength is in the hills.
The trees they suck from every cloud,
The valley brooks they roar aloud–
Bank-high for the lowlands, lowlands,
Lowlands under the hills!

The first wood down is sere and small,
From the hills–the brishings off the hills;
And then come by the bats and all
We cut last year in the hills;
And then the roots we tried to cleave
But found too tough and had to leave–
Polting down the lowlands, lowlands,
Lowlands under the hills!

The eye shall look, the ear shall hark
To the hills, the doings in the hills!
And rivers mating in the dark
With tokens from the hills.
Now what is weak will surely go,
And what is strong must prove it so–
Stand Fast in the lowlands, lowlands,
Lowlands under the hills!

The floods they shall not be afraid–
Nor the hills above ’em, nor the hills–
Of any fence which man has made
Betwixt him and the hills.
The waters shall not reckon twice
For any work of man’s device,
But bid it down to the lowlands, lowlands,
Lowlands under the hills!

The floods shall sweep corruption clean–
By the hills, the blessing of the hills–
That more the meadows may be green
New-mended from the hills.
The crops and cattle shall increase,
Nor little children shall not cease.
Go–plough the lowlands, lowlands,
Lowlands under the hills!

 

And a storyabout a flood:

 

Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water

 

April is Poetry Month – Day 29

We love Winnie the Pooh at our house.  I don’t mean the Disney version but the original Winnie the Pooh books by A.A. Milne with pictures by E.H. Shepard.  Many things from those books have become part of our “family vocabulary” over the years:  I talk about being a “bear of little brain” when I forget things or do something silly, we talk about all of “Rabbit’s friends and relations” when there is a large group of attendees, I scold the boys to not be like “Rabbit” when they get bossy, a person who looks at life from a gloomy perspective is an “Eeyore”, I encourage them to eat well by remarking that they don’t want to grow up “small and weak like Piglet”, a person who is bouncy and tiring is a “Tigger”, and so on.

One of the poems from the books that has become part of our family vocabulary is The More It Snows.  Often when it snows and we are caught outside in it, one or more of us will quote this little poem/song from Pooh:

The more it snows (Tiddely-Pom)

The more it goes  (Tiddely-Pom)

The more it goes on snowing  (Tiddely-Pom)

And nobody knows  (Tiddely-Pom)

How cold my toes (Tiddely-Pom)

How cold my toes are growing (Tiddely-Pom Tiddely-Pom Tiddely-Pom Tiddely-Pom)

 

A.A. Milne also wrote a couple of books of verses for children, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six.  This is a favorite poem from the former book:

 

Lines and Squares

Whenever I walk in a London street,
I’m ever so careful to watch my feet;
And I keep in the squares,
And the masses of bears,
Who wait at the corners all ready to eat
The sillies who tread on the lines of the street
Go back to their lairs,
And I say to them, “Bears,
Just look how I’m walking in all the squares!”

And the little bears growl to each other, “He’s mine,
As soon as he’s silly and steps on a line.”
And some of the bigger bears try to pretend
That they came round the corner to look for a friend;
And they try to pretend that nobody cares
Whether you walk on the lines or squares.
But only the sillies believe their talk;
It’s ever so portant how you walk.
And it’s ever so jolly to call out, “Bears,
Just watch me walking in all the squares!”

Alan Alexander Milne

April is Poetry Month – Day 28

 

When my boys were small, we read a lot of nonsense and silly poems.  One of our favorite books was an old hardback copy of poems by Ogden Nash which I had found at a library sale.  Their “realio, trulio”  favorite poem from that book was this one:

The Tale of Custard The Dragon

Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,
And the little gray mouse, she called her Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio, daggers on his toes.

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful,
Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival,
They all sat laughing in the little red wagon
At the realio, trulio, cowardly dragon.

Belinda giggled till she shook the house,
And Blink said Week! , which is giggling for a mouse,
Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age,
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Suddenly, suddenly they heard a nasty sound,
And Mustard growled, and they all looked around.
Meowch! cried Ink, and Ooh! cried Belinda,
For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda.

Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right,
And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright,
His beard was black, one leg was wood;
It was clear that the pirate meant no good.

Belinda paled, and she cried, Help! Help!
But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp,
Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,
And little mouse Blink strategically mouseholed.

But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine,
Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon,
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm
He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm.

The pirate gaped at Belinda’s dragon,
And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon,
He fired two bullets but they didn’t hit,
And Custard gobbled him, every bit.

Belinda embraced him, Mustard licked him,
No one mourned for his pirate victim
Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate
Around the dragon that ate the pyrate.

But presently up spoke little dog Mustard,
I’d been twice as brave if I hadn’t been flustered.
And up spoke Ink and up spoke Blink,
We’d have been three times as brave, we think,
And Custard said, I quite agree
That everybody is braver than me.

Belinda still lives in her little white house,
With her little black kitten and her little gray mouse,
And her little yellow dog and her little red wagon,
And her realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs,
Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage.

Ogden Nash

April is Poetry Month – Fourth Sunday

Here is one of my favorite poems by Christina Rossetti.  She is better known for Goblin Market and her children’s poems but I love how her devotional poems are so heartfelt and full of faith.  If I had been a literature scholar/professor, my thesis would have been how Christina Rossetti’s faith influenced and  is reflected in her poetry.

 

Weary and weak,–accept my weariness;
Weary and weak and downcast in my soul,
With hope growing less and less,
And with the goal
Distant and dim,–accept my sore distress.
I thought to reach the goal so long ago,
At outset of the race I dreamed of rest,
Not knowing what now I know
Of breathless haste,
Of long-drawn straining effort across the waste.

One only thing I knew, Thy love of me;
One only thing I know, Thy sacred same
Love of me full and free,
A craving flame
Of selfless love of me which burns in Thee.
How can I think of thee, and yet grow chill;
Of Thee, and yet grow cold and nigh to death?
Re-energize my will,
Rebuild my faith;
I will arise and run, Thou giving me breath.

I will arise, repenting and in pain;
I will arise, and smite upon my breast
And turn to Thee again;
Thou choosest best,
Lead me along the road Thou makest plain.
Lead me a little way, and carry me
A little way, and listen to my sighs,
And store my tears with Thee,
And deign replies
To feeble prayers;–O Lord, I will arise.

 

One of my favorite things about this poem is the participation of the Lord with the poet in arising.  She arises but He gives her breath and leads her and carries her and listens to her–a beautiful picture of sanctification.

April is Poetry Month – Day 26

Another favorite poem:

 

Leisure

by William Henry Davies

 

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.