Monthly Archives: September 2009

Time of Gold

Out, into the limpid gold of autumn I walked today, for the first time in several weeks. I looked across at the foothills this morning and saw the first turning of the leaves flickering across their faces like laughter. There won’t be many days with this kind of joy. We had snow this week; three days of fat, complacent white flakes who seemed to have moved in to stay. But then this day came along, chill, but bright as all that is good, and chased them away for awhile. I had to walk- deep into the mountains.

I have been in that haze of a rushed existence that leaves my eyes feeling that they can’t focus on a thing. Too much technology, too many careening forays down the freeway. To little sleep. I hate it when life becomes this jolting chase after something I can never catch. My feet finally slowed a bit in the sunlight. I always marvel at the sense of kindling that comes to me when I walk out in the woods again after deserting them for awhile. An irrepressible freshness tingles in my veins, cools my face. As I walked today, the words of the Irish poet John O’Donohue were with me with his insistence that we humans need nature to keep the core of our souls alive. “How good,” he said in the interview The Inner Landscape of Beauty, “to wake up day after day to a world that is as much alive, if not more, than you.”

And all about me during my ramble, the earth glimmered, sang, ached with a liveness that struck life back in me. Maybe that’s what I feel so keenly is wrong with modernity, that  so many of the substances that surround us are dead. Electronics, manufactured goods, house walls, carpet. We are so insulated from even the slightest touch of the breathing world. But that world is the place our souls come alive. We share the same rhythm of ever-advancing life, even amidst death. Of beauty in the face of decay.

Death is coming to the high fields now, cold is settling into the bones of the trees, but their spirits rise up blazing into their leaves, unvanquished. We are a land of sun and moon in the autumn; the jeweled colors of fall are rare here, our landscape is one of serest gold, and polished silver. The aspens and cottonwoods sing out gold, while the wind runs through them like water, turning over their leaves to where a silvered starlight has gathered. The whole tree ripples like sunlit water, like the rills in a mountain stream. The grass is plaited in wheaten loveliness, the last flowers grow pale in the chill, and I am rich with their beauty. That verse spoken by Peter came to my mind as I walked today, though for me, in a slightly different version. Silver and gold, such as the world count them, have I none. But such as I have, sere fields, light like fresh butter, leaves in silver sheen, give I thee. In the name of the Maker of it all, may your soul rise up. May your spirit walk abroad and be strengthened and may you bear such treasures of light within yourselves.

And that is my wish for you today.

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My October(ish) Book List

41WE9WP7VJL._SL160_Standing by Words by Wendell Berry

5121SFMB6QL._SL160_Lilith by George MacDonald

51EZB0CCM9L._SL160_A Circle of Quiet, by Madeleine L’Engle

510mY3IDrYL._SL160_Norton Anthology of Romantic Literature

51vj5AdpI7L._SL160_The Brontes: Charlotte Bronte and Her Family, by Rebecca Fraser

I’m looking for a novel to complete this. I’m vacillating between a good classic Dickens or Thomas Hardy, or maybe a more soulful Goudge, or perhaps something modern. We’ll see. What are you reading?

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A High Beauty

I think I made it 25 days of straight posting, or thereabouts. Not quite thirty, but close. I am on my second week of soul, body, and mind recovery (a friend laughed out loud when I said that today) after the maddest of crazed summers. I have just stepped foot into the hush of the woodsy, golden autumn months and oh, am I glad. I went to the first meeting for a Biblestudy I’ll be in all this year, and decided I would post my study assignment from the summer. For the first meet up, all the women involved had to bring an essay they had written out of their experience of studying the Gospel of Mark all summer. The essay topic was “why I love Jesus, and why He is worth following.” This is a back to the very seed small basics of loving God. I love that it begins with a “why?”

Writing out my answer was to affirm all over again the things I hold most dearly true, and often ignore. So:

A High Beauty: Why I Follow Jesus
Sarah Clarkson

Far above the mountains in the west, the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach. –J.R.R. Tolkien

“To you has been given the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven.”  When I read those words of Jesus’, I feel like Sam, the little hobbit, when he looked out from death and destruction and found himself face to face with a light that could never be dimmed. When I confront the person of Jesus in the Gospels, the thing that calls out to me with the voice of a siren is His constant call to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In those words, I finally find hope that the joy and beauty I have always yearned for is real, and exists in a real place that I was created to find. As a bit of an idealist, I am always aware of a longing in my heart for a beauty greater than any on earth, for a home I was made for, but have never actually seen.

The reason I love Jesus is because he comes promising that high and eternal beauty that can never be dimmed or defeated. I love Jesus because He affirms to me that beyond the darkness, the whole world and I are cradled in light, that there is a relentless goodness that holds us together even as we struggle and sin. His invitation to the Kingdom of Heaven whispers to me that though I am caught in the shadows of a broken world, I will not be left there.

I follow Jesus because He is the goodness come down into the darkness. He refused to stay beyond my reach in his perfection, but instead desired that I, and every willing person, would be brought home to His kingdom, to share in his unending joy. In the Gospels, I see Jesus continually insisting that people understand this- that they perceive that He came not just to heal or help them temporarily in this, the broken place, but to set them on a journey that would bring them to the home they had always desired. I hear his words as a call over and over to look up and see the glory He is offering. Every story and parable is his aching attempt to get people to finally catch the shocking joy of what can be theirs. Stories of feasts, bridegrooms, grand harvests; so many of them revolve around the choice of a character to be ready and alert, or to be dull and unaware, because what is being offered is the combined hopes and dreams of every human heart throughout history.

There are a dozen smaller reasons I love the Son of Man, as Jesus called himself. The way He took time to know the people around Him, His compassion on His wayward disciples. The confidence with which He proclaimed His words. The tender attention He gave to women and children. But however much these things kindle and encourage me in the day to day, it is that hope of the Kingdom of Heaven that is a high and shining star to me, especially when I am caught in discouragement or despair.

At those bleak times, I see in stark clarity that Jesus in me is a seed of light growing even amidst the shadows. I understand that if I continue to love and follow Him, that seed will grow and grow, up through the darkness, until it reaches the light of the real, eternal world for which it was made. His beauty reaches down to me and His love in my heart helps me to reach up and grasp it. It is that that keeps me trudging after Him every day of my life. With such a hope, I will never stop.

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