One doesn’t open the windows, often, here, in this place where the air holds a strange combination of constant heat and dampness.
Most times there’s barely a difference in the numbers telling us the temperature and the percentage of water in the air.
Most times the air outside smells thick and old, as if it hasn’t moved in hundreds of years; it’s clinging to the trunks of trees, inching down the crevices in the sidewalk, barely keeping itself afloat, pouring itself into your lungs.
Inside, we empty the dehumidifier, over and over and over again.
But then, sometimes, ever so rarely, there comes a day when the dampness leaves momentarily and the humidity dips down, just a tease, just for a handful of hours. And I run to fling open all the windows, and shake out the blankets and rugs, and turn up the music and laugh and breath it all in and think of Pablo Neruda, who said –
“Walking down a path
I met the air,
saluted it and said
‘It makes me happy
that for once
you left your transparency,
danced, moved leaves,
beat the dust
from my soles
with his laughter…
the day is coming
when we will liberate
the light and the water,
earth and men,
and all will be
for all, as you are.
For this, for now,
And come with me,
that dances and sings,
the length of the sea,
to the height of the mountains,
where the new spring
and in one gust of wind
we’ll share the flowers,
the scent, the fruit,
And I am happy, with this one short gust of fresh wind.
Here, in the humid fog
(which, I imagine, might not be much
unlike The Night
in which the angel appeared)
here in the humid fog
the only snow looks like
paper scraps and
shaving cream. Bubbles and
these circles of vinyl we
press to the windowpanes
with hearts of hope
as though we were two again
or five or nine or eighty-four
as though we pressed up our noses
to the glass
waiting for papa to come home
or waiting for Christmas time
or waiting for snow.
But while we are grown
and while we are tall
and while we can reach the upper shelves, now –
we are still children.
We are still waiting for Papa,
and this window is a glass, dimly, and
we see glimmers of celestial light
inside claypots and
outside trimmed oil lamps, and
in cups of cold water, given.
Christmas day was the first time He came and
so now through the centuries since
we press our noses to the glass
Christmas Day, Round Two
(in which we will all be made wholecompleteperfected
and the sky will light up.)
These are tidings
of the greatest joy.
A bit later, He told us this, so that His
joy might be in us, and
our joy might be full.
So now let’s all press our noses
to the glass
and look heavenward
and reach high
“I woke up this morning,
as the blues singers like to boast….
Everything seemed more life-size than usual.
Light in the shape of windows
hung on the walls next to the paintings
of birds and horses, flowers and fish.
…I closed the door to that room
and stood for a moment in the kitchen,
taking in the silvery toaster, the bowl of lemons,
and the white cat, looking as if
he had just finished his autobiography.”
-Billy Collins, from the poem “The Literary Life”
She was desperate to look outside. She pulled at the shades, tangled herself in the curtains, and whined, impatiently dancing on her tiptoes.
I understood. I understand.
I swept the curtains aside and tied the gauzy fabric into a loose knot. Tugging the braided cord downward, we watched as the slats slid upward, pouring sunshine over us.
She was instantly silent, instantly still.
She rested her fingertips on the wooden sill, the wooden sill which has seen more tenants than just us. It’s buried in coat after coat of sticky white paint, and not all of them had been evenly applied. She doesn’t notice this.
She is still, transfixed, mesmerized by what’s beyond those two panes of glass.
For a moment I feel sorry for her. She looks at the grass and barely knows it beyond something that’s labeled “Keep Off”, “Pesticides Applied mm/dd/yy”, “Clean up After Your Pet”.
But this does not trouble her. She is quiet and calm, lost in her own little world of thoughts.
In this moment, I feel that her world is much deeper than I can begin to imagine.
She places her small hand on my arm, and my precarious camera-toting, nearly-kneeling balance is lost. She pats my arm reassuringly, and looks up at me from her squatting position.
And then it hits me. That’s ok. I don’t have to be able to see clearly for it to be beautiful. I don’t have to have a perfect exposure, a perfect view.
I just have to be here — here in this quiet moment, kneeling in front of the low window with my daughter, quietly watching the trees and the sky, washed in His redemptive Grace and Peace. Here in gratitude, here in thankfulness, here in the kind of perfection that I can’t create, but can receive, with arms open wide and eyes fixed on my great and wonderful God.
My arms of full of blessings; my heart is full of peace.
“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. … In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.” -James 1:17+, the Message version
“…or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe..
…I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.
As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
a dance whose name we can only guess.” -Billy Collins
I first read this poem years ago. Lucy Shaw’s powerful words have stayed with me, a reminder to look up from the cradle and worship the risen King, who we are celebrating today.
Merry Christmas, friends! He was born so we could live.
“One time of the year
the new-born child
planted in madonnas’ arms
hay mows, stables
in palaces or farms,
or quaintly, under snowed gables,
gothic angular or baroque plump,
naked or elaborately swathed,
encircled by Della Robia wreaths,
garnished with whimsical
partridges and pears,
drummers and drums,
lit by oversize stars,
partnered with lambs,
peace doves, sugar plums,
bells, plastic camels in sets of three
as if these were what we need
But Jesus the Man is not to be seen.
We are too wary, these days,
of beards and sandalled feet.
Yet if we celebrate, let it be
has invaded our lives with purpose,
striding over our picturesque traditions,
our shallow sentiment,
overturning our cash registers,
wielding his peace like a sword,
rescuing us into reality
demanding much more
than the milk and the softness
and the mothers warmth
of the baby in the storefront creche,
(only the Man would ask
all, of each of us)
always, urgently, with strong
(only the Man would give
his life and live
again for love of us).
Oh come, let us adore him-
There is something in this night that makes it quiet, even though the freeway is just outside my window. Between the time the sun bows down and the sun stands up again, the cars still shuffle past, slowing to pass between the concrete pillars marked with blinking toll lights. The drivers must slow down before they speed up again, driving away from one place and toward another, probably in a hurry, probably unaware that the hum of their car engine is a steady backdrop to my dreams.
I could never have made these dreams come true, not on my own. But you know, don’t you, that the Giver of All Good Things takes these threads, one by one, and gently untangles them. He weaves each shining thread into my life-filled hours, weaving in and out, always with purpose, always with design, always toward a beautiful end, until I’m walking on a tapestry I didn’t even realize was there.
Oh, Father God, Creator, let my eyes always be open to Your beauty.
between the way the sunlight fell to earth,
this afternoon, and
between the way it rose yesterday morning,
i can feel how it was to collect drops of sun
the way i did
before they finally settled
into my heart, like a quiet pool of sun and shadows
of rain and things we forgot.
tonight, like the glassine pool,
the house is quiet, settled. there are no swinging
doors, no shutters to creak in the wind
– no wind, in fact
and nothing of mystery, shrouded
but there is
in every corner, settled,
elevating the dust bunnies to some higher, almost celestial plane.
i am surprised how the easily the words untwist and unwind, once i
the inaugural word out of the pen.
i would have expected something
more akin to the way a rusted pump handle
is sealed to itself, stubborn underneath
the chipping paint of a spring thaw
after a dozen years of unuse.
but here, tonight, in the november stillness the letters seem to
jump into place,
seem to alit the wick, as it were,
and flow like melted wax
like the flame in the glass bowl
across the room.
We wake up too early, to the uneven rhythm of traffic slowing and starting again as a multicolored ribbon of cars passes in waves through the toll booth. Aveline stirs and fusses, increasing in volume until the sputtering grunts grow into a jarring cry. She presses her teary face against the slats of the crib, gripping tightly with dimpled hands as she wobbles her way into a kneeling position.
I sit up, glancing upward at the cacophonous din of pigeons who’ve taken up unwanted residence in an opening in the eaves. The water pipes groan and heave, and I hear the splash of hot water making its way through the shower head in the adjoining room as Josiah prepares for the day. I rub my eyes, reach out my arms and smile through a tired fog as Aveline’s fingers quickly grab onto me. I pick her up and pull her close. She buries her warm face in my shoulder and breathes a sigh, kicking her legs in happiness.
I carry her into the living room, letting my eyes truly see all the colors and light and beauty the new day holds. The white light enveloping the chair in the corner. The bright hues of the yarn and thread on the table. The hint of red in Aveline’s hair. Give me strength for the day, Lord, I quietly pray. Thank you for life. I change Aveline’s diaper, tossing her green pajamas into the laundry basket, smiling to myself at the sight of the heap of tiny, rumpled clothes. I pull a bright yellow mod dress off a hanger, and slip it over her strawberry blond head. The sixties-esque daisies on the dress make me smile.
Josiah walks into the kitchen, his wet hair hanging in curls. He reaches for Aveline, holding her in one arm while he measures out coffee grounds. My heart nearly overflows. My two loves, sleepy-headed and happy, together in the kitchen in the morning light. She’s learning how to make coffee, he says, and she turns around to look at me, grinning from ear to ear.
Later, she sits on his lap while he works on the iPhone game he is creating. I sit across the room, letting the bold flavors of my coffee curl around my tongue. I stare into the steaming liquid. Coffee and chocolate, I think to myself. Exactly the color of his eyes.
I read Genesis, and Jacob’s blessing speaks to me.
The God before whom walked
my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
The God who has been my shepherd
all my life long to this very day,
The Angel who delivered me from every evil,
Bless the boys.
May my name be echoed in their lives,
and the names of Abraham and Isaac, my fathers,
And may they grow…
Oh, I love him. I love him to pieces.
“The moon turns its clockwork dream.
The biggest stars look at me with your eyes.
And as I love you, the pines in the wind
want to sing your name with their leaves of wire.”
[Click photo to view a larger version.]
the changing of the months always pulls at me
pulls at me the way the numbers are swallowed up
in a new page
and a new “1″
neatly stacked up in the corner of the glossy calenderial sheet
like a new horizon that somehow
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