Waiting for Transformation

The apples sit in my aunt’s kitchen sink, glistening with fresh water, evidence of the sacred in a suburban back yard.  They’re little – hard and sour beneath skins that are satiny, yellow-green, speckled with brown.  These are not apples for eating fresh.  But they can be transformed.  They cook up gloriously into apple pies, applesauce, apple butter; and the added sugar and spice bring out their quintessential apple flavor.

We’re hard little sour apples, too, with our own speckles and flaws.  But we too can be transformed – are constantly being transformed.  Life chops us up and cooks us down, but with the addition of the sugar of love and the spice of grace, we become – together – something more than we were.  Transformed, perhaps, into our truer selves.


The Gifts of Summer

Summer is here, with heat, thunder, and flowers.  The turning of the season from spring to summer always seems to me to be filled with scent.  Everything that is, is an invitation to savor and enjoy the sacredness of physical being.


Summer Retreat

The afternoon is mild and breezy,
Cool in the shade, spattered with warm sunshine.
The seedpods of the redbud
Are fresh and green as the mown grass.

I walk the back streets,
Streets lined with small houses and large trees,
Admiring the oak leaves fully open and shiny,
The red flowers of geraniums and pink coral-bells,
The glossy blue-black heads of grackles,
The truncated song of a robin,
And a chickadee’s scolding call.

But oh, my Lord, the fragrance!
Honeysuckle hedges prodigal in the sun,
Bold drifts of mock orange,
The more delicate perfume of late viburnums,
The mild, coarse scent of horse chestnuts,
Here the faint reek of manure in a vegetable garden,
Everywhere the tang of newly mown grass.

Back at the retreat center,
I sit at the shaded picnic table in the back yard,
Writing and watching ants busy for crumbs.
In the gazebo, a small group is singing,
Practicing the songs for tomorrow’s liturgy.
Surely, Lord, to breathe in the pleasures
Of your good earth and rejoice
Is a kind of prayer in which you delight.


A Whole Heart

The words whole, heal, and holy share an etymological root.  The closest current English word to that root is probably whole.  To heal is to become whole.  That which is holy is whole, complete, unblemished.

Our hearts are healed and made whole when we find the holy around us and within us.  And when our hearts are whole and complete, they are transformed by God and become holy.

Since that transformation seems to have no end, we don’t become the holiness that is God, but we can share in the common holiness of the sacred all around us and move closer to the holiness of God.  That’s a comfort when our hearts are broken and need healing.

Healing is the acceptance of our own suffering and our own joy.


Lament in Darkness

Where are you, Lord, in this dark night?
I reach for your hand, but it is not there.
My heart yearns for your healing light.
Darkness encloses me, darkness without hope,
Without relief, without end.
When will you come, Lord?
When will I look again on the light?

I know that you are the light of my eyes,
But my eyes are blind with tears.
You are the joy of my heart,
But my heart is lacerated with loss.
I trust in your presence, but I am numb,
And I cannot find you in the dark.

Come into my broken heart, Lord,
Come to me in this darkness.
You are the Lord of Light and the light of hope,
And you are the God of the dark and the deep.
I know that you are with me even now,
When I am blind and deaf to your presence.

Let me feel your presence, Lord, so that someday
I may again celebrate you with laughter and joy.
Be with me, my God, even when I cannot see you.
Make my heart whole.


The Students’ May-Dance


The Students’ May-Dance

I went looking for a poem
For May, for my students, for spring,
For young women half-remembering
A ritual of celebration more ancient than Easter,
Celebration of the Goddess and the rising earth,
Goddess and her phallic consort,
Lovely Maypole adorned with flowers.
I went looking for a poem,
Searched five anthologies,
Rejecting the coarse, slick glimmer of male words
Celebrating cherry-trees, daffodils,
Owls and rings and daisies and their own wonder,
Rejecting also the dark angry assertions of certain women
More tuned to their own deaths than life.
There was no poem.

To be a woman and yet filled with light,
To be filled with light and yet rich and heavy and anchored,
Not filled with lightness floating away like paper balloons
Or Maypole ribbons lifted on the wind.

What do they mean by it,
What are they thinking, these women
Turning around and around this symbolic pole?
Do they think of spring,
Of the intense green of the uncut grass
And the cups of light dangling from the forsythia?
Or do they remember the Goddess in their blood,
Dark blood of births and beginnings,
The vast earth beneath their feet,
Beneath the warm, slanting light of spring evening
And the brave, airy words of men
Who think the Maypole is the center of things,
The phallic organ of the universe,
Ignoring the dark body of the Goddess
That holds it up, gives it function, purpose.

To make of these disparate elements a poem:
Women and spring and light,
Youth and the Maypole, dance and the Goddess,
Ancient fertility rite and the academic year
Drawing to a close as the world is reborn,
Re-bears itself out of the dark womb of the Goddess,
To the sound of academic voices reading dry poems
Washed alive again in light spilling through forsythia flowers.
These elements: women and youth and light
And the sweet green despair that is spring.


Note: The women of Wells College have many wonderful traditions. One of them is the annual May celebration. When I was academic dean there, I was asked to read a poem as a part of that celebration. This poem reflects that experience, and it also reflects my conviction that God is not an old man with white whiskers. God is too great for us to know fully. Though we may picture God as Father or Mother, he/she is both and greater than both. God is truly beyond our comprehension. God is a person encompassing and transcending gender. Some cultures have glimpsed God as Mother, and some have glimpsed God as Father. Neither is the complete truth of God. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that God is God.

The Persistence of God

Maple Flowers sdaffodils 2

Spring has arrived. Overnight – or over a couple of nights – the grass turned green and daffodils and narcissi popped out in flowerbeds. Spring is so late this year that everything is rushing to catch up.  The hyacinths in the back yard are out, and I can smell their scent when I open the window. My crocuses finally appeared for a day or two, and the maple trees are covered with tiny red flowers. Daylily leaves are coming up, and the bulbs on the north side of my house are getting ready to bloom – they don’t get much sun, and are later than most. Thunder woke me last night, and the rain made everything glisten in this morning’s sunlight.

This is my favorite time of year. It’s a time of renewed life, and renewed hope. I’m not sure exactly what is promised in all this rebirth – maybe eternal renewal, maybe the endurance of creation, maybe the continuation of life in spite of all we do, maybe the eternal persistence of God.

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, and the next is Easter. We’ll celebrate the Resurrection, and talk about eternal life. But what do we know? It’s all mystery. What it all means is God’s business, not mine. Right now, my business is to rejoice in the renewal all around me, the visible, concrete beauty that promises and reassures. If the trees bloom and the daffodils come up and the grass turns green, then I know that God’s still at work in the world, creating and re-creating life, designing beauty, and infusing everything with light and love.