On to the Fields of Praise


And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

From Fern Hill, by Dylan Thomas

“But to you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.  And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.”  Malachi 4:2

We had the opportunity this past week to spend a couple of days in farm country, and by lucky coincidence, we were there to watch the cattle being unloaded from a trailer  into new pastures.   The calves skipped through the spring-green grass, so alive and exultant that their joy was contagious.  Winter has been long.

A farm, for the young, is an expansive place, and I remember my childhood exploring of fields and ponds with surrounding bulrushes, of haylofts in old barns, of picking berries from the bushes along the fence rows.    In the country, nature is right next to the skin, and there’s a sense that we are in a sacred place.

Through God’s grace, we are set free from our fears and limitations, free to explore and experience all the wonders He’s made in creation.  We are ” in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”  (Romans 5:2, The Message)    Not only standing but running, like the young calves,  with joyous abandonment “on to the fields of praise,” exuberant and elated, dancing our life.

When He Came to His Senses . . .

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
. . .

In his poem The Stolen Child, William Butler Yeats’ haunting lyrics  draw us in, as the faeries tempt us into coming away with them into a fantasy world, away from our pain and sorrow.   But at the end, Yeats poetry shows us the cost of this enticement, when we’ve forgotten how beautiful the commonplace things are.

Away with us he’s going
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.

The desires in our heart draw us into the fantasy world; it promises fulfillment and a way to escape pain.   Like the son in the Biblical parable, we long for excitement away from home.

But the prodigal son is saved when he comes back to his senses among the pigs.  The Father runs to meet him with joy, though he is ragged and bereft of all his human inheritance, to clothe him with fine clothes and to prepare a banquet for him.    Because he was lost and now was found, there is celebration, a feast of abundance.

Grandma’s Tales and Wonderings

Before I am daft, and in my dotage

First let me through my memories forage

I don’t want to nag, nor will I scold

But share with all, to my great pleasure

These tales, which are my greatest treasure.

 My grandchildren love to hear stories, particularly about their mother’s childhood escapades.   The time she didn’t heed parental admonition and got her boots stuck in a muddy farmer’s field on the way to school.  The time when, while delivering papers, she noticed that a dog had fallen in a backyard pool and was able to alert its grateful owner.  One of the great joys of keeping a record, that noted some of the most commonplace activities of our days, is coming back to those pages years later.  To be able to read it vividly evokes the senses and memories of things long forgotten.   I’ve kept a journal for over thirty years, and wish I had done it from an earlier age.

Another opportunity for collecting stories is in the sharing of anecdotes between extended family members.  After the death of our grandfather, my sister badgered as many people as she could into writing a page of their recollections.  She then put them together into a book that we still have more than twenty years later – “remember when Opa would send us to the Dairy Queen to get an ice cream cone for him and Grandma, then saying ‘well, you better eat it yourself because it will melt!'”   It’s only in reading this years later that it occurred to me that this also would have been a convenient way to get the kids out of their hair for a while.

It’s also very important to glean stories in long ago family history.  Time is precious and  I now listen with rapt attention as my 93-year-old mother shares about her life.   “When an old person dies”, the proverb says, ” it’s like a library burning down,” a loss of irretrievable information and wisdom.  There are stories in treasured possessions.   These tales yield greater insights as we ourselves mature.

Storytelling is our way of discovering ourselves, our world, the multi-generational  connections that helped form the people we became. Stories convey the colour, humour, and pathos of the patterns traced in our everyday lives.

And, Love Your Neighbour As Yourself

Cardinal

We live in one of the more southern parts of Canada, the north shore of Lake Erie, and there are many beautiful birds who live and sing in our Carolinian woods. One of the birds we see often is the beautiful red cardinal, sometimes accompanied by his mate whose plumage is a little more drab. Sometimes you can hear them answer each other: the male out in the open, and the female bird under cover or maybe in a nest, but she almost always matches the particular song he is singing (Backyard Birdsong, Donald Kroodsma) Like, “that’s our song, baby!”
The birds especially like it if we keep our bird feeder well-stocked, and we enjoy seeing them come a little closer. One problem that we do have is that our bird feeder is near a window and sometimes the male cardinal sees a reflection of himself that he thinks is another bird. Either because he’s very protective of the female, or perhaps to protect his territory, he will dive-bomb the suspected intruder, only to slam into the window, which must be very painful! And he doesn’t learn from his experience, because he will repeat this over and over!
God made us a beautiful universe, too, and he keeps this world well-stocked for us. But sometimes we want to hoard it all for ourselves and keep others away. Or sometimes others seem like a threat to us, even though we are human beings just like them. Like our friend the cardinal, when we attack others, in the end it’s ourselves that we hurt.

So now, we’ve pasted up several butterfly silhouettes, and hopefully this peaceful solution will keep our defensive friend safe!

Words of Wonder

My first childhood  poetic romance was with William Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud,” but it wasn’t until we visited England in 2006 that we had the joy of visiting Dove Cottage in the beautiful Lake District.  That love of swaying daffodils led from the serendipitous find of one lone flower on our new property to the many in our gardens today.

“It speaks of long ago and far away

But it’s magic – look, just next to you!

So William’s English daffodils

Sway in the wind that again sweeps through.”