Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Light Has Dawned (Advent Poem 2016)

In keeping with my yearly tradition, one I have now kept up for twenty-five years, I wrote a poem during the Advent season to share with friends and loved ones. Actually this year I wrote several, but this was the one that seemed to call out for sharing. It's inspired in part by the verse in the epigraph (Matthew 4:16, which is of course echoing Isaiah 9:2) and also by the difficult path I've walked this year. I hope it will offer anyone reading it encouragement, for indeed, the light has dawned! Jesus is the light of the world, and he beckons us to follow him.

A blessed Christmas!


A Light Has Dawned 

(“The people dwelling in darkness 
have seen a great light, and for those 
living in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light  has dawned."  
-- Matthew 4:16)

The road is steep and dark and long.
I strain my ears to hear the song
Of stars that glimmer through the limbs
Of trees that nod and sway and bend –
I do not know this place I’m in.
I fear the night, and oh! the cold!
I try to make my heart feel bold
By walking straight and strong and true
But oh! the dark! What can I do?

The stars are all the light I see.
They peek in patterns through the trees
And glance upon the drops of rain
That caught in branches, sing of pain
But somehow, offer healing too –
I pause and wonder what to do
If the rain grows stronger, longer,
If the night grows older, colder,
If the darkness overwhelms
And leaves me in the shadow realms.

But suddenly it pierces through –
A light that’s bright and strong and true,
A light I know I’ve seen before,
It glows and makes my spirit soar!
It lights the pathway for my feet,
It pulses with the star song’s beat.
To my surprise, my steps grow sure
And all the raindrops look so pure!

The star song grows more loud and sweet –
I think I recognize this street!
A lane called mercy, a trail of grace
(the branches look like bridal lace)
The beauty of the night entrances,
(limbs and twigs are silver lances)
And everywhere light permeates,
I look and look and see a face –

The face of a small baby child,
A face so tender and so mild.
He beckons me to go along,
To walk this suffering road of song,
To follow heaven’s pulsing ray
To wait for dark to turn to day.
For one day darkness will be banished
Pain and tears forever vanish –
I will step through the cross shaped door
And find my home forevermore.
                ~Elisabeth M. Priest, Advent 2016

Nouwen's Reflections on Mary

Just read these reflections from Henri Nowen's Gracias!, which tie in beautifully with some of the reflections I wrote and posted here yesterday. For your pondering....

"Mary experienced uncertainty and insecurity when she said yes to the angel. She knew what oppression was when she didn't find a hospitable place to give birth to Jesus. She knew the sufferings of mothers who see their children being thrown into the air and being pierced by bayonets; she lived as a refugee in a strange land with a strange language and strange customs; she knew what it meant to have a child who does not follow the regular ways of life but creates turmoil wherever he goes; she felt the loneliness of the widow and the agony of seeing her own son being executed. Indeed, Mary is the woman who stands next to all the poor, oppressed, and lonely women of our time...

Every word in Scripture about Mary points to her intimate connection with all who are forgotten, rejected, despised, and pushed aside. She joyfully proclaims: 'He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.' (Luke 1:52-53)"

Friday, December 23, 2016

Jesus Came For Us All

Battling some side effects from the new chemo drug, I am sometimes finding myself once again waking up in the middle of the night and struggling to get back to sleep. Often I am nauseated and needing to focus on something (anything!) in the midst of my uncomfortable wakefulness. Sometimes I read, sometimes I listen to music or pray. Sometimes I check in on social media, both to look for beautiful images and to catch up with wakeful friends or those or live in a different time zone.

I was on Facebook in the wee small hours last night and ran across a meme that once again, has me baffled and frustrated over the power of the "culture wars" in our country, as well as worried about the lack of depth in our understanding of the gospel. This was a type of meme that has been circulating for several weeks. A usual version has a picture of the nativity and something that relates the fact that the holy family were refugees.

What gets me every time is not the message of the meme itself (though in meme fashion, it is sometimes presented in less than gracious terms...the one I saw last night was lashing out at some of the responses to earlier, more gracious versions, and basically saying if you didn't believe Jesus and his family were refugees, you shouldn't celebrate Christmas). What gets me is the Pharisaical reaction to the meme, in which commenters, many of whom clearly would identify themselves as Christians, are a) stating absolutely that Jesus and his family were NOT refugees, b) that even if they were, they were a different kind of refugee than those living in our world today, and c) that anybody who posts this is clearly a liberal who doesn't read or understand the Bible and thus deserves censure and mocking. The overall message in the comments, the ones I can stomach when I'm feeling nauseated at 4 a.m., seem to encapsulate that "this is not what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." In so doing, they seem to be capturing the idea that Christmas is about Jesus' birth, divorcing that instance of the birth somehow from the overall deep theological truth of the incarnation, Jesus taking on flesh and becoming human.

The distinction that critics of this meme like to make is that Jesus and his family were not refugees on the night that Jesus was born. They point out that Mary and Joseph had not gone to Bethlehem as refugees. They had gone to be registered in a census. True enough. Let's look at Luke 2:1-5...

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
So Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to be registered in a census which was decreed by Caesar Augustus. This was the Roman Emperor who pretty much believed he controlled the whole world, and who in some sense, at that time, did control a lot of it. He was the head of a mighty Roman empire whose reach was incredibly long and powerful, so long and powerful that they had eaten up a lot of other people's lands and put themselves in charge everywhere they could. The Israel in which Mary and Joseph lived was an oppressed place. All you have to do is to look at other parts of the gospels, perhaps especially some of the narratives regarding Jesus' crucifixion, to gain a fuller understanding of just how oppressed the Jews were under the Romans. 

Mary and Joseph didn't exactly flee to Bethlehem as refugees, no, but they walked about 90 miles as a young, impoverished couple, one of whom was pregnant (and whom we can easily and truthfully identify with unwed teenagers) to do the bidding of an emperor who had oppressed their people. Their registration in such a census was probably related to the fact that once you were enrolled, you could be taxed (which is why some translations read that way). If we're looking for ways to relate to the people in this gospel narrative, and to understand who they were: poor, tired, oppressed, stressed, and taxed could be some appropriate adjectives.

The difficulty of their circumstances continues as we read on in Luke's narrative. I'm not stopping to get into the scholarly debate here about whether or not they really stayed in a stable (no sentimental 19th century barn, for sure) or a cave or a relative's house that had an open area with an animal feeding trough in it. It's probably enough for us to know that there is no room for them at the inn where they originally stop, and so they have to make do with whatever they can find. And that the only bed they can lay their newborn swaddled son in, happens to be a manger where animals feed. I think we can add unwelcomed and exhausted to the adjectives without having to stretch too far imaginatively. 

Are we beginning to get a picture here? Jesus came to be born to identify with all humanity, to take on human flesh and to experience the difficulties and challenges of living in a broken world he had come to heal. He willingly entered into that brokenness. Although Jesus was part of the Godhead and the true ruler of the world, God didn't choose to send him as a human baby into a wealthy and influential family. He was NOT born the son of Caesar Augustus or even Herod the Great, the Jewish regional leader who was an arrogant, violent man and essentially a puppet of the oppressive Romans. God sent him to be part of a family that was poor and oppressed, but who loved God with all their hearts and were astounded to be part of his unfolding story. Thankfully, any of us who have ever felt poor and oppressed or actually been so in any way, can be amazed that the Creator would send his only Son to live in this way and to identify with our pain.

But (I can hear people who are scared  or scornful of refugees argue) they weren't refugees. Well, no, I guess not technically, not on the night he was born. They became refugees, of course, when Herod, freaked out that there was word that Jesus was born to be "king of the Jews" (a word he got from foreigners who had read the sky and Jewish prophecies and come to this incredible recognition) might grow up to become a political threat. According to Matthew, he ordered the death of every child, aged two and under, in the region where Jesus was born. Apparently it had been a while since Jesus was born when the wise men from the East showed up, and they were not entirely sure of the date of his birth...Herod in a sweeping rage and a fit of panic just decided to kill a lot of children to be sure he had wiped out his political threat. Blessedly, God warned Joseph in a dream what was about to happen. The angel tells him to take Mary and Jesus and to "flee to Egypt," which is what, of course, he does -- Joseph gets a lot of angelic messages from God, and he is always obedient and faithful to follow the instructions.  So Joseph, Mary, and a very young child Jesus go on the run to an ancient land where their ancestors once spent 400 years in slavery, to get away from a violent king who desires Jesus' death and who clearly has no compunction about killing children. 

Are they refugees? Yes. And could today's refugees relate to their situation? I think so. Many of the refugees we see today, some of whom are fleeing areas not too far from where Jesus and his family grew up and lived, are fleeing poverty and violence and are in real fear for their lives. Like the holy family, they are looking for shelter and compassionate welcome.

But (the critics interrupt again) some of the so called refugees who want to get into our country are actually people who want to hurt us! And (they also add) the Holy Family weren't refugees on Christmas! That came later in the story! (Truly...these are the kinds of arguments I have read.)

I'd like to tackle those issues in reverse order. First of all, Jesus' birth, important and beautiful as it is to read about, is not about one night, reverently silent or otherwise. It is about Jesus, the eternal Son of God, whom John calls the "Word" and about him doing this:

The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood. 
(John 1:14, in the Message paraphrase...traditional translations say he came to "dwell among us.") 

This is the point. He came to live among us and to BE one of us. He came to be human and to relate to our hardest, most difficult experiences as humans (as well as our joys). And he came because, in John's words again, from chapter 3:  "God so loved the world." The whole world. The entire world. Me and you. People like us and people not like us. People we love and people we find it hard to love. People who need hope and help and shelter, but also people we think of as our enemies. He came to love the lost and the poor and the broken. He came to love the Pharisees who were so confused by their clinging ways to traditional religion that they couldn't easily comprehend the radical light that had come into the world. He also came to love the prostitutes and the tax collectors, those collaborators who actually joined hands with the oppressive Romans (probably out of fear and greed) to collect taxes from their Jewish neighbors, often taking more than was needed so they could get their own corrupt cut of the money. Matthew was a tax collector before becoming a disciple whom Jesus called! Zaccheus was one too, before Jesus got hold of his life by calling him down from his precarious perch in a tree!

We cannot sentimentalize and compartmentalize Jesus's birth away from this ultimate truth of the incarnation. We can't say that Jesus doesn't love and care for refugees because he didn't happen to technically be one on the night of his birth. The entire incarnation matters. Jesus taking on flesh began with his conception and moved on through his entire life, including his death on the cross when he was executed at the hands of fearful Jewish leaders and corrupt Roman rulers (the Sanhedrin wanted him dead but didn't have the political power to put him on a cross; the Romans were only too happy to do away with any political threats by bringing out one of their favorite means of execution).  Jesus' incarnation also included his amazing resurrection three days after his death. These things were all part of his life, and it is his whole life that we can look at, cling to, learn from, enter into, be saved by and be grateful for, not just one piece of it that happens to agree with our picture of what it looks like for God to love us.

Most of the refugees begging for asylum in our world today are not looking to create trouble or to inflict pain. While it's true that sometimes unbalanced and violent people do cross borders to create trouble (the kind of sin we see in the biblical Herod is still alive and well in sinners today) it is not the norm. Most of what we see in the refugee community are people fleeing poverty, violence, and injustice, the kinds of things that Jesus and his family lived under, the kind of violence and injustice that sent the child Jesus fleeing into Egypt and that put him on a cross. So it's not a misreading of the Scriptures for people to say that Jesus and his family should compel us to be compassionate to refugees, even if putting such a sentiment in a meme with a Christmas card picture of the nativity makes that harder for some to understand. And mocking such people for their lack of biblical understanding is wrong as well as mean-spirited. 

Welcoming strangers is hard for all of us because we live with our own sin and fear, just as refugees do. In the affluent west, our fears may look a little different than our brothers and sisters who are fleeing persecution or oppressive governments. We fear people who don't look like us or don't speak our language. We fear people who might come in with violent intentions and try to hurt us and hurt our country. We fear what we don't understand, and in our sinfulness, we refuse to get close enough to learn who others really are at heart. 

But we serve an amazing God who came to identify with all of us, to be one of us because he loves each and every one of us. It's mind-boggling, but that means that God even loved Herod, crazy and hard as that seems. We know for a fact that he loved Saul, a man who terrorized the early church by persecuting and putting Christians to death. He loved him enough to appear to him, give him spiritual sight, turn his world upside down, and call him to follow him. Saul, whose name changed to Paul (showing his brand new identity) became a missionary and one of the main writers of the New Testament.

The story of Jesus' birth is beautiful and true, but it is a radical story that encapsulates not just what happened on one starry night when the angels cried their glorias to a field of shepherds ( interesting place to make a royal birth announcement!) but the entire amazing news that God had become man. He took on human flesh not only to love us and identify with us during the years he lived, but so he could one day sacrifice that flesh and redeem us from the bondage of sin and death. His whole story, including his eternal life before he became human, is part of who he is from the very start. Saying he technically wasn't a refugee on the night he was born is not really a point worth making. First of all, because he would soon become one, and that is as much a part of his life as the night of his nativity and his ultimate death on the cross. And secondly, or perhaps I should have said this first, in a way that we can almost see as refugee-like, Jesus had already made the most incredible sojourn from one home to another ever, as we read in Philippians (written by Paul!) chapter 2, verses 6-8:

"though he was in the form of God, (he) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

 In another astounding passage, 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul tells us:
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." 

This is the Lord we follow, a Lord who humbled and emptied himself to this degree, who left the best home anyone could ever have (a home we will, by grace, one day know too) to come live in a world that was broken and poor and bent, a world that would misunderstand him, mock him, threaten him, and eventually kill him. A world filled with violent, rich, and oppressive rulers; stuffy, arrogant religious leaders; impoverished, oppressed families; refugees who cannot find welcomes, and so many more kinds of people we could name. He came for us all. He loves us all. He desires each one of us to repent and to walk in relationship with him. He longs for us to know him in his humanity and divinity, and he longs for us to love the humanity of our neighbors, no matter who they are, because each one is made in his image. He wants us to reach out to them with the kind of love we have come to know in him. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

St. Theresa of Avila and Trevor Hudson (on Souls, Gardens, and a Loving God)

I'm reading my way somewhat slowly through Majestic is Your Name: A 40-Day Journey in the Company of Theresa of Avila. I say somewhat slowly because I'm not doing it daily, and during the worst craziness of our move (and we're still unpacking) I missed a bunch of days. But I am over half-way through now, and I continue to find that my heart resonates with this great Carmelite teacher. (I've been realizing that I've always had a love for the Carmelites, but I'll save that insight for another post.)

Today's beautiful devotional included these words from St. Theresa, excerpted from her Life:

"When you enter into the spiritual life through the gateway of prayer, you would do well to see yourself as one who has set out to create a garden.

This garden is a place wherein our Lord wants to come and walk and to take pleasure...His Majesty wants to uproot the weeds and plant in this garden many fruitful and fragrant and blossoming plants. You may take it for granted that the Lord is already afoot, walking in His garden, if you have had any desire to seek him in prayer, for He always calls to us first and it is His voice we hear when we think it is our desire to pray.

If we want to be good gardeners of this new-sown soul, we must, with God's help, see to it that the good plantings are tended and grow -- and I am speaking now of the godly virtues. At very least, we must see that these good things are not neglected and die. Rather, we tend our souls carefully so that the first blossoms appear.

These are the spiritual "fragrances" that begin to rise from our lives -- the fragrances of faith, goodness, self-control, love, and the like. By them, many, many others are refreshed in spirit and attracted to the Lord...Then our Lord himself comes to walk in the midst of our garden. And it is all our joy to sense that He is there, taking pleasure in these lovely virtues."

I love this whole extended metaphor! (And quick side-note to poetic self, a slip of my neuropathied fingers made me realize that "soil" and "soul" are just one letter off.) I love the expression "fragrances of faith..." and that the purpose of the growing of good things is our lives is at least threefold: for our Lord's pleasure, for our own growth and joy, and for the refreshment of others that they may be drawn to the loving Lord and King we know.

I also love how the Lord, in his goodness, has this meditation dancing in my heart and mind today along with another meditation I've been contemplating for a few days, from Trevor Hudson's book Beyond Loneliness: The Gift of God's Friendship. I've been slowly working my way through the second chapter there, entitled "God's Passionate Longing for Friendship" in which he makes a couple of wonderful points. One is that God, of course, already has passionate and beautiful friendship within the triune Godhead. He did not create us because he *needed* friendship, but because he wanted it. He created us not out of need, but out of "the abundance of this divine relational life." He wants us to know that life, and so he invites us into it. And he takes the initiative to do this.

Where do we first see this? In the garden, the first garden, where we see the very first question in the Scriptures. The question is "where are you?" and God asks it of Adam and Eve when they hide from him after sinning because they are afraid.

I remember my daughter, when we read this story together when she was very little, asking me "why did God ask them that?" I think she was five or six at the time, and it already occurred to her very young mind that it seems like an odd question for the God of the universe to be asking. I remember her pointing out that God, being God, would know where they were. And it's true. He would also know why they were hiding. So why does he ask? As Hudson points out, he asks because

"even when we mess up, when we let ourselves down, when we fail to obey God, God does not reject us. Nor does God give up on us. Rather God comes looking for us. God continues to pursue our companionship. God knows the worst about us, but that knowledge does not prevent God from taking the initiative in reaching out to us. Here is the bottom line of God's good news: Nothing can ever extinguish the flame of God's passionate longing to be our friend."

Let's hear that last line again, and let's put it in bold: Nothing can ever extinguish the flame of God's passionate longing to be our friend. Can you hear that truth on this wintry Advent evening, during a season of life and love and light in the midst of darkness? God longs for us. And he longs to walk with us in the beautiful garden that together with him, we can create of our lives. He didn't have to go looking for Adam and Eve. But he did, because that is who he is, and has been, from all eternity. Jesus revealed God's heart to us even further when he gave us the picture of the Good Shepherd who went in pursuit of the one sheep who had wandered off from the fold.

Contemplate that amazing heart of God this Christmas. Contemplate that the loving heart that went to the cross has always, from the beginning of time, come looking for us when we are lost. That he does that for you, for me, and for every single person who ever lived. There is no one beyond the reach of that grace, no one he doesn't long to find and bring back into a close walk with him in a beautiful garden. When we know this with all our heart, it will shine forth from us in gospel beauty, refreshing others and attracting them to his heart. That's why we're here on earth, and for no other, deeper reason, I am coming to believe. We are here to learn to walk with him and to draw others into that loving walk.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Rhythms of Illness

Yesterday I started my clinical trial. I am one of 127 people in the world taking this particular drug, which targets a very specific mutation I am dealing with in my particular cancer. I felt a little daunted as I started -- trials involve lots of paperwork, lots of hoops to jump through, lots of bloodwork, and lots of "here's how we proceed" talks from various medical professionals -- but so far, so good. I have had two doses, and I haven't had to deal with any nausea or any other notable side effects yet.

The trepidation I feel seems to be at least two-fold. One reason is because this is such a rare drug (I am the first person my hospital has gotten into this trial) and still being tested, so side effects are still partially unknown. Of course, they always are to some extent, even with standard medicines, because each body reacts or responds to things uniquely. But when a drug is still relatively new, the list of possible side effects is long, and the doctors all seem somewhat apologetic because they can't really tell you which ones are usually "common" (not enough evidence yet) and which ones are less likely. The only thing I was told I could expect, with some assurance that it will indeed happen, is fatigue. Cumulative fatigue. Sigh. There are those words again, ones I got to know all too well during my first chemo sessions last winter/spring.

The second reason I felt gingerly going into this whole thing is my exhaustion level is already pretty high. I have been battling this disease for about eleven months. And yes, I just used the active word "battle" though I still struggle sometimes with the idea of cancer being a fight. I still try to hold onto the wonderful word that the Lord will fight for me, and I need only to rest. But eleven months in, I am starting to get why people use the word "fight" a lot more than I did at first. Every time something else happens -- the cancer spreads, you go through surgery, you get put on a new medicine or start a new course of treatment -- you sort of feel like you are taking a deep breath and stepping back into the ring to get pummeled. Quite frankly, it's hard. You want to say "could I have a break? Please?" but there isn't really any way to take a break when what you are racing is a mutation driven cancer that has broken free and spread to several places so far. You know the cancer is not taking a break just because it's advent-almost-Christmas and you're tired and cold and in the midst of a move. Cancer has no awareness and no politeness. It just is, and it's kind of an insatiable monster, and you have to do your best to stay ahead of it.

I am, after almost six months of struggling with neuropathy and about six weeks of recovering from brain surgery (and three weeks or so out from radiation), starting to catch onto my body's rhythms with this illness. Mornings are times when I need to ease into things quietly and slowly -- days I can't are the hardest. Late morning through early to mid afternoon, on my best days, I get some spurts of energy -- that's when I need to plan to engage life most and get some things done. As the sun starts to go down, which right now means around 5:00, I start to go down too. It usually starts with my feet. They are numb all the time, but as the night descends, they start to tingle more, and after a few minutes, they begin to feel stiff and cramped and painful. That just increases as the night wears on and they get worse. My hands begin to get more numb too. Mild to moderate headaches usually kick in around dinner time, though thankfully they are getting better and fewer and farther between. (I am telling myself that once my new kitchen is set up, and I am cooking more regularly, I need to do LOTS of crockpot meals so I can take advantage of the earlier part of the day when I feel better.)

Usually, somewhere between 6:30 and 8:30, depending on the day, I realize I have to fall over. I get into pajamas early and I climb into bed. Reading, even writing, are often still possible, but I can feel the energy leaking out of me as though I am a helium balloon descending from the ceiling. I get weaker and more tired as the night wears on, and I find myself beginning to nod off mid-sentence of whatever I'm doing.

Learning my body's new rhythm is hard from a practical perspective: I never feel like I have enough time in a day to get done what I want or need to do. But it's hard from an emotional and spiritual perspective too. It's hard because I feel like, at the age of 48, I am suddenly much older in body than those digits represent...I am starting to resonate with people much older than I am, and the limits that challenge them. It also hard because the "not having enough time in a day" feeling seems a faint echo of the deeper concern that my whole life is running out of time. That's a hard thing to think about or even talk about, including with family and close friends, but when you have an aggressive, late-stage cancer, it lurks in the back of your mind. On your hardest days emotionally (I've had several of those recently) it casts a long shadow.

I felt that shadow today when I was zipping quickly through boxes of papers, getting rid of lots of old things we don't need, a daily practice right now as we continue to settle in a much smaller space than we had before. I ran across a box that included letters and essays from the years we were discerning our call to seminary. I found papers in which I wrote, at some length, about my longing to become a spiritual director, something I've been re-thinking again lately. My immediate instinct was to want to look up programs that focus on it -- a year and a half ago, I was already starting to consider what my learning path and "second career" might look like once the sweet girl has graduated from high school in 2020. In the midst of smiling over the passionate words my younger self once I wrote, I suddenly found my eyes dimming with tears as it dawned on me that there may be no second career or new learning path on this side of the veil. That I have been praying hard for the Lord to allow me enough time to shepherd my daughter through the end of her schooling. That the "what next" and the vocational calling questions I've grappled with my whole life suddenly feel strangely different.

It's all part of being chronically ill and all part of learning new rhythms. I am grateful that my heavenly Abba walks with me through them. He doesn't just walk beside me, but before, behind, and all around me. I may have changed a lot this year because I'm sick, but his presence and his love for me never change. My rhythms may be different, but my roots are not. For that, I'm deeply grateful.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Sycamores and Wide Open Space (an original poem)

Good morning, sycamores and wide open space.
Thank you, trees, for how you’ve brightened the
moment when I’ve gone to the window to start
each new day and found you there, stalwart and true.
You’ve stood in a gatekeeping line, overseeing
the asphalt meadow of the parking lot below,
a gray lake bed that has willingly borne the rain
and given me the joy of puddles where my child
once stomped and danced, and where the
streetlights, each night, shine in glints of gold
and silver. I will miss your empty branches in the
winter, looking like candelabra reaching to heaven,
and the wonderful wait for green buds each spring,
the full leafiness of your summery sheen, and the
yellow descent of your leaves in the fall before they
wrinkle into crackles of brown parchment below.
Thank you for the years you guarded me while I
read books on the bench, while the neighbor behind
us swept up leaves and listened in to the stories I
read to my little girl. And oh, wide open space!
How I will miss your lovely vista, the way you too
stood guard over the industrial landscape, the hills
beckoning to us over the tin roofs of the lumber yard
that, lacking outward beauty, still gave us music
whenever it rained. You have been home. You have
been a place I never expected to feel such love for,
and yet that love came, as love sometimes does,
to surprise us and strengthen us too.
I will miss you, dear sycamores and wide open space.
Thank you for being a place filled with grace.
                                                                EMP, 12/9/16