the trees are bleeding
a groaning glory, autumn
from death springs new life
the trees are bleeding
a groaning glory, autumn
from death springs new life
“you say grace before meals. all right. but i say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before i open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before i dip the pen in the ink.”
— g.k. chesterton
so by now you’ve heard of the als ice bucket challenge, which raises awareness, support and money for people who have lou gehrig’s disease. also now there’s the “rice bucket” challenge, where you dump a bucket of rice over your head and it supports feeding the hungry in the phillippines (which is pretty cool).
i was challenged to do the version with ice water, but with a twist — to raise awareness of and donate to the voice of the martyrs. VOM is an organization that provides aid, medical care and support to men, women and children around the world who are being persecuted for their faith in God.
persecution happens every day in a variety of places or circumstances often not considered “newsworthy,” but it’s especially bad in iraq and syria right now. thousands of people are being forced to flee their homes — both Christians and non-Christians — and even children are being beheaded.
children. how is that okay to turn a blind eye to?
please http://www.persecution.org to learn more about how you can support those who are being persecuted.
while most of us, as individuals, can’t go over there and help directly, we can bring what’s going on to public attention and help pave the way for those who are able to go into the fray and serve and protect those who are vulnerable and in danger. i know dumping water on my head is kind of a silly thing to do in the grand scheme of things, but if it helps raise awareness, compassion and support for those in need, then pour the water on!
(thanks to robbie, who did not completely squirm out of my arms while i talked, and who got wet with me.)
“flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men and animals. some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock.” — henry ward beecher
this spring our hollyhocks finally bloomed, and though their stalks are now crispy brown from the summer heat, the cheerful sunflowers have begun to grace us with their faces.
The air was thick and close, and the restless wind tossing the treetops did little to relieve it. The earth rumbled with the reverberations of a distant summer blitzkrieg, and every so often a quicksilver vein of fire would race from the darkened clouds to strike the horizon.
She leaned out the open window, longing for the storm to come and cut the humidity. The wind whipped her hair around wildly, now ruffling it into a haystack, now plastering it flat against her head. A changeful gust blasted her in the face, smelling of rain-soaked vegetation and back-alley dumpsters. She grimaced and snorted slightly, trying to rid her nostrils of the scent. She inhaled again, this time catching a whiff of spicy pine on the heavy air. Then, with a sudden uprush of wind, the rain arrived. She ducked back inside and closed the window, listening to the raindrops’ futile attempts to batter down the glass. A bolt of lightning seared the sky, and almost simultaneously came the echoing report of thunder.
Fear no more the lightning flash
nor the all-dreaded thunder stone …
That evening long ago had also been in summer, but unusually cool and clear. They sat side by side in the twilight, enjoying the fresh breeze blowing through her open windows. He was unusually talkative, and they were discussing his favorite song.
“Why do you like it?” she asked, modern music not being her forte.
“Because it’s authentic. It’s raw and disjointed and funny and random and real.”
“That’s quite a mouthful.”
“I’m serious. I think everyone feels like that sometimes, that they need someone — that they need to have someone. That they need to have someone understand them.”
“Do you feel that?”
She turned and looked at him for a moment, but he was staring out the window.
“How much have you had to drink today?” she asked abruptly.
He started out of his reverie. “Nothing, unless you count water or coffee. Why?”
“Never mind,” she said, ignoring his questioning look. “That sentence might ruin your life. Come on.”
She hopped up from the sofa and headed for the door, catching his hand and pulling him up as well. He started, and she realized it was the first time she’d voluntarily made physical contact with him. She dropped his hand as soon as he stood up, but still …
“Wait, where are you going?” he asked as he followed, stumbling over his own feet in his surprise.
“You need to see something, she said, grabbing her keys from the rack by the door. “Come on.”
He followed her to her car in bemused obedience and slid into the passenger seat without further inquiry. Her hands were shaking slightly, and she tightened her grip on the steering wheel.
All traces of sunset had left the sky, and the atmosphere was dreamlike as they drove through the midsummer darkness. They rode with the windows down, and the city smells of diesel exhaust and greasy spoon diners soon gave way to the sweeter scents of mown grass and clover as the number of buildings dwindled and the fireflies increased. After about an hour’s ride in silence, she turned off the highway onto a gravel road and drove another mile or two before turning down another, narrower, unpaved track. There she stopped.
“We’re here,” she said simply, offering no further explanation as she retrieved a blanket from the trunk of the car. “Follow me.”
And again he did, wondering what on earth he was in for if it could possibly, as she said, ruin his life. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” he thought. He didn’t have much of a life to ruin.
She shook the blanket out and spread it on a level patch of ground where the grass was shorter, then sat down, motioning him to do likewise. He stretched his legs out and leaned back on his elbows, awaiting — but not overly expecting — an explanation.
“Now, look up,” she said.
Away from the lights of the city the stars shone bright against the darkness of the sky. Back home he’s always thought of the stars — on the rare occasions he had raised his eyes to the heavens — as cold and insipid. But now, without the garish glow of streetlamps and with no competing brightness of moon, he saw them for what they were: spheres of fire burning white-hot in the frozen loneliness of space.
It was breathtaking.
“I usually come here alone, but tonight you needed to see them, too,” she said quietly.
She was lying on her back now, staring upward, hands clasped beneath her head. He lay back as well and waited for her to continue.
“I come out here to remember,” she said after a moment. “I like in the darkness and look at the stars and remember how vast they are, and what a tiny, insignificant person I am on this huge ball of rock and water that’s hurtling through space. But then I remember I am here — I am here, out of all the thousands of combinations of genes that could have produced anyone but me — and that every moment of my existence is a gift. And the fact that I was chosen for this gift … well, even though I’m still a small person on a very large planet, it takes the loneliness out of that smallness.”
As one loathe to admit to anyone, including himself, the possibility that he might be lonely, it had never occurred to him that she might be. In all of his resentment of her ironic scoldings or silent criticisms he’d never have pegged this as her ulterior motive for mysteriously assuming command of his life. Having never entertained this thought, he now did not know what to think.
“Don’t worry,” she said, chuckling softly as they lay there. “I’m not kidnapping you. I just wanted ….” She hesitated. “I just wanted you to see for yourself.”
“Thank you,” he said, unsure exactly what he was thanking her for.
They grew quiet then, a million miles between their minds as they stared up at the sky, shoulders nearly touching. Questions of where and what and why raced through his brain, but she seemed to have reached the extent of her explanation, and he didn’t want to break the silence by asking. Although her gaze was intently fixed on the stars, she was also acutely aware of his presence beside her. She could sense his arm mere inches from hers, and every so often she’d catch the spicy scent of pine that she knew wasn’t coming from any tree. An exhilarating calm, she thought, as she watched a meteor blaze its way across the sky. An exhilaration and calm neither of which was hers to keep.
rain and wind, lightning and thunder, snow and ice, dawn, dusk and moonlight — days dance by and become years before i realize they are gone. small whisper-green leaves drink sunlight greedily and strengthen into a roaring chorus in the treetops, only to weaken, drooping in a final defiant blaze of color before they drop, dead, to the ground. but up from death comes new life, and spring once again conquers winter. so runs the world away — and i, measuring out my life in coffee spoons, grow older.
how long has it been since you left? i’ve forgotten — truly, i have — because in my memory you have never gone.
do you remember the mornings? the cold, clear city light that spilled in through your windows? the silent drives to work, the more silent drives back home? the evenings, and the arguments, and the i’m-sorry-but-i’ll-never-tell-you-so reunions?
i do. and there’s the trouble.
summer is once more on the brink of invasion, mixing the urban perfume of hot asphalt, sewer smells and bus exhaust with petrichor and rose petals. the sun shines golden into the evening and fireflies light up the empurpled dusk. i find myself overwhelmed by nostalgia for what was, and what has never, in some secret seed of my soul, quite ceased to be.
summer was always your season.
i look at the past through golden eyes, so nothing seems unlovely, not even the worst days. and the best? more beautiful than they ever could have been.
i walk down the sun-warmed streets and everything sings of you, your aching presence and your gaping absence. there is part of you that is as much a part of me as i am myself, though you never offered and i never would have taken. but the moments in the morning, the unconscious moments before you woke and remembered everything your whiskey would never let you forget … those are mine. autumn and winter mute the memories until i wonder, after all, if i might not forget, but as spring runs into summer they re-emerge with technicolor vividness, and though i walk through the waking world i live more in the past than i presently can comprehend.
i want to lay this ghost of that-which-was, for that-which-might-have-been was never an option. i always knew but refused to acknowledge it.
you have been gone, you are gone, and you-as-you-really-are-has begun to fade from the memories of you as my fancy framed you, leaving a shell more hollow and more beautiful than you ever were.
i have been continually unkind to you, in your absence as well as your presence. if i could i would undo that part of the past, but what was, is, and there is no future for me to mar.
we said goodbye, and you are gone.
would that i could blow away my memories and they would float as easily as dandelion down on the summer breeze until they too are gone, lost in the sunset.
and it would have been worth it all, after all — after all this, and so much more.
she laid her pen down and stared a moment at the handwriting wandering over the page, then closed the blue-bound book and silently slipped it into the drawer.