Walk Gently

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” — Matt. 6:28-30

Earlier this year, we viewed “The Pollinators” at church. The documentary chronicles the lives of beekeepers who ensure that America’s orchards and fields are pollinated by trucking hives from Maine to California, timing their arrival to coincide with spring blooms. It was a fascinating look at the deft dance that makes our produce purchases possible. It was also scary. Prevalent use of pesticides and infestations of mites routinely cause the collapse of bee colonies. However, climate change is the biggest threat to bees. Heatwaves, floods, and hurricanes destroy hives, reduce food sources, and lower plant diversity.

Inspired by the film, Duane and I decided to join the “No Mow May” effort, letting our back lawn grow. The dandelions were prolific, the forget-me-nots abundant, and the grass grew long. These important early sources of pollen were a boon to bees, which happily buzzed from bloom to bloom.   As June arrived, we mowed portions of the back lawn and cut some paths through what we began to call “The Meadow.”  More beautiful wildflowers appeared: lupines, Queen Anne’s Lace, cardinal flower, evening primrose, and goldenrod.

Best of all, our meadow was a haven not only for bees but for other wildlife. Hummingbirds perched on our pole bean tower and skirmished over nectar. A fat and sassy groundhog appeared, munched on mallow, and ate up all my peas. One morning, part of the meadow lay flat where deer had bedded down for the night.

Our small effort to be hospitable to bees brought joy all summer. It also prompted reflection on the wonder and wisdom of God’s good work in creation. All creatures occupy a God-given niche on this planet. They do so with great elegance and sophistication. We can choose to live in ways that allow that great web of being to flourish as God intended. It can be as simple as skipping the May mowing and allowing an experiment in honey bee hospitality to bear witness to the infinite creativity and wisdom of the Holy One, who prizes the lilies of the field and loves us enough to die for us.

Let’s walk gently into the fall with great love for the world around us—and one another.


“Goldenrod” by Mary Oliver

 “On roadsides,

  in fall fields,

      in rumpy bunches,

          saffron and orange and pale gold,

in little towers,

  soft as mash,

      sneeze-bringers and seed-bearers,

          full of bees and yellow beads and perfect flowerlets

and orange butterflies.

  I don’t suppose

      much notice comes of it, except for honey,

           and how it heartens the heart with its

blank blaze.

  I don’t suppose anything loves it, except, perhaps,

      the rocky voids

          filled by its dumb dazzle.

For myself,

  I was just passing by, when the wind flared

      and the blossoms rustled,

          and the glittering pandemonium

leaned on me.

  I was just minding my own business

      when I found myself on their straw hillsides,

          citron and butter-colored,

and was happy, and why not?

  Are not the difficult labors of our lives

      full of dark hours?

          And what has consciousness come to anyway, so far,

that is better than these light-filled bodies?

  All day

       on their airy backbones

           they toss in the wind,

they bend as though it was natural and godly to bend,

  they rise in a stiff sweetness,

      in the pure peace of giving

           one’s gold away.”

in New and Selected Poems, Mary Oliver. Boston: Beacon Press, 1992, pg. 17.


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The new song

Poem for a Tuesday — “The new song” by Sydney Carter

“Be faithful to the new song

thrusting through your

earth like a daffodil.

Be flexible

and travel with the rhythm.

Let your mind

be bent by what is coming:

making is

a way of being made

and giving birth

a way of being born.

You are the child

and father of a carol,

you are not

the only maker present.

How you make

is how you will be made.

Be gentle to

the otherness you carry,

broken by

the truth you cannot tell yet.

Mother and be

mothered by your burden.

Trust, and learn

to travel with the music.

in Sydney Carter. The Two-Way Clock: Poems (London: Stainer & Bell, 2000).

Sydney Carter (1915-2004) was an English poet, writer, and musician. He graduated from Balliol College, Oxford, in 1936. Carter’s commitment to pacifism led to his controversial stance as a conscientious objector during World War II. He was among 1,300 Quaker volunteers who served as drivers in the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, spending his war years in Greece, Palestine, and Egypt. Sydney Carter was best known for writing Lord Of The Dance in 1963, as an adaptation of the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts. He once said that he saw Christ as “the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality. By Christ, I mean not only Jesus; in other times and places, other planets, there may be other lords of the dance. But Jesus is the one I know of first and best. I sing of the dancing pattern in the life and words of Jesus.”

(quote from Carter’s obituary in The Guardian, March 16, 2004)

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God speaks to each

Poem for a Tuesday — “Gott spricht zu jedem” by Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,

got to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like flame

and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.

You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

/

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist. He was the only son of an unhappy marriage. His mother mourned the death of an earlier daughter. During Rilke’s early years, she sought to recover the lost girl through the boy. According to Rilke, he had to wear “fine clothes” and “was a plaything [for his mother], like a big doll.” He attended military school and trade school before studying literature, art history, and philosophy in Prague and Munich. He was a mystic, proto-modernist, and early proponent of psychoanalysis. He traveled extensively throughout Europe and Russia before settling in Switzerland. At the time of his death from leukemia, his work was largely unknown to the reading public, but his posthumous followers have been many. He is now considered the most lyrical and influential of the German early modernists.

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