All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lairs,
the bees are stirring, birds are on the wing,
and Winter slumbering in the open air,
wears on his smiling face a dream of spring.
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The sanctuary below earth and sky is throwing open its doors, doors once “frozen” in bondage, and the introit to springtime’s metaphorical “high mass” is beginning. Presiding currently over the opening ceremonies are the avian high priests, the cardinals, but with the arrival of the vernal equinox on March 20th, other clergy will appear to perform the holiest of sacraments upon earth’s ancient altars.
The vernal equinox may be 3 weeks away, but with the emergence of each new leaf and bud and bird Creation’s heart is beating stronger and stronger. Spring’s early chants echo close to the ground, and as they reverberate near branch and cane, they tell me that the rest of spring’s holy voices will join in soon. When they do their arias will reach crescendos that climb garden walls and charge over hedgerows. And these ever increasing waves of spring’s sweet sounds will cross the land, discernible to some extent even in the mighty cement jungles of commerce, until summer draws near and spring’s benedictions and blessings are snuffed out by summer’s ever-increasing waves of heat.
Within the quiet, eternal rhythms of God’s heart one finds wholeness, harmony, and healing for the brokenness that transpires in the maelstrom of human madness and the exhaustion of today’s “cultural currents.” Through the clouds of modern man’s spiritual and ecological pollution, the light that was in the beginning breaks brilliantly every spring as the sounds of the eternal emerge triumphantly from winter’s silence teaching the listener to reverence not only the Creator but all that He has made including his/her own existence.
You set all the boundaries of the earth; You made summer and winter. ~Psalm 74:17
A blooming redbud tree is a thing of beauty in and of itself, but looking up through its branches to glimpse a blue sky, is a double measure of joy poured out for the onlooker. Such things should stop anyone from letting a day pass by without thanking the Lord for the blessing of color and of sight.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~Psalm 118:24
When father takes his spade to dig
then Robin comes along;
And sits upon a little twig
And sings a little song.
The introductory line is from Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence,” a somewhat lengthy poem consisting of a series of paradoxes in which Blake juxtaposes innocence with evil and corruption. The word augury in the title means omen or token, and the robin is the poem’s first noted “augury of innocence.” The robin’s song, personality, and countenance are such that it’s obvious why the poet saw the act of putting one in a cage as not only an enraging violation but also as a profound perversion of holiness. The sweet song and colorful markings of a robin make the bird a delightful harbinger of spring’s infancy and innocence. Looking forward to its coming is one of my favorite rites in spring’s passage, and like “all heaven” I’d be incensed if the bird’s freedom were taken away and its song silenced. Below is a legend about the robin that again ties the bird to the blameless and sacred. Although the truthfulness of legends is questionable, I’m fascinated that somehow, somewhere, and in some way the robin was connected to the Messiah.
The Legend of the First Robin
One day, long ago, a little bird in Jerusalem saw a large crowd gathered around a man carrying a heavy wooden cross. On the man’s head was a crown made from a thorn branch. The thorns were long and sharp. The little bird saw that the thorns were hurting the man. It wanted to help Him, so it flew down and took the longest, sharpest thorn in its tiny beak. The bird tugged and pulled until the thorn snapped from the branch. Then a strange thing happened. A drop of blood fell onto the bird’s breast, staining it bright red. The stain never went away. And so today the robin proudly wears a red-breast, because it helped a man named Jesus.
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. . .” ~Job 12:7-10 ✝
This is where your life has arrived,
After all the years of effort and toil;
Look back with graciousness and thanks
On all your great and quiet achievements.
You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let your heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. . . ~Ecclesiastes 3:1
I managed then to keep a few square yards on a shelf
for staging in a greenhouse, and those few square yards
were crowded with tiny bright things from New Year’s Day to Easter.
Their brilliance contrasted with the snow and leaden skies;
it was like coming into an aviary of tropical birds or butterflies.
~Vita Sackville-West, English author and poet
What you see in the photos may be a new world for me, but by no means is the greenhouse a new concept. What lead ultimately to its invention began long ago when it was noted that discarded seeds grew better on rubbish heaps loaded with manure. From that the idea of growing in a hot bed was developed. Following that was the discovery that if one dug a pit for the growing of crops, the plants grew even better and more quickly with the added benefit of shelter and warm soil. Further down the road during the 2nd century A.D. the idea emerged for building an open house with walls above the ground for growing plants. In the beginning no roof was placed on the “growing houses,” but as the concept continued to evolve, covering them with thin slabs of mica came into practice. Eventually fires for added warmth were kept burning around the exterior. However, following the fall of the Roman Empire and the decline of their influence such horticultural methods were lost until the middle of the 13th century. One of the great scholars of that time was a Dominican friar named Albertus Magnus who wrote knowledgeably on the subject of plants. During the course of his studies he delved into writings about Roman horticulture, and it was he who subsequently revived the practice of forcing flowers and fruits in a hothouse. The next reference to greenhouses is of one in the physic garden (a garden for growing medicinal herbs) established in Oxford. In this garden a slate roofed greenhouse was built in 1670; it was heated by fire baskets burning charcoal that were wheeled around the walls by the gardeners. Then in 1734 in the same garden the first wooden greenhouse was erected. During this time greenhouses were coming into more general use, first by the very wealthy and then somewhat later prefabrication made the prices of greenhouses more affordable for the working man.
As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will endure. ~Genesis 8:22
Whatever your gifts are, they’re meant to serve Divine purpose.
Embrace them, nurture them, use them.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. ~1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Awake, thou wintry earth –
fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth –
your ancient gladness!
Leaf by leaf, bud by bud, and blossom by blossom the spring of the year advances. On warmish days, earth casts off its wintry gloom, and breezes broadcast sweetly-scented aromas. The first butterflies then dare to soar and the hungry bees hum amid the glad laughter issuing forth from flowering bulbs and trees. As a result the year’s initial poetry of rebirth is penned by the pollinating, aerial whirring of dainty wings. In the meantime as I hurry about trying to taking photos of the blossoming narratives and their paramours, I often find myself asking the same question Walt Whitman once did. “Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?” The answer I’ve decided is that the arms of trees reach towards the heavens to gather sacred messages meant to draw mankind near to “the living Word of God in nature” as well as what is read in Scripture.
In our area the first verses of “tree” poetry come from Saucer Magnolias. Their big, goblet-shaped flowers pen exquisite couplets in pink and white. Soon to follow are the brilliant white blossoms of Star Magnolias. Though not quite enough lines to form a fourteen-lined sonnet, their twelve exquisite, “petal-poesy” lines form rhyming schemes as lovely as any Shakespearean sonnet. Next and in perfect rhyming sequences come the double samaras. Samaras, the scarlet, dual winged fruits of the Red Maple, look like long, slender fairy wings as they dance choric rhymes writ by the winds. Then come the Eastern Redbuds and Bradford Pears that compose stunning free-verse stanzas in purple and white, each resplendent branch, a psalm written in praise of its Maker. For a pollinator now there’s no quandary about where sweet nectaries are to be found for stanza after stanza they and I are lead in springtime to earth’s most festive and delicious banquets.
He has taken me to the banquet hall, and His banner over me is love. ~Song of Songs 2:4