146. Beauty. . .is the shadow of God on the universe. ~Gabriela Mistral

A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
~John Keats

Image

The human body needs food to be nourished, but the spirit needs to be fed in other ways.  One thing it needs is beauty, and nature has a vast array of beautiful places in which the spirit can be nurtured and healed if need be.  I’ve found that time spent in any of earth’s sanctuaries provides me with a better perspective about a whole host of things.  When the senses are heightened and ordered, what’s really important in life becomes ever so much clearer.

Rachel Carson alleged that “those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”   She’s right because when one is alone in any of nature’s courts, if He is called upon and welcomed, it’s easy to become aware of the Lord’s presence.  More importantly if one listens carefully in the midst of the natural world’s profound silences, he/she can hear the Lord speak.

God made the forests, the tiny stars, and the wild winds–
and I think that He has made them partly
as a balance for that kind of civilization that
would choke the spirit of joy out of our hearts.
He made the great open places for people who want to be…
away from the crowds that kill all reverence.
And I think He is glad at times to have us forget
our cares and responsibilities so that we may be nearer Him–
as Jesus was when he crept away into the wilderness to pray.
~Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  ~Mark 1:35  ✝

145. Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile. ~William Cullen Bryant

Why is it so many of us
persist in thinking autumn is a sad season?
Nature has merely fallen asleep,
and her dreams must be beautiful
if we are to judge by her countenance.
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Image

Earth is the only planet in the universe that’s just the right distance from the sun to support life as we know it, and it is by its 23 and a half degree tilt that the seasons are created, seasons that each have their own distinct majesty, flavor, and personality.  That’s why I thought it was so fitting that at the end of a great, BBC-made Disney movie called EARTH, the narrator, speaking with an appropriate sense of wonder and awe, made the following statement, “Earth is full of harsh realities, but sometimes it’s just paradise.”  And so it is, especially in its last hurrah!  It is with a glad heart that I’m seeing the corners of fall’s mouth starting to turn up and that soon the season will spread into its grand and broad smiling face.  I personally think the reason autumn smiles is because she knows that her predecessors will come again and again to her door allowing her to have the year’s final say.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

 ~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8   ✝

144. In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary. ~Aaron Rose

For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right,
since its appearance changes at every moment;
but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life – the
light and the air which vary continually.
For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere
which gives subjects their true value.
~Claude Monet

Image

Living in a garden day after day, being a participant in all its events, witnessing the changes from season to season, and watching the way differing light falls on the landscape make gardening a thrilling experience.  The fact that colors in the garden change off and on during the course of a day fascinates me.  In morning light the hues are vivid and bright, but as daylight mellows into twilight, they melt into quieter, more subdued tones.  Light even affects the fragrance of things for it is only in the cooler moments of early morn and twilight that the strongest aromas are dispelled from herbs and flowers.  But then things are not just affected by changes in lighting.  Sometimes colors change as flowers and leaves age, when temperatures rise or fall, when changes occur in the content of the soil, or when rainfall is lacking or in abundance.  That’s why without looking at a calendar, I can tell that the rose bud in the photo is one born of recent rainfall and the passing of the autumnal equinox.  The constancy of this inconstancy defines the soul of a garden, and, like all else in nature, speaks to me of rhythmical and purposeful ordination.

Awake, north wind, and come, south wind!  Blow on my garden that its presence may spread everywhere.  Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.  ~Song of Songs 4:16   ✝

143. The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The earth has received the embrace of the sun
and we shall see the result of that love.
~Hunkesni (Sitting Bull, Lakota Sioux holy man)

Image

The flowers in these photos are the result of another year’s embrace of the sun.  It will be the remembrance of them and the haunting song of their colors, separately and collectively, that will lift my spirits when in the months to come I traverse winter’s “vale of grief.”  If my memory of the colors should grow dim, I’ll have but to look heavenward and watch for them in the rising and the setting of the sun on days when a window in the gloom has been opened.  In those moments when they streak the eastern or western horizon in a blaze of glory I’ll remember that as the earth tilts back toward the sun, the sun’s embrace will bring the flowers, their lovely colors, and their songs back.  When they return and the air is filled with the music of many melodies, my prayer for all of us will be. . .

 That the morning sun stirs us with gladness from our beds,
That the winds of March move us happily along the new year’s road,
That the rains of April renew our strength,
That the flowers and colors of May captivate our sight,
That the summer inflame our zeal,
That autumn’s colors stimulate our dreams,
That the silver moon make us wiser yet,
That the Lord keep us young at heart so that
we are full of life, laughter, song, and gratitude
for the holiness and goodness in all that the sun and His love embraces.
~Edited and adapted from a blessing by Fr. Andrew Greeley

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.  In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.  ~Psalm 19:1-5   ✝

142. Red is the ultimate cure for sadness. ~Bill Blass

May you be blessed with
warmth in your home,
peace in your soul
and joy in your life.
~Irish blessing

Image

A swamp mallow is she in the photograph, and like her name she is one of the stars of our hot Texas summers.  Her scientific name is Hibiscus coccineus, but here in the Lone Star state she is commonly called the Texas Star Swamp Hibiscus. The Star can grow as tall as 7 feet and puts on stunning four inch crimson blossoms.  Another perk is that she attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and other avian visitors.  However, according to some she can be as big a challenge as the state she’s named after.  In my garden, however, I’ve found her surprisingly easy to manage, and I love that her season runs from June to October and provides lush summer and fall color.

Your ways, God, are Holy.  ~Psalm  77:13  ✝

141. Colors are the smiles of nature. ~Leigh Hunt

Of all God’s gifts to the sighted man,
color is the holiest, the most divine, the most solemn.
~John Ruskin

Image

To the sighted man color is emphatically holy, but I believe the sanctity of it goes deeper than the eye.  Deep within the human soul color is recognized as tidings from the Father of our world and the message is twofold.  Color is a hallowed melody meant not just for the eyes but for the ears as well.  Pablo Picasso touched on this when he asked, “Why do two colors, one put next to the other, sing?” He couldn’t explain it nor can I, but there are color combinations that compose the sweetest of songs.  Pink and blue is one of those duos, and together they pen a heavenly harmony reminiscent of sapphire skies streaked with luscious pink ribbons of light.

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.  ~Psalm 97:1  ✝

140. All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. ~Maltbie D. Babcock

This is my Father’s world
He shines in all that’s fair,
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.
~Lyrics from This is My Father’s World by Maltbie D. Babcock

Image

What a glorious morning!  When I raised the shade, my eyes were met with a delicious light pouring down on a corner of the garden.  And it was light not born of the intense heat of past months but instead of the crisp coolness of a 59 degree autumnal equinox morn.  Zephyrs were ruffling leaves, and they were shouting hallelujahs in praise of the Lord’s Sabbath and yesterday’s rain.  Ancient Eden’s unmistakable holy voice reverberated in the air, and all of us, creature and man alike, recognized it and rejoiced.  The “special air of melancholy and magic” typical of September’s opus rose louder and louder as the light moved southward across the yard frosting everything in its wake.  Yahweh’s glory breathed new life into wilted leaves, faded blossoms, and weary bones as the light moved as sweetly as a bow across the strings of a Stradivarius in slanted increments across the yard.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.”  ~Isaiah 60:1  ✝

*Thanks to Annette Lepple for the great description of September that I quoted above.