Playdates with God: Look Up

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The morning is dark today, sun hiding behind a chalky sky. Through the window I see the tip of the Maple is beginning to turn, green leaking into gold. The change of season is always cause for celebration but my mind has been too preoccupied lately to notice. Still, I feel the shift in my spirit. The birds are gathering their flocks and congregate in mass along the power lines.

Perhaps you’ve seen them too, these past weeks, as they glide across a frame of blue sky; Hundreds moving as one, inking out the sun as they soar and dive—their hearts pulled by some invisible string as they join that great rhythmic dance that spins us all.

Just last week a great flock of migrating Purple Martins roosted in the large oak at the mouth of our neighborhood. When I saw that black cloud hover and the tree humming with all those songs, I hurried up the street—eager to get a closer look at our old friend the tree—all decked out in living baubles.

As I stood there in the middle of the street—neck arched upward for dizzying moments, something amazing happened. Those birds took flight. And the way they swooped and dominoed through the sky made my stomach drop—it felt like I was flying with them, and my heart was lifted by their communal dance.

Does it do that to you too? This looking up? It stirs something deep inside of my soul. And I wonder, is it because they are so close to the heavens that their journey seems lifted by joy? Surely they can feel the very heartbeat of God from where they are.

But it’s more than just these winged travelers that give the lift. There is something about shifting the gaze, something about that tilt of the head, something in this physical posture that changes the ordering of my spirit. I have learned over the years that when there is something troubling me…if I go outside and simply look up…there is almost always an immediate lightening of the load. It doesn’t take the burden away but when I look up at that great expanse of sky…I am reminded that I do not carry it alone.

I am satisfied lately with these small meetings with God. Stepping out-of-doors and gazing up at the morning sky or the stars as they canopy over me—this is where I have found peace in this fast-moving season. When I lift my eyes to the heavens, I am reminded that there is more than one way of seeing, that there are real things my frail eyes cannot see and my hands cannot hold. This is the mystery of faith, how the invisible carries.

Have you tried it? Look up. And let the eyes of your heart be awakened.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

West Virginia Morning: Cicada Song

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This morning, I fill my feeders to the brim with black oil sunflower seeds, whispering a blessing over my feathery visitors as I move silently through what Frédéric Gros calls “the undecided blue hour.” I have been watching through the window for the better part of an hour as a Downy Woodpecker creeps and clings to the dead branches of our plum tree. We have been talking all summer about hiring someone to clear away this sad reminder of the harsh winter, but still, it stands—naked in its death, branches slowly giving way to the brittleness of time. The woodpeckers have found it inviting and for this reason I am in no hurry to cut it down.

The Downy flits away to the meadow as I draw near. I watch his retreat—that undulating flight the woodpeckers are known for. He disappears into a nearby tree and I can hear his familiar pik, pik, complaining about my invasion.

“I’m sorry,” I say, to the sky. “I hope you like this little treat.” I fasten a suet cake into the holder that dangles from the dead tree.

My Audubon Field Guide tells me the Downy is recognizable by “…its habit of tapping on branches hardly thicker than itself.” I smile as I pass under the thin branches of the plum. I’ve often thought of it as an umbrella, the pliable branches cascading down over the earth it grew out of.

I will miss this tree.

Over by the coneflowers I find an empty cicada shell. Every evening we are lulled into letting go of the cares of the day by the steady thrum of the cicada song. I stoop and study its casing, the memory of membrane on its abdomen. “Thank you,” I say, to the empty eyes.

So many songs belong to nature. This life contains so many different worlds.

Yesterday, on my way home from work, a large foreign object appeared seemingly out of nowhere in the air and crashed into my windshield—on the driver’s side, right where my head was. It happened in high-speed traffic and so fast that I couldn’t do anything but brace myself. The window was shattered and I was covered in glass. I was only a few miles from home so I limped my van on down the road in a state of shock, I think.

Life feels fragile.

There has been a lot of talk lately about online community verses flesh and blood community. I am glad for the conversation. It is good to look closer at the different worlds—to look deeper for the good of each and leave the undesired behind. After my windshield was shattered, I stayed unplugged the rest of the evening. I only wanted to be with my family and celebrate our life together. This doesn’t diminish the community I have found online—it only informs it, defines it better, I think. We should never stop learning, never stop looking deep, always asking questions. We shouldn’t shy away from what we don’t understand; but listen, study, learn.

A hummingbird does a flyby so close to my head that I feel the air from its fast-moving wings on my cheek. I duck involuntarily and the little bird is gone in a flashing moment—time on fire.

Today I am giving thanks to God for a strong windshield and good auto safety standards, for my family and all the small moments we share, for my online community and my flesh and blood community who both prayed gratitude at my safety, and for all the different songs of nature. Life is short. We will never live long enough to learn about all the different worlds out there. But I will keep trying.

 

Playdates with God: Chasing Butterflies

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Green thickens on nearby hills and the yard has become a lush terrarium in which to lose myself. Lately, we have noticed large numbers of butterfly visitations—mostly the Tiger Swallowtail, but also some Black Swallowtails and smaller varieties too. These pilgrims seem tired, and I have noticed many are missing parts of their wings and their scales have been rubbed off until the wing is translucent. These raggedy guests seem a marking of the coming of summer’s end, and I watch with bittersweet emotion as they unwind their long tongues to taste my purple coneflower.

Always curious, I’ve been reading about the butterfly, which—like moths—are in the class Lepidoptera. Lepidos is Greek for “scales” and ptera means “wing.” I remember as a little girl my mother cautioning me not to touch the butterflies, for to do so would be to rub off some of its wing scales and endanger the beautiful creature. One source confirms this, telling me the scales “protect and insulate the insects and aid in the flow of air along their wings as they fly.” And they may also help the cold-blooded butterfly absorb heat into its wings. Butterflies cannot fly unless their body temperature is above eight-six degrees.

I read that there are some 28,000 species of butterflies worldwide and hosting the Tigers in my garden is the sweetest of all hospitalities. Something in their raggedy countenance this time of year awakens in me desire—desire to care for, desire to protect. At the least, a desire to provide comfort in their last days.

Endings are never easy. Some of you may have heard that The High Calling has decided to end its relationship with the editors who have worked for them these past few years. This is a hard goodbye, one we did not see coming, and so we are working through that grief, together and separately. I started volunteering for The High Calling back in 2009, when it was still a fledgling. In those early days, we made it our priority to make space for the small voice—to encourage new writers and mentor them in growing. As we changed our direction numerous times, I carried that mission with me, always trying to use my position to give voice to lesser known writers and provide platform opportunities. I know of few other online places who do this—so many spaces vying for the big names. This is just one of the unique qualities of a special place that will be missed. For me, this letting go is compounded by preparing to send our eldest off to college in a few weeks. I have felt such sadness in my spirit—it feels like my wings have a few less scales. But at the same time, there is beauty.

For to sorrow over a goodbye means that there was something of immense value that one is being parted from. And there has been so much to value in my time at The High Calling. It has been a lovely experience, one I will forever be grateful for. The connections I’ve made and the ways that I’ve grown through them will be a slow reveal, I think—something I will continue to live into for many years.

I may have more to say about that later, but for now, I will keep chasing butterflies.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

West Virginia Morning: Tethered

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In the early hours of the morning, the spiders show off their finest work. There are the intricately wheeled silk circles of the garden orb, the thick cottony sheets layered in small patches over the grass, there are the thin spindles of threads left behind after a spider has consumed his silk and moved on. Everywhere I go in the yard I am wiping away strands unseen.

I don’t mind, this walking through feels like being kissed by dew and all these strands of gossamer tether me to the earth somehow. Frédérec Gros says that walking “is not just a matter of truth, but also of reality.” He says, “To walk is to experience the real. Not reality as pure physical exteriority or as what might count as a subject, but reality as what holds good: the principle of solidity, of resistance. When you walk, you prove it with every step: the earth holds good. With every pace, the entire weight of my body finds support, and rebounds, takes a spring. There is everywhere a solid base underfoot.”

Gravity holds me, but also all other things of this good earth cup my body tenderly; I move and breathe as part of entire system of things: the spiderweb, the pollen sifting through the air, the grass heavy with morning’s respiration …

I am not a pantheist, but it still remains that God so loved the world and when I walk through it I can feel this world he loves waiting, expectant, longing for Christ’s return.

The meadow is stitched with Queen Anne’s Lace. It is so beautiful it makes my heart ache. When we first moved here, it was different—it was tame. A retired couple owned the land and tended it meticulously. Mr. and Mrs. Casto kept it mowed, pristine, and often, when I would be pushing my babies on our swing set, Mrs. Casto would stop on her riding mower and tell me how my boys reminded her of hers. Mr. Casto has since passed away and his lovely wife lives in a residential facility. The boys and I used to visit her—take her pies made from the apples in her meadow. But time has a way of playing tricks on the memory and our visits eventually became confusing to the dear woman.

Now the meadow is a tangled mass of trees and strubs and Queen Anne’s Lace. Yesterday, I watched a ruby-throated hummingbird light on the tip of the hickory tree. It flitted from limb to limb like a feather in the wind. It’s hard to tell what hides in all that underbrush. Somewhere in there are the apple and pear trees the Casto boys used to climb for sport.

Later this morning we will drive north for my family reunion. Last night I dreamed Aunt Martha was a live and well and welcomed us when we arrived. She was young and slim and beautiful and because she was younger, I was too. There is nothing like a day with extended family to make one feel like a child. But this tethers me also—the embrace of the kin. And just like the spider silk their touch stays with me for a time.

What tethers you to this good earth?

Small Wonders

 

 

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In the morning, when the air is still heavy with moisture, I walk Bonnie around the house. The sun is barely peeking, light sifting down, revealing the secrets of dawn. The wind has carried petals from my neighbor’s tulips into my yard, a whisper of red sparks a memory. I stop to see and I smell my lilacs, riding the dew. We walk around back and I snip a few stems for the kitchen table.

The day begins in perfume, the house is a celebration.

Look, what do you see? In what joy do you begin the morning today? Breathe slowly, see deeper, love where you are.

There are gifts all around you.

 

a spring poem

“It is snowing,”
they laugh
as petals come down
and I
a bride
underneath
this
fragrant confetti.