Winter days are short. Lately they have been alternating between being warm and dreary or sunny but way too cold to head out with a camera.
I've been needing to look elsewhere for sparks of light. Just after Christmas -- about the time we put the decorations away -- I diagnosed a shortage of cheerful color in my life and prescribed a series of jigsaw puzzles. This provides the satisfaction of making order out of chaos, as well as a burst of color to satisfy my soul.
A few years ago a friend introduced me to J. Philip Newell's Celtic Benediction, and his morning and evening prayers continue to be a blessing. I've looked back through past photos for images that go with this Sunday morning prayer.
I watch this morning
for the light that the darkness has not overcome.
I watch for the fire that was in the beginning
and that burns still in the brilliance of the rising sun.
I watch for the glow of life that gleams in the growing earth
and glistens in sea and sky.
I watch for your light, O God,
in the eyes of every living creature
and in the ever-living flame of my own soul.
If the grace of seeing were mine this day
I would glimpse you in all that lives.
Grant me the grace of seeing this day.
Grant me the grace of seeing.
Creation is a song, a song that we can see,
a sacred gift from God, let's join the harmony.
This chorus has been singing in my head all week. We sang it at church Sunday, # 24 in Sing the Journey, to the accompaniment of a soft, steady drum beat. It was written by Doug and Jude Krehbiehl, inspired by the writings of Lawrence Hart, a Cheyenne peace chief and Mennonite, and by Cheyenne Spiritual Songs.You can hear Jude sing the chorus and first verse here.
The verses celebrate many scenes from creation and I find they trigger a treasure trove of memories for me. I sing The rolling of the oceans, and I find myself standing on Goleta Beach watching the waves roll in, or floating in the warm waters of the second beach at Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica. I sing the bubbling of a spring, and I am standing in the middle of the woods at Camp Friedenswald, watching the gentle simmer of clear spring water stir the fall leaves floating there. I sing the night sky filled with jewels and I remember a pre-dawn winter morning when I stepped outside to get the paper and the stars were strewn like jewels across black silk -- and then one star stirred to life and streaked across the sky. I sing a flock of beating wings, and I'm in a car with the family the week before Easter, traveling across Saskatchewan on our way to Edmonton, with the sky overhead a complex interweaving of rivers and rivers of birds migrating north, and the song A River of Birds, by Libana, appropriately playing on the tape recorder.
And here's a few photos to go with some of the other phrases:
And the last verse:
Every glowing sunset, every outstretched leaf
is witness to the glory of the One who sits as Chief.
This week's lectionary psalm, Psalm 36, includes these verses:
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
One of my delights this week has been seeing my houseplants illumined by these days of sunshine. Seen from the right angle, even their cells seem full of light. Look closely at the Christmas cactus blossom or the geranium leaf below. I'm not surprised by the icy sparkles of the geode -- the green light of the geranium leaf catches me with wonder.
Winter sunlight creates some amazing light shows. The photo above is Tuesday's sunset, glorious even through the everyday sights of rooftops and electrical poles.
Then this evening I was reading in the living room, and suddenly someone turned on the spotlights, throwing golden light and shadows on the wall
Looking out the window, I deduce that the setting sun was hitting the angling Yoder dorm windows at just the right angle to shine in our window -- either that or some student is working on an interesting physics project. I like the way the reflected sunlight profiles the window frame, our tree and even the roofs from across the street.
Death disrupts life. A truism, perhaps, one that we all know in our heads and some of us have encountered more closely, grieving the unexpected loss of a loved one.
Sometimes death comes more gently. John's Uncle Lee died last week, and this weekend we set aside our usual schedule and traveled down to Ft Wayne to join the family gathered there. Lee was 87 and suffering in his later years from dementia, accelerated by the death of his wife nearly six years ago, in a car accident.
Family came from California and Virginia and various points in between, gathering to celebrate Lee's life and to say good bye. It was good to be with this mix of cousins, aunts, uncles and in-laws, catching up on each others' lives, and helping to "tuck in" Lee with a flower or a shovelful of dirt.
And as Lee's six year old grandson said, after being told that his grandpa was with grandma in heaven. "Now Grandpa remembers me."
From John O'Donohue's "A Morning Offering":
All that is eternal in me
Welcomes the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.
And a few illuminated things from the past few sunny days, each with its own type of brightness.
It's the season for jigsaw puzzles and the more colorful the better during a northern Indiana winter. This one was a Christmas gift and is proving a useful companion to another project, pulling the pieces of a writing project together, a project that has been taking priority over blog posts this week.
The puzzle is also serving as a reminder of the many butterflies that feasted on my zinnias and other garden plants this summer. Most of them look more travel scarred than the butterflies in the puzzle, but look at those amazing colors and patterns.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"