Last weekend Open Table Mennonite Fellowship had a retreat at Camp Friedenswald. I went out at dawn, having caught sight of sunrise color, and then trekked over to the fen, where "the peaceful woods" reverberated with the calls of geese, sandhill cranes, and ducks. At the end of this post I've been trying to include a very short video that captured some of the sounds. I'm not sure if I was successful -- you may have to use your imagination to hear the cacophony of the dawn chorus.
This past weekend was the annual church retreat at Camp Friendenswald. We weren't able to be there the whole time, but went for the overnight Friday so that we could head out to the fen overlook at dawn. It was a beautiful morning to listen to the quiet chatter of ducks, bursts of loud calls from geese, the whir of wings as a small flock winged overhead, the calls of blackbirds gathering in one sunlit tree over a bed of burst cattails.
The sun slowly rose over the treetops to the east, and worked its way down the hill to our west, a tide of shadow ebbing away and leaving bright fall colors behind.
Later in the morning, Eric Kurtz led a hike, stopping in the meadow between the two fens to describe the efforts to create a passageway encouraging the endangered Mitchell's Satyr butterfly to spread from the one fen where they've found it to one closer to the lake. As we listened, I found a shiny black and tan chrysalis in the blanched grasses. The case was the right shape for a monarch, but the butterfly inside was not the proper orange and black. Either this was a species that makes a similar chrysalis, or, more likely, I've finally found a monarch chrysalis in the wild, but the butterfly did not survive. We haven't had a hard frost yet in Goshen, but they may well have had one here in Michigan.
I went for a walk on the millrace path one bright morning earlier this week and found dewy jewels everywhere I looked. The beginning lines from the refrain of one of the songs we sing at church kept running through my head, "Fresh as the morning, sure as the sunrise..."
One of my friends dislikes the way the refrain continues -- God always faithful, you do not change, He feels that it plays in to some people's perceptions that God is impervious, impassive, and incapable of being affected, avoiding change.
The refrain keeps singing in my head though. For me, "you do not change" connects with "always faithful" and with the sunrise -- returning every morning, yet different every time, As I look around the created world, it looks to me like God takes great delight in diversity and change. So I will go ahead and take delight in this moment and in this dew that will be gone before midday, knowing that tomorrow morning will have its own sparks of light.
One of the delights of my week is our customary Saturday morning outing to Goshen's farmer's market. Here's last Saturday morning -- arriving at sunrise, getting our breakfast at Rachel's Bakery (coffee, and a shared Southern French frittata and pumpkin stollen French bread), and then heading out into the market, enjoying the visual delights of the bounty on display. Brussels sprouts, potatoes, broccoli, bok choy, carrots, kale, apples, eggs...we left with overflowing bags, and haven't finished it all yet, despite extra folks around to celebrate the week with us. And a final photo to commemorate the results of trips like this one -- a colorful bowl of duck soup, chockful of market veggies from the week before -- a soup that my tongue and tummy enjoyed as much as my eyes.
We spent much of the past week on the Oregon coast, just south of Lincoln City and then near Newport. I have always been fascinated by the many faces of the beach and ocean, as the tide goes in and out and the weather swings from sunny to foggy. Here are some of the faces from these past days.
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.
I grew up with the tradition of an Advent wreath -- four candles, one for each Sunday of Advent, and a candle in the middle. In my childhood, the central candle was always a countdown candle, thanks to the artwork of our neighbor, Grace Krabill.
When our children were little, I went back to her and learned how to paint the candle with a spiral of numbers from 1 - 25 and a scattering of holly leaves and berries. At supper each evening, the children took turns lighting the countdown candle or blowing it out. Then on Sunday evening, we'd carry the wreath to the living room, turn out all the electric lights except for the little ones on the tree, light candles around the room, and ceremoniously light the Advent candles for that week. And we would sing the appropriate number of verses from "O come, O come, Immanuel."
Now that the children are grown and out on their own, we have a Christ-candle in the middle of the wreath, and we sing "O come" in other settings.
On this third Sunday of Advent, I'm hearing the third verse of "O Come" singing through my heart, with its rather mournful melody.
O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight.
I'm grieving the deaths in schoolrooms in Connecticut and China. I'm holding awareness of others' gloomy clouds and dark shadows -- illness and loss of loved ones, depression, work and family stresses, discord in home or church or nation, the pain of past events, the challenges of the jolliness of this season.
I'm savoring the words of Zechariah's prophecy from Luke 1:78:
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
The dawn, or in the words of the King James Version, the dayspring.
For those who sit with the shadow of death this day:
O come, thou Dayspring.
O come, O come, Immanuel.
Immanuel, which means God-with-us -- and which brings me back to the Christ-candle, and the phrase that the Children in Worship program has given us, the phrase that is always repeated at the end of their worship time, as the candle flame is extinguished and the smoke swirls through the room:
The Light that was in one place and one time
is now in all places and all times.
It feels very right to have a Christ-candle in the middle of our Advent wreath, and to be lighting it each evening, even as we also light the Advent candles one at a time, week by week, waiting to celebrate Christmas and the arrival of the Christ-child, the Light who was in one place and time, and now is in all places and all times, the One who can guide us into the way of peace.
We're back home again in Indiana, after travels that took us east to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and west to the Sangre de Cristo in Colorado. There were good family times and many scenic views, but between being in areas without internet access and a sometimes recalcitrant computer, I haven't been posting them here.
Not that I stopped looking around me, or taking photos. I'll be going through them in the next week, and sharing some. In the meantime, here are a few moments of light -- and rain, which is feeling precious and beautiful here in drought-ridden Goshen. These come from the area around Westcliffe, CO, mostly looking east from the place we stayed at the foot of the Sangre de Cristos mountains.
I picked up a copy of John O'Donohue's Anam Cara at Better World Books the other day. I haven't started reading it yet, but I did leaf through the beginning and came across this paragraph, which fit so well with the themes of this blog, I had to share it:
We are always on a journey from darkness into light. At first, we are children of the darkness. Your body and your face were formed first in the kind darkness of your mother's womb. Your birth was a first journey from darkness into light. All your life, your mind lives within the darkness of your body. Every thought that you have is a flint moment, a spark of light from your inner darkness. The miracle of thought is its presence in the night side of your soul; the brilliance of thought is born in darkness. Each day is a journey. We come out of the night into the day. All creativity awakens at this primal threshold where light and darkness test and bless each other.
John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, p 4
Yesterday was a time for being aware of light in mundane places and on dimmer days.
The sun hadn't risen yet when we went past these maples on the bike path south of the college, but they glowed with an inner light. I'd have like to see them blaze with full sun, but didn't have time to return later in the day.
Dawn came as we headed back north. Here's a series entitled "Dawn over the Industrial Park."
It got cloudier as the day went on, and I got to feeling rather seedy.
This dandelion enjoying Tuesday's light is also seedy, but how beautiful.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"