Friday, February 27, 2009

There came a wind like a bugle

There came a wind like a bugle . . .

It's a line from an Emily Dickenson poem, known to me from a song setting by Aaron Copland. Here's the whole poem:

There came a wind like a bugle;
It quivered through the grass,
And a green chill upon the heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the windows and the doors
As from an emerald ghost;
The doom's electric moccasin
That very instant passed.
On a strange mob of panting trees,
And fences fled away,
And rivers where the houses ran
The living looked that day.
The bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings whirled.
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the world!

In Copland's setting all the words fly by, on the wind, on sixteenth notes in the piano, till the song slows at the final three lines.

It seems like a good poem for today--though there was no heat today--instead a rather chilly day in February. It was an uneasy day, a day when things seem to be turning into something else: a new, really new, budget in Washington, a disintegrating economy, torrential rains yesterday and cold winds today, a Friday night when I'm home alone while two teenagers are off turning into more grown-up people--until they come home again.

I am stiff from sitting in an office chair too much this week, stiff from not sleeping well, stiff from neglect. Stiff and cold, because the windows that surround my desk are old and leaky, and I never remember to turn the space heater on until I'm frozen to the bone.

Dickenson's poem is about change, I think, and anxious, ominous liminal fear. Can I bar the door against the wind? Can I keep it from touching me? I try, but I am stiff and sore and sorrowing from the effort.

It is hard to watch things change, to see dreams forsake the people who dreamed them, to see hope focus on less and less, as life slides into the sweet bitterness of death. It is other people's grief I am writing of here, not my own, grief I see around them, grief that is too private to mention.

Yet I will be someone who "abide(s) the world," for a while anyway, as much comes and goes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday Promise

What's the difference between Groundhog's Day and Ash Wednesday?

On Groundhog's day we may or (may not) find out that we're due for six more weeks of winter. Ash Wednesday begins the countdown to Easter. In six more weeks it will be spring.

Is this a distinction like that between a glass half empty and a glass half full? It's more than a difference in outlook. Groundhog Day (not in the movie sense) is a grope for hope. Just maybe, maybe spring will come early and we'll find our way out of winter sooner than expected. Easter following Lent is a promise that's already been kept. Christ rose, and the earth and the crocuses and we all shall rise too.

Though not without dying first. It is Ash Wednesday after all.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Oh, my poor blog. It's been a long time.

I began this blog on Transfiguration Sunday three years ago. That minor festival of the church year comes around again tomorrow. Time to catch up, or "repent and turn" as in Lent, and write some more.

The subject of doubt came up recently in a conversation with someone. I'm pretty sure that doubt is mostly a good thing. Some people have the gift of absolute, clear shining faith all the time. They're blessed. Others drag doubt in great measure through their lives, or parts of their lives, and this is a blessing, too. How could faith grow or change or mature or even look at its own image without doubt to prod it along?

Did all these things written about in the bible happen as described? Did God actually walk the earth during an otherwise insignificant era in Palestine? What does "redeem us from our sins" really mean? And what about that voice from the cloud on the mountain, and Moses and Elijah, and Jesus glowing like the sun? If someone claimed these things happened nowadays, and started a religion about them, I would run quickly in another direction.

And yet . . .

God's grace, God's presence show up regularly in my world, hovering at the edges of my darkest hours, surprising me in the middle of the mundane, knocking me out of the cynic's pose I wear everyday, most days.

From tomorrow's Psalm: "Out of Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth in glory."