To Him of the Seasons

Praise

To Him of the Seasons,

That hidden Strength behind wind and thunderstorm.

 

Who hushed the elder birds,

Only that they might be a lively chorus of fledglings.

Who allowed hands to cut back the barren brush,

Only that the uncovered earth might kiss the seeds into fourfold fertility.

Who darkened morning and froze the sandy shores,

Only that the sun might swell in splendor by cracking them open.

 

Who encircles my fragile limbs in everlasting mercy,

That my heart might be free to run home

Again.

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Running Without Arriving

“If one could run without getting tired, I don’t think one would often want to do anything else.” (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle)

The weather gods have been good to little Omaha, Nebraska this week. We began with classes called off for two “ice-days” in a row and have closed up the weekend with three days that reached the high 40s. Spring broke the rules to speak to our sun-deprived faces. Do you ever sit back and wonder at the weather? Truly miraculous, I tell you.

So, there I was on my jog today, carried away in the game where I imagine where each person is going, and what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. Perhaps you’ve played it before as well. The sun began to set, and my exuberant thoughts turned to where I was inevitably going, formulating a vague gameplan for the evening. I didn’t get very far though, because as I explored the mental catalogue of potential delightful activities, I began to wonder at why I enjoy my hobbies so much. (And now you know why I’m so absentminded 90% of the time.)

What is it about running? What is it about writing? Why music? Why painting? Why reading?

Five strides later, the answer came to me as clear as day: at the end of it all, I never truly arrive anywhere. Whenever I lose myself in my hobbies (a welcome loss indeed), there is a lingering sense of “almost, but not yet.” That’s precisely why I always reach for more– one more beautiful jog, one more enlightening book. Prolonging the runner’s high is like begging that gloriously orange sun not to set, trying to escape the inevitable swallowing-up.  “For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Corinth. 7:31). All races, essays, songs, artworks, books, hours, years, and even lifetimes must come to an end.

Ernest Hemingway has said it thus: “For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment.”

That is how I found myself bumping into yet another paradox of our humanity. Though I cannot (yet?) enjoy the perfect jog or write the perfect essay (and goodness knows every five-year-old is closer to the perfect painting than I am), the fire inside still urges me to pursue these things.  My hobbies cannot teach me perfection, but that can teach me about beauty and goodness. The higher builds upon the lower. As nearly always, St. John Paul II fulfills my reflection by guiding me to the things I knew that I was missing, but couldn’t see clearly enough to name:

“Saint Bonaventure, who in introducing his Itinerarium Mentis in Deum invites the reader to recognize the inadequacy of ‘reading without repentance, knowledge without devotion, research without the impulse of wonder, prudence without the ability to surrender to joy, action divorced from religion, learning sundered from love, intelligence without humility, study unsustained by divine grace, thought without the wisdom inspired by God‘ ” (John Paul II, Fides et Ratio)

In other words, I’m not running for nothing. I’m doing it so I can be a better gift.

Sursum Corda

Feet bounce over cloud-grey concrete;

The morning ritual has begun.

Giving them the rhythm of my habitual soundtrack,

I’m lulled into my tiny, selfish circles.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble…

I raise my eyes from running feet to running river,

To panting breeze, to energetic sun, to intrepid shores.

They say God wrote us two love-letters:

The Bible and nature.

Sursum corda.

In a surprise leap, the Missouri River banks transform before my eyes

Into the raging Cliffs of Mohr, then the lay skirts of the Potomac,

And finally, the lapping shores of Cotton Lake.

Oh God, who makes the mountains melt…

Come wrestle us and win.

Surely the Beckoner of the breezes mingles sands and stones into one;

Nature’s natural innocence is more easily redeemed than ours.

But wait! Friend, look at me again with your ocean eyes.

I think He wrote three.

Ode to Lake Zorinsky

Seven Miles of Trail Poetry  

The first meadow-thought surprises me: I wish they made perfume sweet as the warm, honeyed grass.

Half a mile down the rolling route, my limbs compromise on a rhythm (and it reminds me of that swing dance that midsummers night, too long ago).

Soft, a lilac flower! Who put you there, my favorite love-symbol? (He makes all things new).

And still the rhythm keeps: mile two.

Oh pale yellow flutter-fly– you mustn’t remind me of family summer suppers. I see now that the familiar pattern of dad with the grill, mom with the garden vegetables, and sister with the silverware is a carefully-ordered (ancient) dance.

There is a big city christened “Capitol” calling my name; quickly I am trying to put these girlish things behind me (opportunity cost is just another word for sacrifice, after all.)

Mile four announces itself en español (pienso en ti, la casa de Olga) and oh are my cheeks flushed– how quickly the pines breathe their cool breath on my forehead.

Sometimes we are given an answer!

Lest I become too elated with this rambunctious round of Nature, it seems the lake has lapped above its banks and almost tricked me into a wetter trip (if that friend was here, we’d splash right through.)

Now squirreling through traffic on the bridge, I chuckle realizing how even Nature herself has shepherded me back to my flock.

“It is not good for man to be alone.”

A little bobbing blonde head appears around the fresh turn, and I smile at the little one (oh, and three more!) before greeting his parents with full eyes.

Look at what you made.

After passing, my gaze rises upwards to offer thanks, just in time to wonder at how silently a storm cloud just passed over us. Never just a fact of nature, my mind and body compose a poem through the seventh mile.

More family.

I am running and laughing, the twin toddlers follow me laughing and running, and our guardian angels bless the Lord.

That peace! My trained mind can’t help considering why precisely a good dose of Nature is a healing salve– ah, wait! It is a child’s story.

The glory of Nature is to call each of us her younglings (what are years or experience to her?)

Grasses tickle us, trees shield us, water tricks us, and father sun nourishes and cleanses everyone under his burning gaze. Come nightfall, mother moon will sooth and watch our rising, dreaming chests.

We are never alone.

We are never far from Home.