There’s a whisper off to the east, of storm clouds I can barely see behind the clouds. I miss the thunder heads that roared up from the south and the west, common and magnificent. I miss the sound of thunder way high, like some angel beating tympani, the sound humming along my breast bone. I was not afraid. Something about how solid this farm house is, how many years it’s weathered storms, and how the storms themselves don’t bang in the distance building tension as the storms I remember as a child.
Whether these would make rain who knows? It’s been dry, the sun bearing down into sorrow and oppression. Dry like an old crone. My own impatience with Omalola, merely being her exuberant self, my friends’ impatience with me, and I stumble into another pit that is all sun, all dark, and a trip to the Love’s truck stop for a large Diet Coke. And a prayer that God transform loneliness into solitude, and a welcome to others, including Omalola.
(I saw what it looks like to reject your dog, how the dog reads that in us. They know. I have been ambivalent about getting an intact female, the mess of her heat cycle, other dogs coming in the yard. But Omalola came into season and has kept herself clean. We haven’t seen neighbor’s dogs marauding nor have we heard coyotes close by. And those tears, that pit, softened me towards her. She responds when I thank her for doing what I want. And is learning to walk on a loose lead. She has relaxed. She finally will settle on her own under the table or in her crate when I write. Finally I am all the way glad she’s come to live with us.)
Our hay field is brittle, the corn curled over itself. I don’t know how I will deal with the everlasting light of the Kingdom come, no sun or moon needed because the Lord himself will be the light and there will be no more night. But there are beauties of the night–moon shadows on snow, and the stars, my favorite constellation Orion, and lightning bugs that I would miss. I think about the billions of miles and light years and we’re promised eternity and I feel as claustrophobic as if I were stuck in an MRI machine. It’s the same feeling I used to get with those cartoons of fat angels, clouds and harps depicting heaven. And some say that the words for eternity in the Bible don’t mean forever and ever, just the length of a very long age.
I’m reaching the point where I just have to trust the Lord when these feelings, images rise. Sometimes the preachers I listen to are too much in their heads and I climb up there too. More and more I’m dropping into silence, into beholding the world around me. I’ve been walking with God for 62 years. He’s been good to me and even when I wake up afraid because it feels like we are coming to the end of an age, I pray for Him to be merciful to me a sinner, and roll over to be held by Bruce. Then I get up, drink my tea, look at my phone, walk the dogs, feed the horse, and pray for rain.
My prayer was answered. Rain dropped inch and six tenths. It gave us a couple good days not being guilt tripped to spend the day outside enjoying the sun. (I love rainy days because I feel the energy in the rain falling from the sky, the lights in the house cast a warm glow, and I can read or write without feeling I must be outside enjoying the weather.) The hay field turned green and you could almost see the corn growing, reaching its leaves in praise to the sky. We hoped the horrible cycle of dry, cracked ground, plants holding their moisture, and dry air sucking up rain, making drought, would be broken. I felt my own soul unwinding. This comes to mind: “Come let us know. Let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 6:3).
But the days again stretched out, long and dry. And I started studying Accuweather to see if there were any percentages that favored rain. Sometimes they promised 80% chance but the storms went south. And they went south again or fizzled. In one of our morning readings for the daily office, the Psalmist said, “He turns river into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of it’s inhabitants” (Ps. 107:33). Back in the day, there was a mysterious braiding of people, land and God together. Now we call it climate change.
I look at this farm every day I walk the dogs. It usually looks like this.
But then the smoke came.
Canada is burning up with smoke from the fires east of here, winding back around in a giant pinwheel, the bad air driven down to earth. We smelled wood smoke sometimes the chemicals, the whole region coated in that ancient smell of campfires, where we sat around telling stories, afraid some otherworldly creature would rise out of the darkness. I recall the overnight at the foundation of an 18th century house. We’d been doing archeology there, studying the lives of a French Protestant family that fled persecution around the Reign of Terror. We squatted in holes, digging into the earth’s flesh, looking for signs of occupation–bits of glass, porcelain, sturgeon scales. The ground did not feel haunted but the stories we told that night were.
The air is so poisoned seventy-two hours breathing makes equivalent to smoking 13 cigarettes. The experts say you can get the fine particles of ash, metals, plastics deep into your lungs and even your bloodstream. The other day I shrugged it off and walked the dogs down to the corner anyway, needing silence, and the ordinary view until I read how dangerous this is. Morgen has respiratory issues. She is on medication and supplements and I feed her close to the ground, but still I’m concerned. On cool nights I’ve closed the barn against the smoke, but she opens the big door in the middle of the night.
I can’t help but think about the end times, the predictions of a third of the world burning up, rivers and oceans poisoned. I feel like I’m watching the images of Revelation play out before my eyes, and I take comfort that the censor containing the prayers of God’s people is thrown onto the earth and there is lightning and thundering, images for when God stepped down on Sinai and gave Moses the law. I take comfort in the promise, one day, the New Jerusalem will descend to earth, that all things will be made new. That one day creation will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom 8:21, ESV)..
The Little things
And then there are the little things. When I walked each dog around the Linden tree and the popple tree I heard a lovely hum, like a harp string vibrating. Sounded like bees. But I didn’t see anything until this morning when I saw bees feasting on the blossoms. And the tree is singing its own sweet, light fragrance.
And there was a barn swallow sitting on a fence rail, that I like to think is Little Bird, a fledgling barn swallow we nursed along on a ledge in the barn, come back. I like to imagine he recognizes the barn, and on some level remembers the kindness.
And always there are sparrows watching, reminding me that the Father knows when they fall, who knows my every move, and whispers, “Fear not.”
And we woke up to rain this morning and the smell of moist dirt, the sound of water falling, and the sweet energy it brings.
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