Friday, December 7, 2012

The Fallen

 Be ready, be ready as the trees
New is now promised
Be ready, be ready as the trees
Abandoned they are.

Deserted by their leaves
Daughters of Jerusalem's old ways
Did they not hear the prophecy
Or did they flee.

 Bracelets cast upon the ground
Gold earrings and gewgaws
Gimcrackedly useless
Race to be dust.

City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana

In various parts of the country we are feeling the warming effects of climate change.  A niece in Chicago the other day was sitting in her living room with her balcony window open to an unseasonable afternoon in the high 60's-low 70's.   A stepsister downstate prays for snow.  My friend, Jenny, the ballerina-cocktail server-writer who lives in NOLA shared the above picture from City Park saying, "It doesn't feel like fall, but it's finally looking like it."

Here in Davis, California, we have been living with the incommodious storms triggered by the Pineapple Express last week and which have lasted pestiferously throughout the present week as well.  They have driven the leaves to abandon their branches and clog gutters and storm drains.  They blanket gardens, smothering winter greens into the mud.  Sidewalks shimmer with slick, slimy, slip-and-slide sheets of them. 

Yet behind each storm we catch a glimpse of sky.  Enough, perhaps, to run out and push the detritus into piles, to get it out of the streets so drains can run, or mound it up off the garden so the plants don't smother.  And in the sky beyond the fog sometimes the clouds tease with glorious bursts of sunshine. 

"Be ready for the next one," the clouds taunt. "It will be glorious."

Morning Psalm 102
1   Hear my prayer, O LORD;
          let my cry come to you.
2   Do not hide your face from me
          in the day of my distress.
     Incline your ear to me;
          answer me speedily in the day when I call.

3   For my days pass away like smoke,
          and my bones burn like a furnace.
4   My heart is stricken and withered like grass;
          I am too wasted to eat my bread.
5   Because of my loud groaning
          my bones cling to my skin.
6   I am like an owl of the wilderness,
          like a little owl of the waste places.
7   I lie awake;
          I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.
8   All day long my enemies taunt me;
          those who deride me use my name for a curse.
9   For I eat ashes like bread,
          and mingle tears with my drink,
10  because of your indignation and anger;
          for you have lifted me up and thrown me aside.
11  My days are like an evening shadow;
          I wither away like grass.

Reflection:  There's an old joke that goes, "Well, things could be worse.  It could be raining!"  And then, if it's in a funny movie, you usually see a flash of lightning followed by a clap of thunder and, of course, the rain comes pouring down.  This time of year can seem a lot like that, and we wonder vaguely when all will be right again.  Plastic decorations and Christmas carols playing over the loudspeaker in the supermarket or the drug store aren't enough to reassure us. 

The Psalmist who wrote these words knew seemingly endless dark days, days that seemed like night.  Relief seemed so far away, yet the other side of that shadow held hope and comfort, as the writer was to recall:

12  But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever;
          your name endures to all generations.
13  You will rise up and have compassion on Zion,
          for it is time to favor it;
          the appointed time has come.
14  For your servants hold its stones dear,
          and have pity on its dust.
15  The nations will fear the name of the LORD,
          and all the kings of the earth your glory.
16  For the LORD will build up Zion;
          he will appear in his glory.
17  He will regard the prayer of the destitute,
          and will not despise their prayer.
18  Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
          so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD:
19  that he looked down from his holy height,
          from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
20  to hear the groans of the prisoners,
          to set free those who were doomed to die;
21  so that the name of the LORD may be declared in Zion,
          and his praise in Jerusalem,
22  when peoples gather together,
          and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.

23  He has broken my strength in midcourse;
          he has shortened my days.
24  “O my God,” I say, “do not take me away
          at the mid-point of my life,
     you whose years endure
          throughout all generations.”

25  Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth,
          and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26  They will perish, but you endure;
          they will all wear out like a garment.
     You change them like clothing, and they pass away;
27       but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28  The children of your servants shall live secure;
          their offspring shall be established in your presence.

Words of reassurance, even during the uncertain days when the leaves flee from the trees, dive-bombing the ground, to abandon their very source of life.  The new thing is a-making, and we don't yet know how to name it, for we don't yet know what it will be, nor how we will be in it.  Maybe our fear is that we will be the leaf, having been so intent on making our kamikaze plunge to the wet earth that it is impossible to find our bearings.  My belief is that we are the tree, meant to stand waiting, and watchful, while the new thing comes.

Then we shall see how we endure.

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