A Hidden Christmas

Along a ranch road in Gillespie County, Texas

Farmer, philosopher, poet, curmudgeon: Wendell Berry understands the land as well as anyone, and the necessities of human life better than most. When I found these live oaks and Ashe junipers topped with a just slightly gaudy Christmas star, Berry’s words about Christmas in the country and the hidden nature of holiness came to mind. Their essential modesty seems to suit the day.

Remembering that it happened once,
We cannot turn away the thought
As we go out, cold, to our barns
Toward the long night’s end, that we
Ourselves are living in the world
It happened in when it first happened;
That we ourselves, opening a stall
(A latch thrown open countless times
Before), might find them breathing there,
Foreknown: the Child bedded in straw,
The mother kneeling over Him,
The husband standing in belief
He scarcely can believe, in light
That lights them from no source we see,
An April morning’s light, the air
Around them joyful as a choir.
We stand with one hand on the door,
Looking into another world
That is this world, the pale daylight
Coming just as before, our chores
To do, the cattle all awake,
Our own frozen breath hanging
In front of us; and we are here
As we have never been before,
Sighted as not before, our place
Holy, although we knew it not.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Nature, Singing

Tucked between red-clad Santas and decorated evergreens, this very late rain lily (Zephyranthes candida) bloomed in the San Bernard refuge butterfly garden long after many of its kind had called it a season.

Graced with the colors of Christmas and petals suggesting the open receptiveness of a child, it recalls the words of the beloved carol:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare him room
and heaven and nature sing…

Remarkably, we don’t sing, “Joy to human beings, joy to those who walk upright and drive cars and open too many credit card accounts and are nasty to their neighbors.” We don’t sing “Joy to the church-goers, the faithful, the few.”

The joy we sing is meant for the whole world: for stars and dirt; mountains and seas; trees, rocks, valleys and hills, and every creature inhabiting them. At Christmas, heaven and nature sing out this truth: the gifts of the season are meant for the world as a whole. We who inhabit that world, who trace a path upon its soil and gaze upon its stars are called to sing its praises, too, and join in its celebration.

 

Comments always are welcome.