A Day in the Life of May

This May has been so very lovely, and I was delighted to spend yesterday in the garden with Gwenanne, my wife. The last two Fridays we have ended the week by making our way to a local greenhouse to agonize over plant choices before coming home to toast our purchases as the start to the weekend. With cooler nights now (hopefully) behind us, Gwenanne decided it was safe to put a few plants in the garden in the backyard.

Our yard has been something of a balm in this COVID Gilead. I have a bit of a ritual most days, making my way from our fifteen year old Autumn Blaze Maple now 30 feet plus tall, to our Blue Beech tree as wide as it is high, and then over to my little Bur Oak now about one foot tall, saying some encouraging words to each before pilgriming to the massive Norway Maple in our front yard. I usually touch each tree along the way and give thanks for their witness to the glory of creation. The other day there was a robin in our Blue Beech, and he sang to me. I was close enough that I could see his throat throb as he hymned me into a kind of trance.

But yesterday my hands moved from the tree to terra firma. We had added some soil to our expanded gardens about three weeks ago, and I had spaded together new and old earth before my wife raked it smooth. I put my hand to Mother Earth. She was warm to the touch and as my fingers slipped beneath this surface I could feel spring cool in the humus. As I made some space to settle our tomato plants, I was met with the delightful sight of worms. So many worms adding soil to soil. I thought for a moment of the robin and now the worm. Both such gifts to me, and the worm to the robin, but not so much the other way round! Life is complicated among us homo sapiens, and no less so with the predator and the prey, whom I both adore.

My last act for the day was to plant the first two sisters of my three sisters garden: corn, beans and squash seeds from the fruits of seeds first received at a workshop at Six Nations some years ago. As I did so, I thought about the rabbits that razed my beans last year, necessitating a replanting, and the racoon who enjoyed my corn that they made theirs. Creation is remarkable but competitive. I bought some netting last year to give me an edge. We’ll see.

The trees, of course, look on and smile. They take the long view. My neighbour across the way figures that the monstrous and majestic oak in his yard predates the arrival of settlers to this part of Turtle Island known to some as North America. I am not sure of this, but I know these trees give me more than oxygen to breathe, and the vegetables from our garden make for me more soup. They make me see that I am speck in God’s world, but they also remind me that a speck too can breathe Soli Deo Gloria.

Akin to Earth

Yesterday was the spring equinox. It was a glorious and gorgeous day and although a good bit of it was spent inside marking, at one point my wife came in to pull me out to see snow drops raising their holy hooded heads from the ground. I wandered over to the corner of the yard to see how my little bur oak tree is doing, and bending down I could see some buds starting to form on it. Walking back to the house, I notice our backyard maple tree crying sweet tears of joy at the turning of the earth towards the sun. Everything seemed to be waking up.

The day before, I was looking out of my office at this same yard as I was preparing for noon-day pause at “chapel.” It was online and this was the Friday in which we do “Settlers’ Work,” pondering how those who are not Indigenous can educate ourselves around the reality of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada, and the Calls for Justice from the national report on MMIWG. We always begin this time with a land acknowledgement, remembering that the land on which Laurier and Luther are located were deeded to the Haudenosaunee with the Haldimand Tract of 1784. This was also traditional territory of the Anishinabeg and Neutral Peoples. As I do this, I often think about a lesson I am learning from the land. On Friday I mentioned that we often talk as if mother earth is waking up in the spring, and suddenly it struck me like a ton of bricks that this same mother earth is falling asleep on the opposite side of the globe! She is waking up and falling asleep at the same time.

I am increasingly informed by the idea that this earth is our relative, our mother – as per Indigenous perspectives. And this invites us to imagine that in some ways we are like the earth, if she is our mother. Interestingly other worldviews share this perspective of our being imaged after the earth. The ancient Greeks considered the human to be a micro-cosmos. And the Hebraic name for the original, mythic male was Adam, derived from the word for dust, or dirt, and the name for female was Eve, derived from the word for life. Humans are living dirt. We are dust and to dust we shall return. We are akin to that from whence we came and to whither we go.

The earth wakes and sleeps at the same time. How about us? How might we experience this simultaneous arrival and departure; taking up and setting down; being born and dying? I suppose this is evident in every transition in life: from being a babe to being a child to being a teenager to being a young adult to being a not so young adult to being an elderly adult. Each stage is leaving behind and a coming to. There is both death and life in birth, life and death. This is the paradox of our existence. Paradox means contrary to opinion, or in opposition to how things appear: death is a being born just as surely as being born is a dying, since life itself is a journey of death and death is a journey of life. Of course we are taught to fear death by many forces. But our mother teaches us that dying is not the end of life but its transitioning into a new form, a point well illustrated in the lessons of Lent, a time of marking the dying in life as life in dying.

Musings on March

My relationship with March is
complicated. I want it to be
what it cannot: a younger May
stripped of any hint of January.
Instead, March is fiercely March.
It is a month with a mind of
its own and it brooks no challenge
to self-expression. Now its
ice winds cut across my skin even
while shadows shorten and trees
begin to drip sweet. March snow clings
to shadows tenaciously – white knuckling
the wheel of life.

The other day I ate my salad outside on an Adirondack chair,
bundled up like a swaddled babe, the sun was stroking my
face even while the wind scratched it. The snow chuckled,
nervously.

Eggs, Over and Out

On my way downstairs,
I grabbed an empty
egg carton –
ripe for recycle –
recalling that
my daughter started
spring plants in one filled
with twelve fistfuls of soil:
a dozen ova of expectation;
a dozen disciples of revivification;
a dozen loci of resurrection.

My egg carton remains empty.
But still, I find the vacated spaces generative.

How Pink…

How pink these May
worms were, today, all squirming
in two – one on top of
blacktop’s rained mirror and
the other below. I
looked down at these
exposed souls, wondering
how long till lunch – but
the birds were not to be
found. Maybe a
parking lot is too
pedestrian for the fowl
in my hood. Maybe this is a
May-get-out-of-jail-free Day
for worms. Maybe I stayed
Mr. Robin et al., following me at
a distance, ready to seize the day,
but soon to discover that
two worms on the lot are only
one in the beak.

At the Edge of Eternity

These days our tree
weeps joy,
bleeds peace,
sweats sweet spring …

I gasp and she
replies, but I do
not yet speak her
tongue. All the same,
I can see her buds brave
frosty mornings and,
at midday, her branches
shimmer, like locks, with
warm sun on glistening wood.

Pregnant with promise, she
preaches resurrection, she
hymns creation, she
lauds God.

With my hand on her trunk,
at the edge of eternity,
I wonder about her roots: are they
sated with humus, or do they
pine after the sky, which
her crown so delicately nibbles?

Polyphony of Praise

Each leaf lingers like
note hanging to staff,
stemmed to branch,
performing a polyphony of praise
as the tree lauds its

earthy inspiration:

terra firma
feeding
cantus firmus.

For those with ears to hear,
the tree – like all spirited
songs – hosts a community of joy:

cardinals in canticle

rhythmic robins

and squirrels ad-verse to gravity,

as delight bursts forth with blossoms of hope.

Morning’s Call

These wake up calls –
robin to spring
cardinal to day –
are as angels in my ear.

These songs catch
me unaware.
While deep in sleep
they play my soul
like dough in hand.

These choristers are
to me angelic bread makers.
These late night early morning
fowl yeast and knead me
for dawn’s baking.

They have been heard
and now I rise.