This Sunday I will be celebrant and preacher at St. Paul’s, Selma. The Gospel passage is from Mark: With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed. Or any other seed. I have held seeds tightly in my fist, doubted, as they scattered, that anything would come of them. I have fretted and fumed at bad weather or excessive heat or rain or the fact that things take time to grow and some, no matter what, never amount to much. Still, love grows.
It’s off to DC tomorrow to facilitate a workshop at one of our Episcopal seminaries and after that, a good stretch of time here at home. I am exhausted. Two or three times this month, I have woken up and wondered where in God’s creation I was. The work has been fruitful, visits with friends and our girl essential. Now, I am eagerly anticipating lots of morning in the garden. Every day there is a lot of produce to pick and I will start some canning this afternoon. I relish the thought of returning to summer routines that I grew to love last year. Life is good…
There is a certain presumptuousness on my part to say that I am a farmer. I have seen farmer’s hands and mine have never worked that hard. But this morning I woke up and went out to see the chicken coop, see the deep grooves where the coyote tried to go in through the silly little window on the chicken palace and the place where he or she finally got in. The bottom of the nesting box is removable–week in and week out, I have removed that bottom, put the pine shavings on a pile that we are composting, scrubbed all the chicken droppings off and sprayed it with vinegar. I hate that part of my work but no one said it would all be fun and easy. That a feature of the coop that made my life a little easier was also what made those beautiful girls vulnerable hurts. As Sherod and I looked at the damage, we agreed that we would pull that fancy house out and replace it with a far more utilitarian coop where new chickens will one day be safer.
Then, I went back inside and put a new mail order in. We will get new baby chicks around the 22nd of June, in time for our grand babies to help care for them when they come spend a week at what the Mallowman calls “Camp YES SIR“. Then I went out with Sherod to harvest what was ready for today. After a week-long absence, we had so much produce it got a bit overwhelming. Our green beans are all planted in the ground and there are about 15 bushes–leaning over to pick them all is hard on the old back, but doable. Sherod is still out there picking blueberries. He will harvest more than a quart and there will be 3 or 4 times that many to harvest in the weeks to come. Later today, we will share the bounty with friends here in Lowndesboro and my friend and colleague in Birmingham. I am taking her some of my roses and daises and zinnias, and some thyme, lavender and basil as well. I didn’t even bother to tackle the hydrangeas. They are beautiful right where they are.
A farm requires a new kind of heart. You have to do your grieving fiercely but you can’t linger. The answer to the prayer “lighten our darkness” is morning, with all its work and responsibilities, with all its mercies that require grit and effort and hardened hands to receive. A priest does well learning at least some of these lessons…
It is late evening and I am back home after 3 days in Fort Lauderdale, getting ready to head out on another work-related trip tomorrow at lunch time. Behind me, out in the garden, sits an empty chicken coop. Earlier in the week, while we were gone, a coyote figured out how to breach the coop and killed our beautiful girls, Serafina, Sophie, Bitsy, Ivy and Lucy.
When I found out this morning, waiting to catch the flight back to Atlanta, it was hard to feel grief. Sherod and I had just dropped Maria back at her day program after an intense visit. She is in as safe and nurturing an environment as we could possibly hope for. While there have been setbacks since she returned to Ft Lauderdale, there have also been some gains. And it is equally true that each time I leave her, I feel like I am abandoning her again and it never gets easier. Now, the thought of those beautiful chickens being killed by the coyote weighs heavy. All this and tomorrow it is 4 years since the bleak evening in Panama, the last one I got to spend with my mom. On a night like tonight, I am grateful for the words of others:
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen. 1928 Book of Common Prayer