☕️ Summer Projects

A Saturday Caesura

According to the rhythms dictated by the school calendar, summer has ended. Thankfully, it has been a summer of revitalization, of refurbishing and re-forming.

I began the summer by refinishing the dining room table and buffet we indirectly inherited from my husband’s grandmother. I spent hours and days stripping scarred and scratched varnish and sanding away residual stain that left the exposed wood a muddy grey rather than its true colour. What finally emerged is a faintly reddish-brown blend of light and dark wood grain (cherry wood, I think). The stain originally used to give both pieces a uniform colour actually masked the beautiful diversity inherent in the wood. What were simply pieces of old furniture now feel like works of art with their core essence on full display.

Rocks and compost revitalized the garden and turned a lack-luster flower bed along the east side of the house into a visual feast of colour and texture. The rocks, salvaged from a nearby river, form a large border, but also provide smaller pockets for clusters of flowers and a base for the plants that like to creep and flow like small green waterfalls. The rocks and flowers are so much more beautiful together than they ever were apart.

The compost – plant cast-offs, kitchen scraps, grass clippings – decomposed into nutrient rich soil capable of enriching the garden boxes where I planted spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, beans, a few beets and peas. These are all harvested now, but there are still tomatoes ripening on the vine and carrots waiting until cooler weather before I pull them up. The process of growing involves more than planting and watering seeds; it requires forms of death and decay as well. It is impossible for me to not see how growth in my own life requires a similar cycle.

I don’t usually think of clothes as dying, but they can certainly become worn out or fall out of fashion (a sort of death, I suppose). I had a few pieces that weren’t exactly either of the above, but needed something to make them fit better or make me want to wear them again. So the latter part of the summer found me at the sewing machine turning maxi-skirts into something a tad bit shorter or altered to a better “me-fit.” Or turning a shirt with hated cap sleeves into a sleeveless bodice to another redacted skirt; together they make a cute empire-waisted dress. I enjoy the creative act of turning a garment into something new – a way of extending its usefulness, of stewarding rather than simply discarding.

The greatest renewal of the summer, however, wasn’t the furniture or the garden or my wardrobe. It was my heart-soul-mind. In other words — me. I still feel a weariness that lingers, a grief that won’t ever be not-present, a deep concern for where we are all headed…but there have been many moments to remind me that my days are hardly bereft of goodness. If you have read much of anything I have written, you probably already know that those moments involve combinations of family and friends, birds and flowers, hiking and biking, and Noticing Walks and dirt and rocks and music and study and good books and sketchbooks and rainstorms and prairie sunsets and fields and mountains. The list is endless, really. And God is using them all to re-form me, to shape my heart into one that listens, one that responds in obedience and worship, one that pursues truth and wisdom. Unlike my summer projects, I’m sort of a life-long one. Scratch that. I’m not a project, I’m a beloved child with eternity written on my heart. Sola Gratia

Unfolding

The geese come first. A few random stragglers glide in early, braving late snow and still-frozen lakes, followed by gaggles more, gathering in fields like concert-goers waiting for the show to begin.  

Soon saucy, raucous gulls flash black-tipped white against spring-blue skies.  

The ice begins to recede from puddles, ponds, and lakes, and the ducks quack their way back. The marsh behind my house becomes a constant cacophony of waterfowl-speak.  

As if all previous arrivals were simply the opening act, the majestic and stately swan gracefully soars in, its deep, bass trumpet resonating across the bulrushes.

Robins are the next to trill their way north, filling the early morning sky with their song long before I actually see the familiar red breast. 

One calm evening, the frogs, almost always unseen, add their gurgly, bubbly, throaty croaking, and I wonder again at their ability to survive beneath the ice and cold of winter.

Leaves bud and spread green, first just a light frosting dabbed on tree tops, then a full-blown bright new green that embraces the landscape. And the wind, alternating warm and cold, has something new to play with. Leaves flutter a melody no longer silenced by winter.

After a brief pause, the red-winged blackbirds fill the song spaces with their riffs and rills, spreading wings and strutting red and gold epaulets as they stake out their territory in the marsh.  

Grackles, elegant heads shimmering green-purple-blue in the spring sun, chirp conversationally as they forage for spring food.  

And then, it comes….high in the air, the unmistakable winnowing sound of the snipe. I don’t know why, but I find something comforting about the return of the snipes.

Spring is still unfolding… terns will soon be be performing arial acrobatics around the gulls. The warblers have yet to bring their cheery song and constant flitting to the willows in the back yard. Yellow-headed blackbirds always trail behind the red-wings, as do the orioles with their crystalline call and brilliant orange plumage. Clever little marsh wren hasn’t returned to stuff my birdhouses with sticks – yet. Quiet, unassuming and shy sora will probably return completely unnoticed.

I like tracking the unfolding of spring. In the midst of a world that seems increasingly unpredictable, where so much of what could be counted on as true and right is being upended and distorted, it anchors my soul to be reminded through the gradual process of spring renewal that God’s order still supersedes man’s designs.  

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ ” (Lam. 3:22-24)

If the unfolding of spring is so glorious, how much more the unfolding of the plan of God for our world – for my life.  

Yes, I will wait for Him.