Saturday, January 7, 2012

In the Dead of Winter, The Psalms and a Seed Catalog Sustain Me

On winter workdays, I rise at the time Shakespeare says when night is "almost at odds with morning," and you can't tell "which is which." I leave home before the rest of my family has risen, driving north in darkness to my job and arriving just as the sun begins to rise. Sometimes, I don't return home until after sunset. And so I find myself in these days struggling with a kind of sadness, a desire to retreat from a world which feels fully of darkness.

O God, come to my aid.
  O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
  as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
  world without end.
Amen. Alleluia.

A few days ago, I realized I have let my spiritual workout fall by the wayside; this includes reading my Book of Hours in the morning before work and in the midafternoon as I monitor the second floor hallway at school. Today, as we reenter ordinary time, I began again. Today's morning reading includes Psalm 8, which talks about the greatness of God and the dignity of man.

  the moon and stars, which you set in their place –
what is man, that you should take thought for him?
  what is the son of man, that you should look after him?
You have made him but one step lower than the angels;
  you have crowned him with glory and honour;
  you have set him over the works of your hands.
You have put everything beneath his feet,
  cattle and sheep and the beasts of the field,
the birds in the air and the fish in the sea,
  whatever passes along the paths of the waters.
How wonderful is your name above all the earth,
  O Lord, our Lord!
These words offer comfort, offer perspective on the darkness and the cold that this time of year envelops the corner of the earth in which I live. 

So does John Scheepers' Kitchen Garden Seed catalog, which arrived  in our mailbox a few days ago. Its prose and homey etchings offer still more hope to this winter-weary soul.

It speaks to me of hibiscus and hollyhocks, of runner beans' "gorgeous pendulous flowers in tiers of salmon-scarlet and white against blue-green foliage" and tells me sweet corn "is to us like Madelines were to Proust: the tastes and smells that remind us of joyful childhood celebrations and backyard cookouts."

In the darkness of winter, I can understand the Divine willed all of this world into being and the Presence sustains us in our darkest moments. Just  as the sun will rise every morning as I pull into the high school parking lot, so too will spring come to the frozen, gray landscapes of deep winter.

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