The Grace of the World

A couple of days ago, the little yellow flowers were staring to stress me out, until an orange bird reminded me not to, so I decided to set my Christmas tree on fire instead.

I can see by the look on your face I’m going to have to explain that.

The forsythia and the dandelions are starting to bloom right now, bright yellow flowers spangling the bushes and the yard. For old-time gardeners, the blooming forsythia means it’s time to plant peas, and the dandelions that it’s time to get the potatoes in the ground. As I feared would happen, the fields aren’t drying out as quickly as I want them to, which is starting to back up my planting schedule — not only planting peas and potatoes but also sowing greens, carrots, beets, and parsnips, and transplanting many other things in the greenhouse ready to be set out.

If things don’t dry out soon, there is an excellent chance I will have to postpone the first CSA pick-up by a week. And I really don’t want that to happen.

I was fretting about all this on the porch as the evening drew near, when I saw a flash of orange in the trees. You see, earlier this spring I bought a cheap plastic oriole feeder to see if I could attract any, but all the feeder seemed to draw was ants, and I was starting to think I should throw it out. But, look, here was an oriole, brighter that I imagined, and I was again surprised that nature painted in such vivid colors. And not only the oriole, but also the goldfinches and the dusky-rose house finches, the red-bellied woodpecker and the downy woodpecker, the rose-breasted grosbeak and the indigo bunting. I was reminded of yet another poem of Wendell Berry’s, where he writes of coming into “the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief,” where he finds “rest in the grace of the world”. And here I am fussing and fretting about something out of my control, when there will be hundreds more such things this season and in every season after that.

So I took a break. I decided I would light a fire after supper, burn some brush and fallen branches and the Christmas tree, which was still hanging around outside. And a burning was appropriate, since this year May fifth is the point midway between the equinox and the solstice, a moment observed in past times to celebrate the immanence of summer, a time to consecrate the fields and the herds, to adorn homes with the small yellow flowers of spring, to light fires for blessing and for protection.

So I set the brush aflame and watched it burn to coals, watched the embers swirl into the clear night sky, watched the half-lit moon pass by the Big Dipper tipped as if to pour spring rains on the earth, watched the farm cat creep out for some nighttime adventure, watched a doe glide through the field to the pond to drink.

And I’d like to tell you that sitting there and watching all this I came to some sort of epiphany, some transformed perspective, but both you and I know most of the time it doesn’t work that way. In the morning the world remains unchanged, with the same old problems and the same old promises, but still with peace and grace for those with eyes to see.