As we flip to a new month, I don’t think I have ever been more aware of the arbitrary nature of the calendar. The date makes no difference. Hell, the day makes no difference. It’s tempting to say it’s like Groundhog Day, except we are not living the same day over and over. Things are changing, even as the days run one into the other. More death. More unknowing. More distance.
I grew up being told that heaven was our ultimate hope. Time was moving towards a final scene and then eternity . . . a wide open ellipsis. I feel like these days are teaching us the difference between eternal and unending. Eternity has no sense of time–another dimension, perhaps. Unending understands that he have to do this again tomorrow, for all we know: an infinity of finitude. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, always Lent and never Easter.
Years ago, when I was a kid in Africa, I was in the car with my dad and we were listening to the radio. Zambia’s climate is divided into rainy seasons and dry seasons, rather than the seasons we name here. In the dry season, it is dry. In the rainy season, it rains nearly every day. It was the dry season. The voice on the radio said, “And now for today’s weather report.” What followed was about ten seconds of dead air where all we could hear were papers rustling. Finally, the voice said, “I cannot find today’s forecast. I will just read yesterday’s.”
The virus challenges any sense we have that time is linear, that it is going somewhere. In this world where time is no longer much of a marker, at least in the way we are used to defining it, how do we mark our days in ways that matter?
in the middle of all of this, I read David Whyte: “Beauty is the harvest of the present.”
Present: at this time, now.
Harvest: the gathering of the crops, of what we have grown.
Beauty is in what we have grown in these days.
Beauty is in what we have to offer one another.
Beauty is the gift of where we are right now.
About four o’clock I got a text from Tom, my gardening buddy, saying he was going to be out in our plot behind the barn. I went out to join him. The late afternoon sunlight fell across the garden in long, warm shafts like movie lighting. Gardening in New England right now mostly means getting ready. We are raking leaves, clearing and marking beds, and pulling up the skeletons of some of last year’s plants, as well as a few weeds. There is work to do and there is plenty of time to wax both philosophical and theological. Tom and I are pretty good at all of it.
The leaves that were cover for the winter will become the paths between the beds for the spring. The things we pulled out of the ground will go in the compost bins. The compost we have from all that rotted from last year will be food for what we grow in the days ahead. The things growing on their own–weeds and volunteer mustard greens–invite pollinators to get an early start. Our contribution, as humans, is our labor and attention. Everything is connected.
Beauty is the harvest of the present.
I was up just before the sun this morning to read and journal. Part of where the morning took me was reading through a list of names of people I love that I want to contact in the days ahead. As I read over the names, an old song came to mind in a sort of single-song playlist of the mind, so much that I wrote down the words.
love is but a song I sing
fear’s the way we die
you can make the mountains ring
or make the angels cry
though the bird is on the wing
we may not know why
come on people now
smile on each other (that’s my edit)
everybody get together
try to love one another right now
No matter what day it is, it’s always time for that.