I love to get outside early Sunday mornings in Dublin. Even in lockdown, when things are meant to be quiet most of the time, there is a marked difference in movement and sound. And on mornings like today, when the sun is really out and the sky is a solid block of blue, I walk Seamus around the two blocks with the abandoned lots, the closed pub, the council flats, the playground and basketball courts, the allotments, the old blacksmith yard with the giant locks on the gates. There is a giant pile of charred mattresses and bicycles that the young marauders in the neighborhood burned a few days ago (fire brigade came and everything), and even that has an aesthetic appeal in this light. In the otherwise empty basketball courts, a guy is doing lay up after lay up. The allotments are quietly vibrating with all that will soon break through. I no longer have access to them, this year, which is a bummer for the kitchen scraps that I need to take to the community garden that is much farther away, but other possibilities are opening up to take a little piece of land and try to facilitate (so as not to say make — I cannot make this) something to grow. Which has me thinking about the efforts of the last two years, some tomatoes, some potatoes, the rhubarb (for which I need to do nothing), the kale and chard that just keep coming, in the tiny little space at the home I will in a few months relinquish. How pitiful it might all seem to my grandparents, who grew cucumbers the size of my forearms, who knew the land’s rhythms. How pitiful this little theological conversation space might seem, too, to some foolish visitor who might expect formal prayers and liturgies. But how we try might be a kind of devotion, and this year I will try again to grow some things, hopefully to borrow tools and expertise, as well, to nourish the humble interdependencies out of which relationships and communities grow.
I am also thinking about Ross Gay (here’s an introductory snippet from the article linked to his name):
Ross Gay is passionate about poetry, gardening and basketball. He pauses when asked if he sees a connection between the three. “I guess you could say that I think all three things alter our notion of time,” he said. “There’s something about beautiful moments in sports that alters our experience of time. And I’d say the same thing about poetry and gardening. Gardening slows me down. I want to stop and observe everything.”
And some really lovely poems by Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil in Orion Magazine, among which, these:
And maybe there’s some other story:
the finger’s plow furrowing a scar
for seeds through the loam,
and the way the flesh’s million filaments
fleck like mica the soil
till it glows — no, no.
The earth is heating up, I mean to say.
Nothing like peach blossoms in February to tell you
something’s off — when these
shivered and shimmied in the wind,
it was a full month early.
Do you know what I’m asking?
The garden these days leans in as if to say,
“You’re fucked, friend.”
It says so with equanimity, all its leaves
quaking through the bright light
like applause for the dead.
If the garden had shoulders, I think,
it’d shrug them. Berries today,
the blue jay divebombing the cat today,
the silver maple loosing its twirling battalions today,
What am I trying to say?
The tiny prints of your kids’ feet in the garden
filling with shadow?
No shadows here, only mud.
Praise the caked-up trowel, hand rake,
and grass scissor. I want to kiss each crumble
of sunbaked earth as my sons welcome iris
and drunk ants whirl-rush over each juicy peony bud.
After warm rains come the spring peepers shivering
out of the mud and sitting half in, half out of a puddle.
You must know the bees have come early
this year too: I see them visit aster, sweet Williams,
bleeding hearts, and azalea blossoms hardy enough
to not have crisped with the last late frost. Whatever light
bees give off after the last snow, I hold up to you now.
I cannot explain the click-step of beetles.
You are on your own for that. I grew up with patience
for soil and stars. Lace and pyrite. I believe
in an underworld littered with gems.
In another life, I have to. Sometimes I lose track
of all the bees and their singing.
You thought I said stinging.
From Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil, in the same article: “It is our hope that some of the pleasure and anxiety of tending these gardens — which is to say, tending to ourselves, our relationships, our earth — comes through in these poems,” says Ross. “There’s bounty, yes. But there’s loss and sorrow too: like a garden, like a life.”
The lectionary, which I can’t seem to touch this morning, is here.
Coffee Hour is a lightly-facilitated, gently theological online space where you are welcome, no religious commitment assumed or expected. It happens every week at 1-2pm Irish time. The password changes (today it is RossGayAimeeNezhukumatathil — ha! mostly to practice writing/ saying her name), but the video conference link is always the same: https://meet.jit.si/CoffeeHourWithFriends2021