Spring Miracles

I never can decide whether spring or fall is my favorite season. Both are beautiful, offering change and new directions, the beginnings of new roads and opportunities. 

But with spring outside, ready to touch, see, and smell, I’m feeling a bit swayed toward the beauty of this season.

It’s in the living buzz of the bees as they stuff their pockets with pollen.

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It’s in the scalloped edges of the new leaves, still sticky from their buds.

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It’s in the outrageous colors of the flowers, outdoing the imagination of any fashion designer.

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It’s in the unshorn grass, joyful to be alive and growing.

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It’s in the unfurling petals, reaching toward the sun.

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It’s the magic and mystery of the world coming back to life, of beauty and expectancy, of wonder even in the tiniest of vessels.

And so I pay attention.

Because each day is its own kind of miracle.

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Wandering Bards

Okay. Before you read any further, stop! And click on this link
That’s a recording of my most influential college professor, Dr. Luke Reinsma, reading the Prologue of The Canterbury Tales–in Middle English. 
Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote…
That cadence takes me back to cozy firesides in the British Isles, where I was studying abroad three years ago. (Three years! How is that possible?) 
Assigned to read The Canterbury Tales in Middle English for our Medieval Literature class, most of my classmates and I felt overwhelmed. Middle English is similar enough to modern English that it can mostly be understood–but it takes a lot of effort. Medieval non-comprehension set in. Frustration set in. 
And so Dr. Reinsma began hosting semi-weekly reading sessions. His background is in medieval literature, and he reads fluently in Middle English. And so we students would sprawl all over hostel couches, chairs, benches, carpets (sometimes beside an English fireside so quaint it looked like a painting) and listen to The Professor read. 

It’s amazing what reading aloud can do for your appreciation of books. One of my earliest memories of literature is hiding under the couch cushions when my parents got to the part about Black Riders in The Fellowship of the Ring. It was a rite of passage when I got to take a turn in intoning the passages of Little House on the Prairie. And even in college, as an adult living in another country for three months, having The Professor read aloud took me back to that childhood place. 
A human voice reading does not just transmit information–it conveys experience, wisdom, and a passion for life. We learn from being read to, but it’s much more than an academic exercise. The vocal rhythms whisk us back to a time when wandering bards passed down ancient traditions–history, legend, theology–through oral song and story. 
To read aloud from a book proclaims your investment, both in the book and in the person being read to. Now that I am an adult, reading aloud to my students is one of my favorite parts of our lessons–getting to use my voice and presence to bring alive the literature I believe in. It’s a manifestation of care through quality time, combined with the wisdom and learning contained in the book itself. 
Though The Canterbury Tales may never be my favorite work of literature, listening to the recording of it today brought tears to my eyes. Much more than a homework assignment, reading aloud became a memory. 
Do you ever read aloud? Have any special memories of someone reading to you? 

Life

March is here, and my camera and I see the world returning to life in small and miraculous ways. 

In little leaves whose pale flush of chlorophyll hasn’t fully waxed to green…

…buds so fresh out of the branch that they’re still sticky…

 …delicate lily flowers like drooping bells, blooming from sleeping underground bulbs…

…tiny rose leaves still backed with soft, silvery hairs… 

…plum trees blushing into plumes of cotton candy, with thousands of fingernail-sized pink blossoms opening at the same time…
See! The winter is past; 
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth; 
the season of singing has come.

A Splendid Supply of Surprising Sweets

The adventurous and interesting Tami Clayton invited me to play a game of letters (my favorite kind). The rules: reveal 10 of your favorite things that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet.

My letter (in case the post title didn’t give it away): S!

Ready?

Stories: Escape into magical worlds. Power to change the real world. What I want to spend my life writing and reading.

Spices: Cooking has never been so interesting!

Sliding ladders: Ohhh, I want one so much!! Or I could just move into a library that has them.

Shakespeare: The love of my literary life (minus the earring). The genius bard of the Western world. Themes as relevant today as they were in the 16th century. Need I say more?

Sunshine: Just one of the many great reasons to be living in California again!

Scotland: The windswept land of bagpipes and legends, monks and poets, caber tossing and lovely accents–my second-favorite place in the world (after home, of course).

Springtime: My favorite season of the year!

Singing: I like to shatter windows with the high notes. (Actually, I just like imitating Hayley Westenra in the shower, on my church praise team, and when I have the house to myself.)

Sincerity: One of the characteristics I value most in friends (and in literary characters).

Socks: These are not my feet. But I kind of wish they were. My favorite Tinker Bell pair got a hole in them, but I do have a pretty awesome pair of knee-high blue-and-green argyles.

What are your favorite S-things? If you have a blog and want to play the letter game, leave me a comment and I’ll send you a starting letter via Facebook or Twitter!

Poetry with Feet

With the weather back to spring temperatures here in California and more rain predicted for this week, I found a poem I wrote about a month ago. This was about the time I started taking walks every morning. I’ve found that a walk in the morning, even if it’s only fifteen minutes, gives me a chance to take care of myself holistically, focus my thoughts for the day, and get ready to write.

Morning walks are especially fun on those days when rain is blustering on the horizon, like a little boy full of energy, but it hasn’t quite come into itself yet. The air is full of wind and electricity, and in spring, all the flower scents blow everywhere and the green comes out to shine. On one of those days, I went for a long walk, wearing my rain jacket but only occasionally needing it. A poem started to form in my head (and of course I forgot my Moleskine at home) but I repeated it out loud to myself, tinkering with the sounds of the words until the neighbors probably thought I was crazy, to keep it fresh until I got home.

And now I’m going to get brave and share it with you: the first poem I’ve put up on this blog.

Nomad

I walk shadowless under a sunless sky.

Sun’s brightness swallowed in

filmy grey envelopes,

 distant hills erased,

painted out in white.

I am rainchased,

windswept,

a petal blown on a gust,

a wave whipped across a pond.

I drink in the smell of sweet freesias

and sharp spicy rosemary,

I caress fragile budding leaves,

I see silver shreds flapping in the wind.

I walk under rain, but I am not wet;

I wander abroad, but I am not lost.

What interesting thoughts have come to you while walking? 

“Smile, Beautiful”

Well, spring doesn’t officially start until tomorrow. But the plum tree in my backyard doesn’t know the difference. Every year, it bursts into a puffy cloud of fragile pink blossoms. 
And every spring, it draws me irresistibly outside, camera in hand. 
Macro (close-up) photography has been one of my interests for a long time. In this world, it’s often the biggest, flashiest, noisiest things that attract the most notice. But macro photography focuses in on the tiny, the delicate, the overlooked, perfectly-formed, miniature miracles hiding in plain view. 
Like plum blossoms.
And to make things even more fun, this year my good friend Audry showed me some techniques with camera apertures. Oh boy. 

Turns out smaller F-stops (lens apertures) focus on smaller depths of field. They draw your eye to just one tiny part of the image.

Instead of getting overwhelmed by the whole, you can focus the intricate beauty of one part–and maybe see something there you never noticed before. Look at the different textures of the pink petals and the red encasement–smooth and bumpy, frilled and veined. So much detail in such a small space!

Isn’t God amazing? All this beauty, like getting a card in the mail for no reason. It’s just God saying, “Smile, beautiful. I made this for you.” 

 Happy spring! What tiny miracles can you find in your world today?

Gratitude Monday

It’s Monday! I’m going to start off the week with what I’m thankful for today: the beautiful flowers that are popping up all around the Bay Area. This is the ornamental pear tree outside my house: 
Have you ever wondered how all the pear trees know to bloom at the same time? I was wondering that this week. On cue from Heaven, maybe.
I love that spring begins in mid-February here. The rush and hum of the world coming back to life is one of my favorite sensations in all the world. 
Boy, I’m thankful to be living back in the Bay Area!
What are you thankful for today? 


I’m sorry this comes later than usual…I had a big post in the works for last week that just wasn’t ready to go up yet. Hopefully it’ll be worth the wait when it gets posted this Friday 🙂