Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Hymn of Gratitude for Springtime

Red-breasted robins crisscross the asphalt lane that winds past our farm.  They've been here in the South for months now, gorging round, downy bellies on ladybugs, holly berries, and squiggly worms in preparation for the impending flight back north.  "To Grandma Della's in Michigan" as the children always say.

I stand as I do for ten minutes each afternoon--pink ropers hesitating at the divide between gravel and black tar, waiting for the school bus that carries my kindergartner's hug.  My eyes watch the vanishing point for the classic orange and black, but my ears listen to the birds' airy chatter.  Their song is ever-constant today when the sun presses warmth through my cotton shirt until the heat caresses my bare skin beneath.

On days when the clouds form an almost reachable ceiling or when a chilled March gale wraps me further into myself, there is no fluttering, no sound.  All are invisible, silent, hiding in the forest's web of woody catacombs above.

Today, though, I  squint behind Jackie O. shades, gaze upwards at these miraculous creatures weaving invisible webs of joy like a wedding canopy.  My feet are glued firmly to the earth, but I, too, feel this urge to soar, to give thanks and sing in celebration of Spring's advent.

Far out of camera range, my father in law stands by my daughter, both of them oblivious to the orchestra taking place a few feet above them.  Their eyes focus, instead, on Spring's first rising from below.  Up from the cold ground, white globes of clover proudly tower above wide, meandering patches of of three leaves, sometimes a lucky four.

This tough farmer with his t-shirts ever-stained by sweat and tractor grease; with his skin permanently tanned, and leathery from years working the hay fields....this is my children's Opa, a much-beloved grandfather who worked a lifetime at an oil refinery and raised both cattle and hay with his only son, my husband.

There is nothing even remotely feminine about this man.  Yet, as I watch, our Opa stoops repeatedly to pick the clover "weeds" he once would have instantly sprayed into oblivion.  With well-calloused fingers, he knots their rigid stems and weaves them into a bracelet for his only grand daughter, a necklace for her twin brother.  Such an uncharacteristic expression of love.   

I can't help but smile at how perfect this moment is, how much of the Father's love is evident above and below.  And in that remembrance, I hum a tune to words long forgotten.

For the beauty of the earth,
for the beauty of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies, 

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild,

For each perfect gift of thine
to our race so freely given,
graces human and divine,
flowers of earth and buds of heaven,

Christ our God, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

Photo: My mother's camelia flowers. 

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