Last Friday was the longest day of the year here in the Okanagan Valley. The sun came up at 4:49 a.m., and didn’t set again until 9:10 p.m.
I was out in my garden pulling weeds, on my hands and knees, head down, nose near the earth, when I realized that half a year’s worth of daylight had passed me by.
Not that I’ve been in a coma. I just haven’t been here. I don’t know where I’ve been, but it wasn’t here.
When I look back, I can remember the cherries in our neighbouring orchard coming out in blossom. Then the peaches, then the apples. I didn’t pay attention.
A little later in the year, dark red rhododendrons marched down our north fence. Near-fluorescent azaleas adorned our driveway -- orange, white, yellow, even purple. Our flowering dogwood stood as tall and white as a wedding dress. The catalpa exploded in creamy white petals like popcorn. Peonies were burdened with bloom.
I saw them all. But I didn’t really pay attention to the beauty around me. Because I was too obsessed with weeds.
For some reason, this spring was great for weeds: thistles, plantains, wild portulaca, volunteer sunflowers, plus at least a dozen other species I can’t name.
Indeed, if I had planned to grow quack grass this year, I would have considered it a banner year.
I set out to show the weeds who was boss. It was no contest. They were.
It took a week to weed my way down the longest side of our three-quarter-acre lot. By the time I reached the end, the weeds had already spouted several inches high where I started. (And before you ask, yes, I do pull them out by their roots. They have cousins.)
So I do have some excuse for my blindness to beauty.
But it’s not good enough. No one ever said on their deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time in meetings.” Ditto for time at the office. Or pulling weeds. What we regret is always the time we didn’t spend with our children and friends, or fishing, or painting, or making music.
Or paying attention to the beauty around us.
Granted, weeds can overwhelm pansies. Obscure the forget-me-nots, crowd out the geraniums.
But concentrating on the weeds is like concentrating on life’s trials, instead of enjoying life despite the trials.
The imperfect present
InZoomermagazine, author Marni Jackson wrote about friends with cancer. For her, they re-define hope. Instead of “imagining some better, distant future,” she writes, “it’s about seizing every available joy.” They travel; they sing in choirs; they inhale the fragrance of lavender.
“As we age,” Jackson writes, “hope is no longer a tomorrow thing; it’s about rooting ourselves in the joys of the imperfect present.”
With a pang, I realize I have been betrayed by my commitment to duty. I’ve enslaved myself to flawed priorities.
It wouldn’t have taken much time just to stand still for a few minutes. To rejoice in growing sprouts. To soak in the glory of spring flowers. To breathe deeply the sweetness of earth after rain.
There would still be lots of time left for pulling weeds.
I’m not going to give the weeds a free pass. But I’ve made a Summer Solstice Resolution: there’s more to life than pulling weeds.
Copyright © 2019 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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I got very little feedback to last week’s column, inspired by the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA championship, and then going on from there to ponder what constitutes winning, and what constitutes losing.
Wayne Irwin commented wryly on the reality of sports: “You get one point more -- and you are 'the champion'! Your opponent . . . is 'the bum'!”
Isabel Gibson considered the three – or four – plot lines I had listed, and suggested that “man against God,” my fourth plot, “might become ‘man against himself’ in your current theology. A God within struggling with the Devil, similarly situated.”
In fact, as I replied to Isabel, if I truly believe in the integration of everything, maybe there can be only one plot, self against larger self.
Given the shortage of mail, I’ll take space for another plea to tell your friends, your relatives, and your colleagues about these columns. The mailing list keeps shrinking – mostly, I think, because subscribers change their email addresses but don’t let me know so that they can keep receiving columns. I can’t reach them. But maybe, with your help, we can add some new subscribers.
The psalm writers never knew Jesus. For them, if God was incarnate, it was in everything. I tried to capture some of that sense in this paraphrase of Psalm 77.
1 Like an infant isolated in its incubator, I wail.
But no one responds.
2 Like a worker laid off after 30 years of loyal service,
I roam the streets restlessly.
But no one responds.
11 Still, I will not give up hope;
I will not stop trying.
12 Even if you are not around, I remember your goodness to me.
13 After all, you did not give up, when we doubted you.
14,15 You opened the mysteries of nature to provide for our needs.
16 When we needed metal, you taught us to mine.
When we needed irrigation, you supplied lakes and rivers.
When we needed energy, you led us to oil.
19 We took the credit;
we told ourselves it was all our own doing.
And we fouled your world with our wastes.
17 But your winds still clear the grime from our skies;
18 your rains still renew our fields;
your seas still sustain our climate.
20 How then can I continue to doubt you?
For paraphrases of mostof the psalms used by the Revised Common Lectionary, you can order my book Everyday Psalmsfrom Wood Lake Publishing, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. Some spam filters have been blocking my posts because they’re suspicious of some of the web links.
Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on Youtube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8
Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. The original website has been closed down, but you can still order the DVD set through Wood Lake Publications, info@woodlake,com
Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTcaHe’s also relatively inexpensive!
I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also has lots of beautiful photos.
Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet
ALVA WOOD’S ARCHIVE
I have acquired (don’t ask how) the complete archive of the late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures. I’ve put them on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. You’re welcome to browse. No charge.