Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Good Night for Summer Gifts

I stood in the poetry section of Barnes & Noble and cried. An older couple walked by and ignored me as I quietly sniffled.

See, I can't even fully explain to you why I was moved to tears.

It was the summer solstice; the day the sun lingers the longest at the door. We say a million goodnights tonight instead of 999,999 and somehow that extra nod is the one that makes me swoon the most. Like a suitor who holds the key to your heart and turns it just enough in a smile to make you ache with the goodness of love. The height of the year, where I feel as though the seasons have reached their summit and each way we look, it's all good, lush and living. It was that night.

Everyone was abuzz about the supermoon again. I wanted to tell someone about last year,
how a few of us chased the moon far out of the city,
laid quietly on blankets
and listened to David Crowder sing about the stars.

How for a few still moments,
it was only the glow of the moon reflecting peace over our restless souls.

But I didn't. I didn't say anything. I drove to the bookstore on this supermoon-lit night and wandered the aisles, because what else is a girl to do when she still has an hour left to her babysitter? I accidentally found the poetry section, which isn't all that hard to find, but I wasn't looking.

(Like most things, when I want them, they're never found. I find them when I'm not thinking about them at all.)

Mary Oliver's name almost shouted to me, and I know you think it silly that I'd even put it that way, but if you knew how long I'd been looking everywhere for her or something like her. And I cracked the new, untouched book open, it's crisp cream colored pages letting go into hands for the first time ...and I read:

In the north country now it is spring and there
is a certain celebration. The thrush
has come home. He is shy and likes the
evening best, also the hour just before
morning; in that blue and gritty light he
climbs to his branch, or smoothly
sails there. It is okay to know only
one song if it is this one. Hear it
rise and fall; the very elements of your soul
shiver nicely. What would spring be
without it? Mostly frogs. But don't worry, he

arrives, year after year, humble and obedient
and gorgeous. You listen and you know
you could live a better life than you do, be
softer, kinder. And maybe this year you will
be able to do it. Hear how his voice
rises and falls. There is no way to be
sufficiently grateful for the gifts we are
given, no way to speak the Lord's name
often enough, though we do try, and

especially now, as that dappled breast
breathes in the pines and heaven's
windows in the north country, now spring has come,
are opened wide.

I did what I promise to rarely do — buy a book brand new. We like to buy them used, beat up, pre-loved and pre-read and such. But I wanted this one new.

I told God the other night that sometimes I believe He's stingy. Now mind you, what I believe and what is true are sometimes two very different things. And I see this belief reflected in the way I parent, in the way I live and the choices I make. I don't buy very many things new. We thrift and consign and flea market, and I love making a home up of such things. But I rarely go for the top dollar. Or the best. Or the thing that would be first at home to us. (For a bunch of mixed reasons — some ethical, some frugal, some probably self-denying reasons.)

So I bought this Mary Oliver new. Because, there are long summer nights, where I'm reaching with every part of my heart for heaven and I know, deep down, that I have to believe God gives actual gifts. He's not just a needs-driven God. I realized the other night, as I lay still under the muggy summer midnight breeze, that I've come to expect God will only make my life bearable with the things I need, with limited enjoyment, limited pleasures. I've made him out to be a stingy giver — tight fisted, grumbling about excess, frowning about shiny and new. I've made him the dark underbelly of Materialism — something along the lines of an accountant for the in-the-red believer.

"There is no way to be
sufficiently grateful for the gifts we are
given, no way to speak the Lord's name
often enough, though we do try..."

"It is okay to know only one song if it is this one."


  1. This feels like a solstice post - a marking of a day that's entirely different than the rest and full of ordinary goodness too. Beautiful, Andrea.

  2. I accidentally read this as "I've made him out to be a stingy lover". I think it fits too...