Walking home in the warmth of the mid-day sun, the chattering of various marsh birds quiets my busy mind. Several steps farther I hear a different chatter. Unable to identify the source my curiosity is peaked. Turning a corner, I see 3 and 4 year olds running, skipping, babbling and laughing on their way to the Brothers’ picnic area. Not far behind, walks a Brother carrying a child’s lunch box in each hand. One of the lunch containers is decorated in a pink design – clearly for a little girl. I tease the brother that the box looks just right for him. He laughs heartily as do I. Seeing the joy-filled care the Brothers give to these youngsters, is heartwarming. “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven.”
David Mallett wrote (and Pete Seeger sang), “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow” to describe the experience of tending a garden. From time to time as I look out past my backyard to the busy Sisters and Brothers as they weed, mulch, till, water and tend this garden, I can’t help humming that folk song which was so popular when I was young. How remarkable is the change since the last time I shared this view with you. I think St. Benedict would be proud of both the Ora and the Labora that has gone in to the transformation as men and women partner with God in the continuing creation he shares with us. I can’t wait for the tomatoes!
The brothers have been hard at work renovating our cow barn. These are really great times for us, all working together to get a big job done. It’s a time when older brothers pass on skills to younger brothers: like digging out, forming up, and pouring a foundation footing; or mixing mortar and laying concrete block; or putting in a new drainage system; plus all the quirky carpentry for retrofitting an old barn. A number of us have spent years working in this barn caring for the animals, going back to the early 70’s when it housed a horse and a herd of goats. It’s part of our history, and we hope it will be with us for many years to come.
Our animal barn is undergoing some much needed renovation. The barn was built in the very early days of our community, more than 30 years ago when several of the brothers were younger than I am now. The entire building has been lifted and all the exterior siding and roofing will be replaced, as well as all of the drainage, and much of the interior. Even now, with much work still to be done, one can already tell it will be a much improved home for the animals. My job was to help Br. Peter install a new dry well. Actually it wasn’t “new”, but had to be dug up and moved over a few feet for the renovations. The metal was in good shape, but some of the blocks had cracked. We could have tried to get a new drain, but the old one had served well for 20+ yrs, and will hold up for many more years. Br. Peter had installed this drain originally, and a generation later, we were working along aside each other, using the original materials given to us. It is exciting to see the new and improved building going up…. but I’m glad for the parts of the history that are being left as reminders of the lives that have gone before us.
My bedroom window looks out on a half acre vegetable garden that the Brothers and Sisters tend. Throughout the spring I have had opportunity to observe from my window (and my back yard) the plowing, tilling, planting, watering, weeding – all the tasks that any garden requires. The early crop that the garden yielded this year was strawberries – a banner year for them. For several weeks the picking went on daily and many of us enjoyed the bumper crop of sweet, succulent berries. Sadly, though, the strawberry season has passed, and now the “farmers” are tilling and weeding and watering other parts of the garden while they wait for the next crops to mature and ripen – tomatoes and green beans and carrots and more. How good of God to give the early “earnest” of the super-abundant strawberry crop…a gift, perhaps, to help us while we wait to see how he will provide for us next?
The brothers joyfully welcomed a new refrigerator this week. Our decades-old one gave up the ghost. Someone I trust, recently compared our life to a box with four walls. It’s not an elegant image, but it is eloquent in that we all have the same spiritual construction, and God lets us work with him and others to make our “box” beautiful, functional, integrated, expressive. So whether we consider the grand cubic dimensions of Paradise described at the end of Revelation or a lovely new fridge, we can take hope for our own journey.
In the middle of the night, it was my turn to take a shift for a prayer vigil being held in our oratory. Naturally I am not an early riser, but when I’m able to coerce myself awake and actually out of my bed, I very much enjoy the quiet loneliness of the early morning. It was especially quiet and still until just after 4:00am, when I noticed the birds had begun to sing. I didn’t hear them start. With an hour still to go before sunrise, I didn’t expect their chirping so early. The birds gradually crescendoed their songs into the first morning light.
I wonder how many ordinary wonders I miss passing by my eyes and ears each day? Most of the time I’m so self aware, distracted by my mood, or preoccupied with the most efficient way to get the next task in front of me done, or some other unfortunate worry. But I’m grateful for those wonderful moments when something unexpected jumps out of the ordinary and makes a lasting impression.
“. . . and when he’s fussing because he doesn’t want to be back in his crate, I’ll get down on the floor next to him and pretend that I’m going to sleep with him. He always settles right down and goes to sleep. Then I just slip away…” I was proudly telling the vet how I calmed Blu, when I had to leave him for the afternoon or evening. Before I was finished, the vet was shaking her head no. “Really?” (I figured she just didn’t understand.) “He’s trained you to do that. He might even be telling you that you belong down there with him. Next time, give him a toy, and walk away.”
Is it a coincidence that Blu’s demands, and his creativity in expressing them, rivals my own? Maybe its a little how parents feel sometimes with their children….
Did you ever wonder what makes a pipe organ sound? In some ways its much more simple then you may think — it is just air moving through pipes! Last week Br. Luke needed help moving a large air duct to make space for the installation of a new division. So 10 of us brothers carefully climbed down the narrow south-side organ chamber and raised a large piece of metal duct work. This pipe runs at least 150 ft down and underneath the church, and provides the air power for thousands of pipes to sound. Much of the organ is very intricate and put together in a very specialized way, but you can’t take away the basic ingredient, or no sound is created. It’s a bit like us. If we lose our breath, no matter how carefully the rest of the instrument is constructed, or how hard we might try, we can’t do much without God’s breath running through us!