It snowed pear blossoms here in Kansas this week. Tiny white petals floated down like confetti and drifted into the corners of my patio. They festooned the back of my black lab, Elijah, and rode into my kitchen stuck to the soles of my shoes.
The pear flurries crept up on us quickly and then were over. All week I planned to stand under the tree and gaze up through that lacy veil to the branched blue sky above. When I finally went out to behold this beauty, the green shoots of leaves were already pushing off the petals and the moment was over.
Dripping with blossoms, the tree was stunning in the sun, lifting her arms like a bride to her beloved. Then, impetuously, she dropped her gown, sending her skirts floating past my windows.
Watching the petals fall on the lawn, I remembered the poem my mother read to me one spring, years ago.
The Pear Tree
In this squalid, dirty dooryard,
Where the chickens scratch and run,
White, incredible, the pear tree
Stands apart and takes the sun,
Mindful of the eyes upon it,
Vain of its new holiness,
Like the waste-man’s little daughter
In her first communion dress.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1919
Spring comes like a sudden lump in the throat, a sharp stab to the heart, a pear blossom falling too soon. Beauty does that to us. Beauty, a thing we cannot possess, or control, belongs, finally, to the Creator. The waste-man’s little daughter will outgrow her communion dress. She will move past her vanity and grow into holiness, as her girlish charm gives way to the inner radiance of the Bread of Life she takes between her lips.
Like the woman of Bethany, hastening through the streets with her perfume for the beautiful Savior, soon to die, spring spills her treasures over us, and then is gone. The pear tree blooms for a week. Too soon her splendor falls softly, grows transparent, yellows, and dries in the cracks of the sidewalk.
Last week I saw a man with a pear blossom petal caught in his eyebrow. He wore it, perched like a tiny cap, over the arch above his spectacles.
I would like to be so baptized with pear blossoms. May you each have your transcendent moment in the sun, and see yourself as the stunning beauty you are.
Ought we not always be pouring the priceless gift of our attentive love on every particle of this world? Ought we not be running recklessly through the streets and fields, smitten and ravished? We, here so briefly, so soon to be released and blown to rest in the softly greening grass, are surely born to be pierced through by such beauty and spendthrift love.
Are not we here for this above all reasons:
to lift our arms like brides,
and to wear the kiss of God upon our brows?
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Matthew 26: 6-13 (NIV)
Posted in Contemplation, prayer, faith, God, Lent
Tagged beauty, communion, Easter, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Kansas, Matthew 26: 6-13, Pear, spring
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5: 3, 8
The slender branch of the maple tree outside my window extends itself in a graceful arc. Along its slim fingers it sports rust colored jewels, intricately cut opening buds, bursting with light. When did this happen? Last time I looked, barren twigs jutted stiffly into the cold air.
Here in Kansas, held captive for weeks under heavy overcast skies, we have plodded through our days with only basketball to get our blood pumping. Meanwhile, spring is quietly sneaking up on us.
Dare I say this? I am not ready. With only a few weeks of lent remaining, I have fallen off my wagon of simple living and over indulged in complexity, excess, and that ancient tempter, anxiety.
I need a little austerity, some ordered calm, and spaciousness, not a riotous burst of color luring me into getting anxious about gardening and yard work. I am looking for a paring down of tasks, and to tethering my heart to what is most important, not pecking mindlessly after every crumb I see.
I need a spare, bare mind, swept clear of clutter and fuss, rather than the cramped, narrow, over stuffed rat’s nest I have created. These gray days are revealing to me more clearly the contours of my addiction to my agenda. How will I ever be ready for Easter splendor and the enchanting dance of spring with so much of me running the show, asserting itself and its way?
I am Peter, pulling Jesus’ coattails, saying, “No Lord, no cross! No death! We can win this on our own!” My spirit has not been poor, aware of its total dependence on the mercy of God. My heart has not been pure, willing only one thing, but rather, adulterated with conflicting desires.
My fetching maple beckons with her pretty fingers. “Come, you fool,” she whispers. “Let go. Dwell with me in the pure driven snow of grace.”
Prayer for Lent
Make me lean, Lord.
Teach me the quiet asceticism of winter trees
whose bare branches articulate space
Set me down before the bowl of emptiness
where you swirl, swell, steam,
brimming at the brink of nothing.
Feast me from the platter of want,
where need of anything but you is indigestible.
Cut away the obesity of pride,
the folds of selfishness.
Make me meager,
a mere thin thing flapping its limbs
composing snow angels
across the pristine sweep of your celestial substance,
an anonymous indentation pressed in desolation
telling your glory.
My sustenance: your Word.
And my life: glad graffiti splashed
across some time’s wall:
God goes here.
For a good time,