In high school, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow seemed sometimes long on worthless words and, at best, clearly obscure. What really caused the strain in reading came in the attachment of “homework” to the study. A very good Literature teacher brought clarity after a few classes and soon, the writers became painters, at least the ones I enjoyed most. With the onset of November comes the “holidays”. Turkey-basted kitchens leaking hunger throughout the home and Christmas Carols accompany “Really? Already?” And all too quickly, thanks and Christ-mas become thankless bustle and gift driven hollyday. Gotta gotta, money money will they come oh not them is the gift good enough did we spend the same on all the kids wish mom was still alive ringing bells then caroling and oh my gosh I’m exhausted! When that invasion occurs, I thank God for some Longfellow lines, lines included in Poems That Will Change Your Life produced by Fall River Press:
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows,–
The happy days unclouded ‘til their close;
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As the flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;–a Fairy Tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where,
But lovely as a landscape in a dream (191).
I try at least once a day to live this lyric, to step aside and see God’s work on land, in sky. A former pastor talked about taking time to chat with God, to hear the Holy Spirit, and to revel in the assurance of forgiveness in Jesus. In Rose Thorpe’s “Song of a Thankful Time”, she alludes to “the harvest of field and vine/And granaries full at Thanksgiving time.” She speaks of hands filled with fruit, grain, and sweets – with hope as a truth. “Then our hearts make room for the thankful time” (192). She concludes by thinking of a resting time, when we have harvested the toil of our years and “wait at the gate of the King’s highway,/For the dawn of our soul’s Thanksgiving day”(192).
In all the thousands of words I have penned and typed, will pen and will type, none come in the hubbub and clamor. Stepping aside truly has become a wondrous thing for me, a lean on a crabapple tree, leaves strewing in sharp, rain filled wind, the cold bite stinging my cheeks. A look skyward in first snow, a snitched chunk of turkey thigh just “to make sure it’s good to serve”, and knowing the tear-on-cheek joy of the burst of light on the kids’ decorated Christmas tree. Those moments in the heart, shared with a loving God. Each not long on words, each clear – each an arm-around-my-shoulder, “I’ve got the homework” squeeze of Happy Thanksgiving and true Christmas joy.