Monday, May 15, 2006


One of the unaccountable changes in the culture of Unitarians is that for a long time the favorite hymns were all evensongs, about peace and settling for the night in safety. “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide, the darkness deepens, still with me abide.” “When darkness nears and embers die, the wind in trees a distant sigh, the end of day like a lover’s voice nearby.” “Again, as evening’s shadow falls, we gather in these hallowed walls.” Maybe that’s the clue: Vespers services, a habit largely lost when we drifted away from our English roots.

Anyway, somehow a shift happened and everyone wanted to sing, “Morning has broken!” or “The Morning Hangs a Signal.” “Morning So Fair to See.” Upbeat songs about new starts, being up and doing in the sunshine. I did see the dawn, but then -- as is my habit -- once I’d read the paper I went back to bed for a while. Dreams to finish.

Today was the first truly warm day -- I killed a dozen flies still innocent about fly swatters. It was even a little too warm for yardwork in the middle of the afternoon. What did I care? In this house we take a nap then anyway. Squibbie the sentinel was up early and did the morning patrol. Right now she’s out in the dark doing the evening patrol. This time of year she sleeps through midday out in the back garage, which I think of as “Squibbie’s garage.” There’s a loft in it, and that’s where she sleeps until it gets too hot later on. Then she often sleeps by the door or makes cat nests in the long grass. Crackers the clinger sticks with me, sticks TO me.

This evening the town is quiet. Today the irrigation water was turned out from Swift Dam up in the mountains on the reservation and the grain and alfalfa farmers had a lot of work to do with shovels and moveable dams made of tarp and sticks. They’re dayglo red, so easy to spot. School is winding down but there’s still lots of do. This is a town that loves order.

This little house has poplars on the north side, quick to leaf out and quick to drop leaves. They’re fickle, restless trees with roots coming up to the top of the ground, which is hell on lawn mowers. The city forester who came to visit said they were surfacing for air, not water, because our gumbo dirt is so dense. The sound of their leaves rustling has just begun, such a welcome murmur.

The robins have been nesting in the poplars for as long as the trees have been there and were disconcerted when I moved into the house. Worse, I walked around the outside of the house in the dark, brushing against the low branches where they were used to roosting so I sent them shrieking and tumbling off. They were even MORE disconcerted when I brought two cats home! But now they’ve forgiven me because I’m running the sprinkler and there’s nothing a robin loves more than puddling around in a sprinkler where there might be worms. In daylight the finches were singing their hearts out in the big tree on the south side of the house -- I can spot both yellow and red ones -- and I can hear the meadowlarks out on the open lots to the east. The two big evergreens on the west side are full of doves. Sad, sad songs.

At the garbage roll-off I scored a nice big aluminum horse watering trough with the bottom rotted out and dragged it into my backyard to be a "raised flower bed." But it's quite deep -- maybe 3 feet -- so I filled the bottom with styrofoam packing peanuts, then some trash and old bits of wood, and finally a lot of dead leaves. I put the sprinkler on top to settle it all down. In a half hour or so, I went to look and both cats were sitting there staring at it, aghast and ready to run! The water had made the styrofoam float so that the whole thing was rising up like a huge dark ghost about to put one leg over the edge.

Here’s a hymn I don’t know so well: “Stillness reigns; the winds are sleeping. All the world is bent on keeping tryst with night whose wings are sweeping from the west each ray of light.” Or how about, “Now on land and sea descending brings the night its peace profound.” We can use a lot of these images now.

Tomorrow here will be record-setting hot, denominational headquarters in Boston is record-setting wet, but we have peace for now. As Scarlett said, “Tomorrow is another day.” I think I’ll put new batteries in my little keyboard and practice some of these songs. Just to give the big Baptist carillon next door some company. It’s a singing time of year.

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