Nature

The Beginners' Guide to the Sound of Sap

Photo by Timothy King

Photo by Timothy King

If you listen, each bucket has its own special sound. First are the empty buckets and their muted ting of dripping sap falling straight to the galvanized steel bottom. Next is the dop that reverberates from the slightly sweet drop running off the spile to a thin layer of liquid below. But it is the soft, and all too rare and timeless plop that I wait for. That quiet plop (or sometimes plip) signals that over half of that the three-gallon bucket is full and the tap is giving in abundance.

There is a slight quickening of the heart when the bucket is heavy enough to need two hands to pull off the hook. Then an involuntary smile to hear the pitch of the shwoosh ascend as the smaller bucket presents it’s offering to the larger. But sometimes, before I touch the bucket at all, I stop and wait to hear what it has to say. Ting? Dop? Plip? Plop?

I look at the tree and then its neighbors. I strain to hear the rhythm of the buckets around me and wonder, what makes one tap run so well when others are nearly dry?

The Groan of All Creation: Come Lord Jesus

Nature illustration,  LYphoto / Shutterstock.com

Nature illustration, LYphoto / Shutterstock.com

In these days barren fields will sprout trees

The deaf and blind will hear and see

The dead will raise and begin to breathe

The earth will groan in pain to see

The sons of God declare to be

His full and glorious family

The beautiful, perfect bride of Thee (Wash Me Clean, Page CXVI)

I am a city girl through and through — I’ve never lived outside of an urban context. Although my family lived in Queens (represent!), our church and community were in the dense and often treeless “ghetto” of Alphabet City, a neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. My experiences of nature have mostly consisted of front and back yards, parks, and occasional trips to the beach or camping. And because I grew up in and spent most of my life in communities of the poor and marginalized, most of my experiences of God have centered around what Divine mercy, justice, healing, liberation, and restoration look like in the human heart.

In other words, it’s very easy for me to grasp the idea of a “New Jerusalem” or “a city whose architect and builder is God.” It’s easy for me to see the human component of God’s kingdom and what it means for people. It’s not so easy for me to imagine trees “clapping their hands” or even fully to appreciate the majesty of God’s handiwork in the stars ... because I’ve rarely seen a night sky free from light pollution. It’s not easy for me to imagine what a renewed creation would look like apart from new hearts and restored people.

The Harvest of Fidelity

THE STILL, ATTENTIVE, affectionate, at times lamenting, always sagacious, well-defined, occasional poems in This Day, Wendell Berry’s most recent collection, are a magnificent gift to American letters.

For nearly 35 years Berry has kept the Sabbath holy. His practice is either unorthodox or so deeply orthodox that professional religionists may not recognize it. On Sundays Berry walks his Kentucky “home place,” the roughly 125 acres of bottom land in the region his family has farmed for more than 200 years. From the seventh-day silence, solitude, and natural world, Berry has crafted his Sabbath poems.

“Occasional poems” commemorate public events, but here Berry lays quiet markers to remember personal days in the life of one man. He writes in the preface: “though I am happy to think that poetry may be reclaiming its public life, I am equally happy to insist that poetry also has a private life that is more important to it and more necessary to us.”

Berry’s first collection of Sabbath poems appeared in A Timbered Choir, uniting work from 1979 (“I go among trees and sit still”) to 1997 (“There is a day / when the road neither / comes nor goes ...”). This Day includes this previous material plus dozens more written through 2013. It opens with “Preface: From Sabbaths 2013” and places Berry in his human landscape:

This is a poet of the river lands
a lowdown man of the deepest
depths of the valley, where gravity gathers
the waters, the poisons, the trash,
where light comes late and leaves early.

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Owning the Future

Vernon Bowman speaks outside the Supreme Court following arguments against Monsanto.

"It's time to declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture."

Danny Duncan Collum, a Sojourners contributing writer, teaches writing at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky. His novel White Boy was recently published by Apprentice House.

The Minister's Treehouse

The Minister's Tree House in Crossville, Tennn. Photo via Wylio.

The Minister's Tree House in Crossville, Tennn. Photo via Wylio.

God told Noah to build an ark, and God told Horace to build a tree house. That’s pretty much how this story goes.

In the 1990s, Tennessee landscaper Horace Burgess discovered a tall mass of trees near the road, and decided he wanted to turn into the world’s largest tree house. After years of working on his epic project, just as he was running out of steam, he became a Christian and then later a pastor.

Compelled, he says, by the Spirit of God, Burgess finally finished his project in 2004. And, to put it lightly, it’s pretty divine.

Hating the Invisible Man (Day Seventeen)

Invisible Man, Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock.com

Invisible Man, Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock.com

We finally made it to the Oregon Coast yesterday. I took some pictures in the redwood forest that I’ll share soon, but this post isn’t about that.

We got in before dinner and were happy to learn that we had a hotel room with an ocean view. Not only that, but it actually is right on the beach. So of course, we decided to sleep with the windows open.

It’s one thing to fall asleep to the nature sounds on my iPad; it’s entirely another to drift into an alpha state to the real thing.

And then came the noise. It was this periodic buzzing/honking/humming that started sometime in the middle of the night. It sounded like someone snoring through the wall in the next room. Seriously? I drive two thousand miles to sleep next to the ocean and you’re going to keep me awake snoring?

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