Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Earliest Spring

Earliest Spring
William Dean Howells

Tossing his mane of snows in wildest eddies and tangles,
Lion-like March cometh in, hoarse, with tempestuous breath,
Through all the moaning chimneys, and ‘thwart all the hollows and angles
Round the shuddering house, threating of winter and death.

But in my heart I feel the life of the wood and the meadow
Thrilling the pulses that own kindred with fibres that lift
Bud and blade to the sunward, within the inscrutable shadow,
Deep in the oak’s chill core, under the gathering drift.

Nay, to earth’s life in mine some prescience, or dream, or desire
(How shall I name it aright?) comes for a moment and goes—
Rapture of life ineffable, perfect—as if in the brier,
Leafless there by my door, trembled a sense of the rose.

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March 1, 2015 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sunsets and Finish Lines

Dear Darling,

Another finish line crossed. Another summer set free.

I’ve written about finish lines before but it’s the same lesson realized again every year…once you approach or cross that finish line, you remember that there is one, that you can do it. The same goes for your long wait. Perhaps you bear up under it more bravely than I. For your sake I hope so.

In the midst of preparations this morning, I jotted this on one of my many pages of notes:

At times like this, times of stress and testing not just of your mind but your mettle…you want someone in the trenches with you, or at least writing you  from home, whose picture you can hold or letters you can read and reread, whose words echo in your ear as you rush the enemy line: “You’re going to be fine. Look how far you’ve already come. I’m proud of you, and I love you, no matter what happens. Now go get ’em!” Why else do men fight in wars, or push themselves to be better, if not for their women?

Otherwise, there’s nothing. Today’s success defines the entire day, the entire term, and if dire enough, the entire year’s outlook. It’s a be-all and end-all. I will rise or I will fall.

It does seem a pity there’s no one standing by to wave the flag and welcome me in. And it’s fine, I’m no more deserving than the hundreds of other pupils doing the same. Alegfast told me good luck, my sister messaged me the same. I’m old enough not to need banners and a welcoming committee when I come home, war analogies notwithstanding.

Ah, but you should see the to-do lists! So many affairs to set in order, neglected areas of life to straighten. Then there’s the camping and biking, the boating and hiking, the traveling and the triathlon I’m planning for. Last summer may well have been the best ever, and I’m hoping for this summer to be equally as epic. I would welcome your presence for this one.

I spent some time on the front stoop these past few evenings. It’s a great time to watch the sun set behind the trees and the line of houses. It’s the cool of the evening, which, right on schedule, is turning pleasingly mild. Runners pass, and cyclists. The birds are loud and proud to salute the approaching night. Spring’s honeymoon phase is ending; the white blossoms are fading away, replaced by budding greens. I’m glad we have sunsets as a finite reminder that our day has a dawn and a dusk, just as our lives will. It gives us time to reflect on our takeaways and if we spent our hours wisely…on the decisions of the day and how they shape our tomorrow.

I’m liking this pastor, and he’s reminding me once again that mankind doesn’t often need to be taught about what is right or wrong, but we do need reminding. For example, God is the source of our strength, don’t you agree? For believers who have made any study of the Psalms, this is common knowledge. Yet to observe over and over in the Word how success was not necessarily the result of a person’s character or heroism, but because the Lord blessed it. Working out? Studying? Training? All very helpful to mortal eyes, but it’s God who determines the outcomes. In the ancient days, people actually developed a reputation because “his God is with him.” I’m not sure how best to quantify if God is with you, and Christ’s name is Immanuel, God with us. But it does mean picking sides, causes and allies fairly careful doesn’t it? And furthermore, does the sovereignty of God ever sometimes seem frightfully convenient to the church? All the good that you do is God’s doing, God’s blessing and your own skill and decisions, the work and stress you put into them to affect a better outcome, are but the tools He uses. But if something bad happens, it was your fault? (Overlooking the obvious fact that sometimes God teaches best through adverse outcomes, and that our own skills exist only by the grace of God.)

Other points reaffirmed on Sunday: Nothing takes God by surprise, ever. Harmful spirits can come from God. The righteous can expect to suffer for doing what is right.

Of further consideration my dear…Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

On this I wish to address two points. First, to spur each other on. I have thought of opportunities for how I might be spurred on, how we together might find opportunities to stretch ourselves in outreach. How else can we grow if we don’t stretch? But outreach is tricky; I have encountered the “poor” many times, done what I could for them. But in trying to satisfy both the dove and serpent requirements of Psalm 18:26 and Matthew 10:16, I’ve often questioned these people closely in the process, or observed their response. Many are honest in saying they ask only to support their vices, not their daily needs. The hand of charity must be guarded closely, nor dealt too lightly and quickly. Greater harm can be done if care isn’t taken.

But I have been evaluating the situation here, wherein you and I have not found one another. As well, it’s been brought to my attention that healthy role models for boys and young men are needed. And I am beginning to contemplate involving myself in these places, with or without you. But for when your opinion can affect these outcomes, what do you think of  helping run a prison bible study? What of a babysitting night for kids, even special needs kids? What about mentoring children whose parents are in jail, or fostering children whose parents don’t care? What about sponsoring a child, or children overseas? (I plan on doing this already this summer…related not so you will think better of me, but to spur you on to greater deeds of love yourself!)

On the second point, to encourage one another. There are certain people who seem extremely capable of this, as if it truly is their gift to be happy and positive most of the time. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you sometimes I wish I was more disposed to be like them, inclined to look always at the brighter side, and possibly even feeling that inner cheer. I’m sure clouds darken their sun as often as any, but it is their impact on others that I want to replicate. But then, maybe they don’t see the things I see. Maybe they haven’t been through the same darkness, or feel the weight of loneliness and drive to achieve. Maybe the world really does need some people who are a half-cynical, half-caring, and who know what darkness is and how to carry it. Sometimes…sometimes I’m attracted to darkness, not because it is dark, but much the same way a firefighter runs towards smoke or a soldier runs to the battle. Sometimes I’m attracted by the darkness in someone’s eyes that tell me they too have seen darkness and know what it is, the eyes that have faced the same demons and are a little wiser for it.

There’s always a little conflict between “be yourself” and “better yourself”, isn’t there?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between fertile thoughts and frenetic ones, but regardless, the thoughts are set free by a reduction in stress and obligation. I write them not just because I find them interesting or because I want to read them and remember, but because I am interested in the poetic clockwork of your mind, and could not ask for anything I cannot willingly give in return. These years may be dark, but let them not be silent! Let them at least produce a harvest of letters from the past for when we meet.

For you my dear, I write the pictures I cannot paint…the pictures which I’d like to see through your eyes.

Yours,
Beren

May 7, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Memorium

In Memorium
Alfred Tennyson

Now fades the last long streak of snow,
Now burgeons every maze of quick
About the flowering squares, and thick
By ashen roots the violets blow.

Now rings the woodland loud and long,
The distance takes a lovelier hue,
And drown’d in yonder living blue
The lark becomes a sightless song.

Now dance the lights on lawn and lea,
The flocks are whiter down the vale,
And milkier every milky sail
On winding stream or distant sea;

Where now the seamew pipes, or dives
In yonder greening gleam, and fly
The happy birds, that change their sky
To build and brood; that live their lives

From land to land; and in my breast
Spring wakens too; and my regret
Becomes an April violet,
And buds and blossoms like the rest.

April 13, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Spring is Here

14. Shannon, James Jebusa - In The Springtime

“For winter’s rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.”

Dear Darling,

It’s finally warm again. We’re finally shaking free of winter’s arctic breath and making a run for the thawing sunlit highland meadows.

There is beauty to be found in ice and frost, but there’s something about it that makes us forget the world can be kind. Dead trees, gray skies and dull grass give us a sort of amnesia, burying the memory of warmth under layers of earthen frost.

In winter, weather becomes an enemy, a force to resist. Comfort becomes a constant struggle, and like any battle waged daily, we take for granted the days when didn’t have to fight.

Winter’s beauty wanes, and is masked beneath rude and bitter cold. It assails our senses, and we conjure fires, weave coats and summon the clearers of ice. The sun goes to sleep, and we hasten to work tense and shivering. We huddle under blankets and relish the memory of warmth.

Then it begins. Slowly, as if nature relaxes her freezing grip, the cold’s oppression eases off. The wind bites not as deeply. The sun greets us a little earlier each day, and a little later each night. It thoughtfully warms the car at day’s end, and we begin to feel a little safer and more welcome to go outdoors again. We declare a truce with the weather.

Finally one day it breaks. The truce becomes an alliance; color returns and the world is reborn.

The daytime blesses us once again with the verdant beauty and golden sunshine. And somehow, it surprises us every year: “Why! It’s nearly eight ‘o clock and still daylight!” Children take to the streets. Flowers bloom overnight. Birds sing. The stars smile again, and nights are mild and inviting. Shutters can be opened and shades drawn, new melodies sought and found. The heart brims with equal parts contentment and restlessness, borne on fragrant, hopeful breezes. The airs of spring seem to prompt both inspiration and desperation…a yearning to get out there and do something.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how every season has something to adore and abjure. These early days still sometimes revert to their frosty former habits, and fondly bring to mind the days not so long passed, when autumn was here and winter was coming. I guess life will always have something to appreciate and something to anticipate…reminding us that in life, we often must release one thing before we can have the other.

There was a rainstorm the other night, the first of the year and probably the first since last fall. The lightning came furiously and the rain poured. It was beautiful.

Today, the windows are open and the curtains blowing. The pastel blossoms are coaxed by the wind into a fleeting snow shower of petals:

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;
In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;
In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

These will be our days too, someday. Spring reminds me of that, just as every season does. It reminds me that the days of constant toil and fret I feel won’t always be, that there will come days of peace and kindness, for us if not for the rest of the world. Spring is a season to share peaceful naps, fresh fragrant flowers and dinners on the patio. It’s a season to share trips to the beach, to plan summer trips. It’s a time for us to go for a run together, to find a place in nature all our own where we can relax and feel the sun on our upturned faces. I’m thinking of one or two places in particular, and I’m imagining me taking pictures of your smiling face with sunglasses, the wind blowing your hair.

I’m picturing me coming home with a bouquet of flowers I bought on a whim. You’ll pretend to be surprised, but you knew the fancy would seize me sooner or later, and you’ll still gush, kiss me and then go put them in a vase. You might just be getting home from work, or maybe you’ll be home with clean-scented candles burning. And one of us will say “it’s really nice out, let’s eat dinner outside!” I’ll cook some fish and you’ll make some vegetables or a salad, and we’ll just enjoy the sunset and each other’s company.

It can be hard to sit still in spring, but even harder to realize such abundant happiness awaits just a little further down the road.

I wish you an abundant and bountiful spring, my love, and hope the season’s wistful longing doesn’t overtake you as much as it does me.

Love always,
Beren

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Loneliness | , , , , , , | Leave a comment