Four Saturdays ago I slid the screen door open and slipped out into the morning sun. Under the narrow awning of the house’s shadow, I settled cross-legged on our creaky bench and tossed my battered garden flats up onto the seat beside me, out of the reach of inquisitive ants.
A robin coasted over the roof and swooped low. He spied the human in his garden at the last instant and promptly rescinded his plans for landing among the blue salvia. Another — his mate? — perched on the fence with a winged treat in her mouth and cocked her head, regarding me at length before gliding off.
From high above, deep in the branches of the corner tree, a long stream of chittering rained down on my head. I was being scolded, sonorously and in bird-speech, but I could not make out the charges of my nettled accuser and thus had no hope of making reparation for my (many) offenses.
Bare feet swinging lightly, I soaked in the nectarine sound of breezes frolicking in the aspen branches, and reread the words of writers who set me a stalwart example to not be afraid of delight and beauty and joy. There is vocation here, in this age and in such things; there is love for others here; verily, there is worship here.
One robin returned, red breast resplendent, to perch straight-backed on the fence and study me with aplomb. Satisfied — or so I hope, being ignorant of his standards — he set off again, down between the double row of houses. In his wake a swallowtail butterfly came sailing through the garden on wings of saffron gold, with the softest fingerprint of celestial blue on its tail.
The screen door brushed open a second time, just wide enough for a little girl’s head and shoulders. “Is it okay if I come out and join you?”
“It’s beautiful outside,” Lucy said, stepping down onto the patio and surveying the yard with girlish gladness. “I think I might sit and compose a little poem in my head.”
So she did. With a single colored pencil and a sheet of paper and a coloring book to serve as a lap desk, she settled herself in a wooden chair and sketched what she saw with words. I peeked over at her after a minute and glimpsed “Wind by Lucy” scrawled at the top of her sheet.
“How do you spell ‘dance’?”
“Do you think you could segment it and sound it out?”
“Oh — yes.”
A happy humming song drifted out from the kitchen table: the sound of Little Jo working with beads.
Lucy finished writing and came over to read the poem aloud.
“Bravo! Thank you for sharing that with me!”
She laughed a little as she disappeared into the house. “I would have made it longer.”
“Did you run out of space?”
“Yeah. But I’m going to make another one.”
Soon she was back in place with another page of scrap paper, “genius burning” intensely, scribbling away. Suddenly she looked up at me in astonishment. “What? She memorized the verses?”
I tipped my ear toward the back door and Little Jo. “Why? What is she singing?”
“Holy, Holy, Holy.”
I listened again, and indeed it was. At that instant a great swell swept through the trees, setting off a clamor of leafy ringing so wild that Lucy stopped writing to look up in awe. “Wow.”
Then, eyes bright and sight ignited, she picked up her pencil, and bent her head over her paper.
All Thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea
Holy, holy, holy
Merciful and mighty
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.
“You can see all the way to the stars from almost any place you are. To live in a place and have your vision confined by it would be a mistake. But to live in a place and try to understand it as a standpoint from which to see, and to see from there as far as you can is a proper challenge, I think.”
– Wendell Berry