Heart of a Mountain

In winter’s cold,

Love’s warmth begot

A spark of life;

A gift, a flame.

 

Before your presence was apparent,

A heartbeat,

Strong and sure,

Burned tears of joy in your parents’ eyes.

 

Glowing ember, growing in size and form,

Fanned in the cradle of your mother’s body

By your father’s breath whispering,

Whispering life to his little girl.

 

Friends had heartaches along the way;

Mercifully, God increased your perfection.

Your parents relied on Him;

They counted the cost with gratitude,

Trusting anew each day,

Preparing to welcome you,

Knowing already how priceless you are,

Loving you before they knew you.

 

With care, a home was prepared for you as for royalty;

Innumerable gifts bestowed,

Colors painted, gardens tended, sunlight invited in –

Soft, safe, and bright.

 

By any measure, you came right on time.

Strong, graceful, and determined,

Your mama labored for you,

Leaning into your daddy,

Asking God for help.

In her mind, she went out to the dark of morning,

Through sunrise, in view of tree-covered hills

And the August mist crowning Massanutten.

 

Eager to meet the gift of you,

Your parents urged you down,

Clinging to each other,

Enduring the promised pain

And unexpected turmoil of heart

To bring, to push you out together.

 

Your pulse,

Always strong,

Told the story of the trials

As it waxed and waned

Like the moon –

A white crescent in the lightening sky –

Until you could take no more.

 

So for your best,

Your parents chose what seemed worse,

And the blade made another way.

While one dream died,

A new and living one was born.

Through empty halls

To waiting ears,

Your song of life echoed,

Flushed and vibrant.

 

After all,

In the end

That was really the beginning,

They christened you with kisses and tears,

And named you for their mountain –

For that is what your birth was for them:

High, steep, immovable;

Beautiful, but unyielding;

Lush with life,

Graceful silhouette –

An obstacle they willingly traversed

To reach and hold

The one they love.

 

 

For Afton Marie Guinn and her mommy and daddy.

August 31, 2013

Love, Aunt Shannon

For Grandma

You were born in spring,

and your life

was measured by summers

upon the waters of Minnesotan lakes and the Casco Bay.

 

Taker of dares,

new places always drew you.

Out across the world

you flew

with Northwest Airlines.

Quick to smile,

high cheekbones,

you caught the eye

of a kind adventurer

one night in the air above Alaska,

And in Colorado, Chile and among the quiet oaks of Reston, Virginia,

together you raised your three daughters and your son.

 

Storyteller,

decades after making them,

your memories amazed.

Unhitching trolley cars,

jumping out of windows,

and traversing South America with babies in tow.

You were 85 years old when I followed in your footsteps

and crossed the oceans to stay.

You never said you’d miss me,

only, “I wish I could go!”

 

Namesake,

I bound my heart to yours.

Driving up the coast together,

vanilla ice cream for lunch.

Winding along wooded byways

with the windows down;

sweet summer air.

 

Perennial hostess,

for me, joy bloomed in your home.

You expressed it with flowers on your table:

buttery yellow and white daffodils at Easter;

Christmastime was fragrant greens, ivy,

and a red poinsettia.

 

Mother of my mother,

How many meals did you cook for me,

and how many desserts did we share,

laughing over our tea and pie a la mode?

How many nights did I sleep

wrapped in linen and wool under your roof?

How many loved ones of mine did you welcome

with your smile, your music, your flowers?

How many wishes did you send me

with your pressed violets, pansies, ferns, and buttercup petals?

With these you gave me yourself.

With these, I knew your love.

 

Now I see you in your cotton apron

before the windows at the dark wood table,

arranging a bouquet

with your hands,

dainty, yet strong and ruddy, like pink carnations,

always with your slender watch and golden wedding ring.

Your hair as white as lilies of the valley,

your eyes blossoms of a hyacinth,

your lipstick a shade of azaleas in the garden,

and a scarf tied neatly about your neck.

 

 

June 14, 2014

Leaving, a Prayer

Lord, I want to stay in this place.

How can I take it with me?

Hide within my breast the mountains

untamed,

rivers flowing

from melting snow,

scent of pine warmed by the sun,

sun shining every day.

 

How can I keep what You’ve given me here

while I go away to somewhere else?

This has been good soil for me,

and from it now friendships grow

with flowers.

Fruit, even.

And yet You say, “Leave now”?

 

For a while, life here felt bitter.

Lonely. Invisible. Meaningless.

Then I asked, and You gave kindred spirits,

helpers, prayers, listeners, trusters,

caregivers, meal makers.

Friends.

Thank You.

 

Here, far from our “homes”,

You also gave a daughter

with here in her blood.

A goer. A doer. Explorer, hiker, sunny one.

Here is her birthplace; her “home”.

Will she ever get to return?

 

Four short years ago, You took us from China

and brought us here; a dream come true.

Now that dream seems to be ending

as we pursue another.

I don’t feel ready.

I want to plant another garden and reap the harvest.

I want to hike along the Divide amid snowbanks in the warmth of spring.

I want to see the snow-capped Rockies and go to them.

I want to keep thriving.

Reach and find wild beauty.

Reach and find hearts reaching for mine

in a place where I thought I was alone.

 

Now hope ushers me along;

hope turns my face and my thoughts forward.

Hope, because You did it before, and You’ll do it again.

Better than we could ask for or imagine.

I pack each box, I say each goodbye

with hope in my heart,

resting secure,

knowing that

I will plant other gardens and reap the harvest.

I will keep thriving.

I will reach and find beauty.

I will reach and find Your heart reaching for mine

in a place where I have never been alone.

 

 

June 2014, Colorado

Destiny’s Draw

Waves on a calm, gray day

are sirens

luring us to steer our vessels toward them,

to ride their gliding, lapping, constant pull

closer and closer,

closer, closer

closer to the rocks.

 

Cold, clear, inviting water

carries me, floating,

to the gaping, scraping, jagged, rocky shore.

The contrast of fluid swirling and pooling

against the forever firmness of stone

speaks of life and eternity

and our journey ongoing.

 

Embark.

Go out into the vast unknown

where there is risk.

When land appears,

there is also risk.

Ride in, find footing,

and embrace the cold plunge.

Feel the rough shore, pull aground,

        and go.

 

July 2013, Written in a sea kayak on the coast of Maine.

Every Aching Question

There’s a mountain of cloud

in the humming pink northeastern sky,

darker and more looming than the coming night.

But it changes – the weather always changes;

That night it never rained.

 

There’s a pain in my heart

that started long before I came.

A long lesson to learn:

Few things ever stay the same.

 

I have an aching question

and the answer often brings a sigh;

it has to do with one I hope will come in time.

But it changes – my dreaming often changes;

I don’t want a heart that’s tame.

 

I loved one who was a child yet, and so was I,

though he was so patient and oh, so kind.

And it changed me; the ones we love, they change us.

We’ll never be the same.

 

Rebecca and I talk of God’s goodness in both our lives;

how he doesn’t change, and we’re not alone,

and this is best, and this is best.

Our lives are in his hands.

 

Nothing I could do,

and nothing I have ever done,

could ever make him love me less or love me more

than the day they were handing out just deserts

and he gave me his,

and he took my place,

in the line of those wanting,

with nothing,

bound to die.

 

Every mountain of cloud,

every pain in my heart,

every aching question,

he holds the answer to.

And he does not ever change,

although, praise him,

he makes things new.

 

 

 

 

July 2005