Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"You choose a Life.."

Why was he a professor of literature? “Because I have an obsessive relationship with texts.” You choose a major, or a life, not because you see its purpose, which tends to shimmer out of sight like an oasis, but because you like its objects.......Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.

By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Genesis 2:2

Another Labor Day eve is upon us.  The day has blessed us with not just a longed for rain shower but also a drop in temperature of fifteen degrees. Farewell, fiery August and welcome to September, which begins with passionate heat and wanes gently through the equinox into the perfect  harvest days of October.  

We will labor on Labor Day, but this Sunday morning rain has enabled us to rest as well from the work which we had done and have been doing for weeks on end now.  Like farmers we have watched the barren sky whether the day is ice blue or blistered, but we have the will and the way to make water flow on our tiny patch.  So we do, and we watch the mums grow from stems to balls til the buds emerge and swell with color and the whole patch tilts over the edge 
of green to a rainbow of harvest hues.

"You choose a life, not because you see its purpose....but because you like its objects."

Unlike the Almighty, we are not given to see the reason why we are working or what we work for.  Rather, "ours is but to do and die"(Tennyson) .  We choose our work, our labor, for many reasons, or for no reason but necessity, but given a choice, we work for love.  We will accept tedium, dirt, danger, risk for one thing...and it isn't money. We will labor for what we care about.

Count me in. From morning glare to quiet dark, from drought to downpour and back again, from leisurely hours of observation and reflection to the headlong rush that waits for no thought, my work is a labor of love inside the dome of God's creation.  

Would I choose to push my glasses up my nose for the thousandth time or wipe them clear of fog, to lift these feet of clay and arms of stone for the twelfth hour, to worry about the wind, the clouds, the lack of clouds, water above, water below, and many of God's less attractive and destructive creatures, if I did not live to watch the many layered greens fade to the far horizon, hear the meadowlark, the robin, finches, chipping sparrows, wrens, and watch the killdeer lure me from her young?  The majesty of the seasonal procession and my tiny place in its mosaic does not terrify or awe, it comforts with its intimation of order and place.  

I find peace and pleasure in the miracles of plant anatomy, from seed to flower to fruit.  To pick strawberries or apples or blackberries or grapes is to catch a hint of Eden's glory and appreciate our tasks as stewards of this bounty. 'The earth is the Lord's and fullness thereof.' (Psalm 24) 

''Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.  And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” (Genesis 1:29)  A good number of those plants find their way into our hands, to sprout fragile roots, then reach their full flower and glory. What a great job to have!!  

 Or...we watch the planters follow the contours of our fields, the first duo of green to haze the surface, then an explosion of energy fed by sun's heat, the mineral earth, and mystery of the genetic direction within each plant.

We love this land, its mingling of rounded hill and flatland river made since the Ice Age. We accept and survive its uncertainties in return for its trump card: a soil my sharpshooter spade will slice silently, stonelessly. With each year's promise dim in the future, we still take pride in the labor expended and its ultimate fruitfulness.

By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.” 
                                           Genesis 3:19-20

All is not goodness and light in the labors on the land.  Sometimes you not only eat your food, you eat the sweat and dust, too. Sometimes we are not master of the beasts of the earth and often we are mastered by the creatures that move along the ground. There is a place for them in creation, but surely I can be forgiven for wondering where it will be in the new earth?

At the end of each laboring day, we wash the dust of our work off and rest.  At the finish of this Labor Day, we give thanks for the blessing of work to do that ties us to the objects we love. 

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