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Earth’s crammed with heaven

Earth’s crammed with heaven

At this time of the year, it is very tempting to live in nature’s future.  Desperate to find signs of Spring’s approach the other day, I set the children looking for snowdrops.  We found one.  It was peeking out through a thick blanket of dead leaves and fallen twigs, to be greeted by a little child declaring, ‘I’ve found one, Mummy!  Over here!’  (It owes its life to the fact that it was found by one of my older children, not one of my toddlers!).

That snowdrop is the first sign of hundreds of Spring bulbs to follow, many of which are already shooting forth, and I look forward to seeing them in all their glory.  But in the cold and the damp of February, there is a beauty present now – not only around the corner in Spring, but now, in a garden of bare trees and the messy undergrowth, with grass which is pocked by hungry badgers and still not recovered from all that sledging.

If I can stop looking to future blossoming, I can see beauty in the winter’s old and bare canvas. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in her poem, Aurora Leigh

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God:

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.

We can all appreciate the beauty of a flower or a sunrise, but it takes a conscious effort to see the loveliness of other created matter, and this is an excellent time of the year to practise!  God sees the beauty in all he has made.  We strive to see as he sees; to see the beauty in his plants, animals, and above all in his people, made in his own image and likeness. In the poem St. Francis and the Sow (thank you, Fr Christopher for bringing it to my attention), Galway Kinnell tells of St Francis finding beauty in another unusual place.

The bud

stands for all things,

even those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;

as St. Francis

put his hand on the creased forehead

of the sow, and told her in words and in touch

blessings of earth on the sow,

and the sow began remembering all down her thick length,

from the earthen snout all the way

through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,

from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine

down through the great broken heart

to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering

from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking

and blowing beneath them:

the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

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