It’s early summer and the roses are as wide as tea saucers. When I pass by the garden on the way into the house, their heady scent cloaks me. There are too many blooms to cut and bring inside, but the few I’ve arranged simply in vases astound me with their dense layers of petals.
I am humbled by beauty like this; without a great deal of work from me, the garden yields new blossoms every morning. As I read Lindsay’s Consider this week, I felt humbled again by the realization that though majesty and wonder charge our world, many people can’t experience either. How fortunate I am to be able to feel something as I look at the roses.
I am aware that my perception of beauty and enjoyment of this world is a gift, and a tenuous one at that. I think of the dear people I’ve known who have battled depression, of the powerlessness and despair they have tried to describe–a dulling of all senses, an inability to respond, to hear, to see. “It’s like being deep underwater, wrapped in chains,” a friend once told me. I can see glimmers of action, hear muted voices above me, but I can’t free myself to swim to the surface.” When this friend ended her life after a long battle with mental illness, someone told me that she believed some people were just not meant for this world.
No. I can’t believe it. My convictions tell me otherwise; my faith that we are eternal beings made in the image of God instills a hope in me that, like Emily Dickinson’s bird with feathers, sang on even in the terrible, broken days that followed my friend’s death.
And yet the ache. And yet the terrible irony that the people I love who have suffered most acutely from depression are people who, when they are well, are most sensitive to the goodness and beauty in the world. The injustice of it, the awful brokenness of it, makes me long for more than this world of dew.
This world of dew
Is a world of dew,
And yet. . . .
Poet Kobayashi Issa wrote this after his one-year old daughter died from smallpox. His days were shot through by tragedy–two more children and his wife also died. And yet he wrote magnificent haiku that evidenced life was often an encounter with delight. Here’s another from his wonderful volume The Spring of My Life that I loved so much I wrote up on our kitchen wall:
With such a voice
You should also learn to dance,
“We are made for this world. We are not made for this world.” Can both be true?
A year after a close friend of mine died from breast cancer, I stood with her nine-year old daughter at her grave, still a gash of unhealed dirt in the cemetery. This girl whom I love so much, best friend to my own daughter, bent under the weight of her grief. Her shoulders shook with sobs. Her father, my friend’s husband, looked out into the hills smoky with twilight and shining with the first color of fall, and said, “We look for the Eternal Spring.”
I have never forgotten his words. In this early summer with the roses before me, I touch the sorrow that scars us all. I am made for this world, wholly and completely. With great humility, I say, Yes! to this world, and yet. . .And yet. I long for the Eternal Spring.