Sunday, July 05, 2020

Five Minute Friday: PEOPLE

I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word is PEOPLE.

The other day Jonathan and I went for a walk at Breakwater Park. It was a beautiful morning, with a strong wind pushing a bank of clouds swiftly across the sky.

As I watched, I was struck by the way the water appeared to be two different colours: gray where the cloud was, blue where the clear sky was. Of course there isn't actually "gray water" and "blue water"; that's an optical illusion. The water isn't any particular colour but just looks blue or gray depending on what's reflected on it. 

Now, anyone who knows Jonathan's love of garbage and recycling might think "And right away this made you think of recycling day, didn't it? Blue box for plastic and metal and glass one week, gray box for paper and cardboard the next..." 

Instead, what came to mind first was people

People can have experiences that seem, on the surface, good or bad, positive or negative. Sometimes it's very clear which category an event or experience falls into, but sometimes the distinction is more illusory. The same event that's bad for one person (heavy rain on the day of their outdoor wedding -- which by the way isn't "ironic" no matter what Alanis Morissette says) can be good for another (their crops and their livelihood are saved by the rainfall). The event that's negative for one person (not getting the job they applied for) is positive for another (the one who does get that job) ... and in fact could even end up being positive for the first person, who ends up getting a different job that suits them even better.

And people themselves can't be easily categorized into good or bad, however much we might like to put them there. Sometimes a person is acting out of what's been reflected on them throughout their lives. What they do, how their lives turn out, is not simply a question of whether they made right or wrong choices.

Life isn't just blue or gray. People aren't just blue or gray.

It's complicated.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Five Minute Friday: (The Color of) COMPROMISE

Today I'm linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word is COMPROMISE.

Our Five Minute Friday leader, Kate, chose the word "compromise" this week because she happened to be reading the same book I was: The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church's Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby. I actually won this book in an online draw a few months ago and just started reading it last week. It is a very timely book to be reading with all the anti-racism protests going on in the US and Canada right now.

As a Canadian who (and I'm only slightly joking) learns most of her American history from Jeopardy!, I found this book fascinating and informative. In clear, concise language, Tisby traces the development of (particularly anti-Black) racism throughout US history, showing how the Christian church has been complicit in perpetuating racism from the early days of African-American slavery, through the Jim Crow and civil rights periods, right up to the present day's focus on Black Lives Matter, monuments and flags, and the call for reparations for the descendants of slaves. The book ends with a chapter on action steps, encouraging readers to become better-informed about racism; develop more interracial relationships; become active through writing, joining or donating to anti-racist organizations; and more.

Here are a few quotes from The Color of Compromise that made me pause, reflect, and sometimes cringe in discomfort:

"[R]econciliation across racial and ethnic lines is not something Christians must achieve but a reality we must receive." (p. 23)

"[Revivalist preacher Charles] Finney and others like him believed that social change came about through evangelization. According to this logic, once a person believed in Christ as Savior and Lord, he or she would naturally work toward justice and change.... This belief led to a fixation on individual conversion without a corresponding focus on transforming the racist policies and practices of institutions, a stance that has remained a constant feature of American evangelicalism and has furthered the American church's easy compromise with slavery and racism." (p. 69)

"Christian complicity with racism in the twenty-first century looks different than complicity with racism in the past. It looks like Christians responding to the phrase black lives matter with the phrase all lives matter. It looks like Christians consistently supporting a president whose racism has been on display for decades. It looks like Christians telling black people and their allies that their attempts to bring up racial concerns are 'divisive.' It looks like conversations on race that focus on individual relationships and are unwilling to discuss systemic solutions. Perhaps Christian complicity in racism has not changed much after all. Although the characters and the specifics are new, many of the same rationalizations for racism remain." (p. 191)

Anyone wanting to learn more about racism in the US and about the role Christianity has played in its perpetuation should read this excellent book.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Five Minute Friday: WORTH (or: Brad Pitt and the Rich Man)

Today I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday, writing for five minutes about WORTH.

(Disclaimer: this is an updated version of a post from my archives.)

Pondering the word WORTH got me thinking about money, and how we make decisions based on what our money is worth or what it will do for us. Ten years ago the Canadian dollar was at par with the American one -- even worth slightly more at one point. Now it's worth 75 cents against the U.S. dollar. Ouch. I've never been a "cross-border shopper," and now I'm unlikely to become one, knowing how little my Canadian dollar will accomplish for me in the States.

Then I started thinking about other, non-monetary "currency" that we try to use, only to find that it won't accomplish what we  had hoped either.

That leads me to one of my favourite movies, Seven Years in Tibet. It's a very interesting story of a real-life Austrian adventurer named Heinrich Harrer, who abandons his wife and young son to go on a mountaineering expedition, ends up in Tibet during WWII, and becomes friends with the young Dalai Lama.

Brad Pitt plays the dashing Heinrich. There's been lots of commentary about Pitt's suitability for the role, how (un?)successful he is in reproducing a German accent, the historical accuracy of the film, and so on. But that's all secondary to me. What interests me most about this movie is that it depicts a person who really changes during the course of the story. And a big part of what precipitates that change is the character's realization that his currency is worthless.

Heinrich's fellow traveler, Peter, is a quiet, plain-looking fellow. The two are an oil-and-water mix, and Heinrich is pretty nasty to Peter at times, though they stick together throughout most of the journey. After escaping a POW camp they take refuge in Lhasa, Tibet. One of the people they meet there is a beautiful tailor named Pema. Both men are instantly taken with her.

On one occasion Heinrich tries to impress Pema by showing her photographs of himself climbing mountains and skiing as a member of the Austrian Olympic team. But Pema (who, we soon realize, is far more interested in the unassuming Peter) cuts Heinrich down to size. She says quietly, "This is another great difference between our civilization and yours. You admire the man who pushes his way to the top in any walk of life -- while we admire the man who abandons his ego. The average Tibetan wouldn't think to thrust himself forward this way."

Heinrich smiles, but he is clearly stung by her words. Ever so slowly, the truth starts to dawn on him: the currency he's been depending on for so long -- looks, adventures, awards, ego -- accomplishes nothing in this place. It's worthless.

The beautiful thing is, though, that he allows this awareness to change him. He becomes a tutor to the Dalai Lama and starts to internalize principles of Buddhism like nonviolence, humility, and harmony with all creation. He becomes a different person who can then go home and reestablish a deeper relationship with the son he left behind.

Contrast this with an episode recorded in Luke 18 and Mark 10, when Jesus is asked by a wealthy man, "What do I need to do to have eternal life?"

Jesus says, "You know the commandments" -- and lists several of them.

The man replies that he has kept all of these commandments for his entire life. I can imagine he is feeling pretty satisfied at this moment, because it sounds like the very currency he's carrying -- good behaviour -- is what's required. And perhaps he sees his wealthy status as another result of that good behaviour -- a reward for being such a good law-keeper. How affirming it would be if Jesus assured him that yes, works and wealth are in fact the keys to eternal life.

But Jesus goes on, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

I think we can get bogged down pretty quickly here and start arguing about whether Jesus' words to the man should be taken as a literal prescription for all people at all times. It seems unlikely that Jesus is saying categorically that selling all our goods is a ticket to eternal life; that would be just another kind of "good work" to earn our way. But I'm not willing to dismiss it as something just for that moment, either: after all, Jesus says the poor are blessed, so maybe he's making a statement that following him will involve humility, detachment from possessions, and solidarity with the poor -- things the man hasn't experienced yet.

But regardless, I do think Jesus is letting the man know that his good deeds and possessions won't achieve what he wants them to. Following Jesus requires something different: faith and trust. The man is hoping he can keep on using the currency he's always relied upon, without having to change. He's not prepared to give everything up and rely on Jesus. As the Mark version tells us, upon hearing Jesus' words "the man's face fell, and he went away sad," choosing not to follow.

I wonder if at some point we all come to the realization that our currency lacks value: our old answers and paradigms have nothing to say to the situation we're in, or our strengths and accomplishments really have no worth in the place we find ourselves.

The question is, do we let this disorienting experience be an opportunity for real change, like Heinrich? Or, like the man who met Jesus, do we allow ourselves to feel a momentary sadness ... but then go right back to the way things were?



Saturday, June 13, 2020

Five Minute Friday: HOW

Today I'm linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word is HOW.

Thirteen weeks ago we were told that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, schools would be closing for March Break and two weeks beyond. The university was suspending classes for a week with plans to reopen for remote instruction for the rest of the semester. Extend-a-Family cancelled its March Break camp and all its other programs. The library shut down. In-person church was suspended.

I remember Richard and I looking wide-eyed at one another.

How would we manage not having any structured activities other than his work shifts?

How would we keep Jonathan happy and healthy for all that time?

How would the rest of Allison's semester at Queen's, with one online course and one on-campus course, unfold?

So many unknowns. We really didn't know how we would do it ... but there really was only one way, and there still is.

One day at a time.

One hour at a time.

One thing that's been a mainstay of our days is taking walks. When some of our favourite walking places were closed, we found other ones. We've walked many different sections of the K&P Trail and encountered other walkers and cyclists, all making the most of the situation.

Otherwise Jonathan fills his days doing jigsaw puzzles, watching DVDs and garbage-truck videos, participating in Zoom meetings with his teacher and EAs and camp friends. He goes on the trampoline with Dad and Allison and fills the back yard with laughter. He helps Dad with the recycling and rushes outside when I'm taking in the laundry so he can help remove the pins and put them in their container.

 It's going to be a long time till things get back to any semblance of normal. A long summer, likely without camp or a trip to see Grandpa, stretches ahead of us. How will we manage it?

One day at a time.

One hour at a time.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Five Minute Friday: STAY

Today I'm linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word is STAY.

Since the pandemic shutdown began in mid-March, we have been taking many walks on the K&P Trail. Yesterday we went to one of our favourite sections; it starts at the edge of a hilly country road and circles around to another spot further along the same road.

It was hot, and Jonathan wanted to turn back early, so Richard went back with him while I went on, walking out of the midday sunshine and into this shady, gently climbing section of the trail. On my right, the hill rose, thick with tall maples, ferns tumbling down among fallen limbs. On my left, the ground fell steeply away, more maples and ferns spreading down the hill toward a farmer's field. The sun dropped crumbling through the leaves, laying a dappled path before my feet, and the breeze ruffled the treetops. It was so beautiful, so serene, so inviting.

For a moment I wished I could stay there forever, far from distressing global events and the tedium of the day-to-day. Of course I couldn't. But I wondered if it might be possible to bring that place -- its peace and beauty and serenity -- along with me wherever I went. Can a place stay in our heart, the way those we love do even when they're absent from us?

I hope so. In the meantime, I'll go to the trail again some day to soak in that tranquility and remind myself of all the beauty there is in this world. 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pentecost: the fire this time

I wrote this post on our church's Community Conversations Facebook page, but thought I'd share it here as well.

Today is Pentecost, the day Christians around the world celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the believers gathered in Jerusalem after Jesus' ascension. Acts 2:2-3 describes it: "Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them."

Today as we view images of anti-racist protest and harsh police pushback all over the United States, I think about that violent wind and those tongues of fire. An old slave spiritual called Mary Don't You Weep includes the words "God gave Noah the rainbow sign: no more water, but fire next time." (Black American writer/activist James Baldwin took his book title The Fire Next Time from this lyric).

I imagine this fire as the Holy Spirit. We often think of the Spirit somewhat tamely, as our personal comforter and guide -- but the Spirit is also the Advocate for the oppressed, the Truth that comes from the Father, the One who Testifies (John 15:26). Perhaps today God is sending the fire of the Holy Spirit to stand up for the oppressed, to reveal the devastating truth about racism, to testify that God is not pleased when his image-bearers are crushed by generations of violence and hate. 

God, may Your Spirit's fire come to rest on us this time, moving us to repent and empowering us to act for justice. We want to be on the side of whatever You are doing in this world.


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Five Minute Friday: NORMAL

Today I'm linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. 

This week's word is NORMAL.


Two months into the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown, it feels like normal has taken on a whole new meaning. Back at the beginning of March we could hardly have imagined the things we wouldn't be doing: getting together with friends and relatives for birthdays and holidays or just a quick visit, going to school and church and camp, going out for coffee or lunch, gearing up for summer sports or travel. 

And we could hardly have imagined the things we would be doing: waiting in line outside a grocery store till the staff let us in, dropping off a package of yeast at the home of someone we've never met, asking neighbours for toilet paper, cutting our own hair. (Yes, I have been doing this, and so far it's working!) 

So it's a new normal -- but for us it has been a pretty manageable one, overall. Richard still works the same number of shifts; I'm still doing my online course work; Allison is finding it a bit tedious but not hugely disruptive; Jonathan's missing his structured activities but coping amazingly well for the most part. We are fortunate. 

But so many others have been hard-hit by this crisis: people who have lost loved ones to the virus and couldn't be with them when they died or honour them with a funeral; who have lost their jobs due to cutbacks; who have no choice but to go to work in high-risk settings; whose well-being was already precarious because of homelessness, poverty, or mental or physical illness.

And millions of people in the world were already living with the kinds of restrictions many of us are now lamenting as "deprivations," like empty store shelves, lineups for basic activities, lack of access to school and cultural activities. We're getting a very small taste of what normal looks like for the less privileged worldwide.

One great thing about these Five Minute Friday linkups is that they give us an opportunity to see the wide variety of ways people experience, interpret, and write about the same word. And the Covid-19 pandemic is giving us an opportunity to see what our definition of normal really is and whether it's worth preserving or needs to change.


Friday, April 17, 2020

Five Minute Friday: ANOTHER

Today I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday, writing for five minutes on a given prompt.

This week's word is ANOTHER.


I don't know if you know this, but sometimes kids do things for no apparent reason. About ten days ago my son did one of those for-no-reason things (at least he didn't divulge a reason). When no one else was in the room, he went to the window ledge where I keep several house plants, and he ripped both of my shamrock (oxalis) plants, a purple one and a green one, out of the soil and dropped all the stems and leaves down behind the couch. He didn't touch the other plants, just the shamrocks. All that was left of the green one was soil; all that was left of the purple one was a couple of little shoots.

I cleaned up the mess, watered the soil in both pots, and basically neglected them for the next ten days (which is pretty much my usual method of caring for plants).

Ten days later, the purple shamrock looks like this:

Shamrocks are so resilient: even after what seems like total destruction, they bounce back quickly, grow like mad, and bloom enthusiastically and often. They just need another chance.

Part of me wants to rush to some quick parallel like "God is all about second chances!" or "Easter shows us that there is always another chance for new life!" or "Spring is nature's way of giving everything another chance!"

But in this difficult season, with our lives so disrupted by the Covid-19 lockdown and the reality of so many people sick and dying from the virus, I find it harder to make that leap. Some people didn't get another chance to speak to their loved one before they died. It's heartbreaking.

So I won't end with comforting cliches. I'll just look at my shamrock whenever I need another glimpse of hope, another reminder to wait and trust through difficult days.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Quick Lit: three good novels for a time of social distancing

I haven't linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for "Quick Lit" in a long time. But right now, with the coronavirus pandemic causing the cancellation of activities and the need to distance ourselves from others to prevent the spread, there really isn't a better time to read. Not that there is ever a bad time to read...

So if you're looking for some good fiction to get you through the next few weeks, here are the three novels I've read this year so far. BONUS: they are all by Canadian novelists!

(I'll do another post for nonfiction another day, just to spread things out.)

The Difference by Marina Endicott.
I may as well start with the best. The Difference (to be released in the US in a couple of months under the title The Voyage of the Morning Light) is one of the best novels I've read in a long time, maybe ever. Set in 1911, it is about a young girl named Kay who joins her older sister Thea and Thea's husband, the captain of a merchant ship, on a voyage from Nova Scotia to the far east. Kay has nightmares about a traumatic time she and Thea lived through in western Canada where, we come to find out, their father was head of a native residential school. Then an encounter with a boy on a small island in Micronesia changes all their lives, deepening Kay's questions about God, forgiveness, and the differences between people and between all creatures. The descriptions and settings are breathtaking, and the characters are unforgettable. The only negative thing about this book was that it had to end.

Five Wives by Joan Thomas.
Another great novel. This is a fictionalized account of the real-life story of five American missionaries (the best-known being Jim Elliot) who were killed by members of the Waorani people in Ecuador in 1956. Thomas imagines the events up to, including, and after the missionaries' deaths from the points of view of their wives; she also includes modern-day episodes about some of the missionaries' children and grandchildren (these parts are completely made-up, with invented names, etc.) and how these later generations reflect on the true impact the missionaries had in the lives of the Waorani. This novel really makes you think hard about Christian missionary efforts and the choices people make in the name of doing God's will. So good.

The Gown by Jennifer Robson.
My daughter Allison, knowing my great interest in The Crown television series, thoughtfully chose this book for me as a Christmas gift. It is a lovely novel about two young women, one English (Ann) and one French (Miriam), in postwar London. They work as embroiderers and are, to their great excitement, tasked with doing embroidery for Princess Elizabeth's wedding dress. The story is told from the perspectives of both women as well as that of Ann's granddaughter, who receives some pieces of embroidery when her grandmother dies and who goes to London to try to find out more about Ann's early life. If you like Kate Morton's novels, you'll probably like this one.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Five Minute Friday: LESS

Today I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word is LESS.

(Last week I wrote my FMF post about an episode from the Gospels, so I thought I'd do the same here. There is so much to unpack in the stories of Jesus!)

In Luke 21:1-4 we read,

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury box. He also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all offered their gifts out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had to live on.”

This sounds like an inspiring story of generosity: this poor widow had so much less than the other people there, but proportionally she gave more -- "everything she had to live on" -- so Jesus was praising her for her selfless act and reminding his watchers to give generously of their money too, just as she was doing.

But it may be that Jesus wasn't holding her up as an example at all. Instead, he may have been commenting on how this woman was the victim of an unfair and demoralizing system. Quite likely she felt she had no choice but to give to the temple treasury; the religious leaders probably had her convinced that it was her duty. After all, in the verses right before this scene, at the end of chapter 20, Jesus is harshly critical of the religious leaders who "devour widows' houses." And if she was so poor that her small contribution left her penniless, why weren't the religious leaders helping her out?

This probably isn't a "God loves a cheerful giver" feel-good story. It's a reminder that God isn't pleased when those in power take advantage of those who have less, making them feel obliged to perform pious acts without helping them when they need it most. 

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Five Minute Friday: TABLE

Today I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word is TABLE.

There's a disconcerting story in the Bible (Matthew 15 and Mark 7) in which Jesus goes to the area of Tyre and Sidon and is accosted by a Syro-Phoenician woman. She begs him to heal her daughter, who is possessed by a demon.

Jesus doesn't reply, but she persists, and his disciples urge Jesus to get rid of her. So he says to her in a dismissive-sounding way, "I'm sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." 

She knows that as a Greek woman (and more insultingly, a "Canaanite" as the passage translates it), she clearly doesn't qualify. However, she keeps begging for help, so Jesus says to her, "It's not right to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."

Wow. What a slap in the face. She approaches an esteemed Jewish rabbi for help, and he calls her a dog?! But she still doesn't give up. She gives an instant clapback -- after all, what does she have to lose? -- "But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall under the table, don't they?"

Jesus is impressed by her faith and persistence and instantly heals her daughter.

There are various ways to interpret Jesus' exchange with this woman:

- Jesus is totally in the right calling her (a desperate Gentile woman) a dog. Jesus is God and can say whatever he wants, even if it sounds unkind and racist. 

- In fact the "dog" remark isn't really that bad -- I wouldn't mind being called a puppy, would you? And if he said it he was probably just joking, which is also perfectly acceptable if you're God.

- He's trying to test her faith: he wants to know if she really wants her daughter healed or if she'll flounce off in a huff at the first sign of being insulted. She passes the test.

- Jesus' encounter with the woman expands his vision of his own ministry. Before that moment, he was focused on preaching, teaching, and healing "the children of Israel"; through this woman's words and actions, he discovers that his ministry is much broader than that.

This last interpretation might make us uncomfortable: The Son of God got it wrong and had to be corrected? The Son of God had to learn something? But of course Luke 2:52 tells us that Jesus grew in wisdom, just as he grew in physical stature. In his full humanness as a man of his time and place, he might understandably have seen Greeks as second-class people and expressed that in his words to the woman. 

And if that does make us uncomfortable, then alternatively we've got to come to terms with the story in some other way: maybe by saying it's OK for God to make a racial slur (which is definitely how it would have been taken), because he's God and his ways are higher than ours. Or that it really wasn't a slur, just a harmless joke, and she responded with her own witty humour. Or that he didn't really say it at all, that Mark and Matthew got it wrong ... but then that means the Bible's "wrong" ... and/or they went ahead and wrote it even though it made Jesus look bad. Or that Jesus was literally correct in the first place: he came only to save Jews ... in which case all the Epistles -- and the whole gospel, come to think of it -- fall like dominoes ... Whew. It's complicated. 

I'm not a Biblical scholar, but I love reading the gospels -- and I'm OK with the "Jesus learned a lesson" interpretation. It doesn't make him seem any less divine to me; it just shows me that, in his humanness, he might have had mental/social blind spots. It doesn't make me upset or weaken my faith, anymore than it would if I learned that he had some physical limitation. 

But regardless of the interpretation, I love this story. I love this woman, who is humble enough to plead for help and confident enough to believe she deserves whatever crumbs she can get. I think when we encounter Jesus we're always going to be changed in some way. And it's exciting to think that maybe Jesus is changed through his contact with us, too.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Five Minute Friday: SACRIFICE

Today I'm linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. 

The word this week is SACRIFICE.

free image

I've been a parent for over 21 years, and I hope I don't sound like I'm looking for a Nobel Prize when I say that parenting involves a lot of sacrifice. Parenting may require us to sacrifice time, privacy, peace and quiet, plans, a clean tidy house ... oh, and sleep. A lot of sleep.

As a child I took very little conscious notice of the sacrifices my parents made for me and my brothers. They weren't passive-aggressive "Why aren't you grateful for all I've done for you!" types, so I never felt the weight of guilt or shame that we kids were preventing them from enjoying the life they might otherwise have had if they hadn't been parents.

We were their life. I know that now. Maybe it's because I'm a parent, or maybe it's just because I've grown up and can see the extent to which they sacrificed in great and small ways for our happiness.

That's what this poem of mine, "On whom his favour rests," tries to capture: the spirit of sacrifice that comes from a heart of love.

On whom his favour rests

We watched from the kitchen window as Dad plunged down
the lane through knee-deep snow, flashlight beam bobbing
ahead, to start the truck. Exhaust plumed round the red
tail lights, and soft snow flurried as he brushed off the hood

and windshield. Afterward, he walked back to the barn to hitch
the horse to the sleigh, then drove it to the door for Mom
and the boys and me to climb on. We sat on bales he’d placed
on the sleigh bottom, and held tight for the lurching ride

down the lane to where the truck sat running. While we waited
in the warm cab, he returned the sleigh to the barn, tied up the horse,
and came back to the truck at last. At the time, we were so impatient:
it was Christmas concert night, and we wanted to be at the church

already, to shrug out of our coats, don angel wings or
shepherd’s robes, and act out the greatest story again. Yet
now what I think of when I recall that night is not my lines
or cues, or even the news of great joy, but the whickering sound

of the horse’s breaths, the creak of wooden shafts on leather harness,
how the stars swung shivering overhead, and how my father
did without complaint all he could to give us those times of wonder
and bring all the peace on earth our hearts could hold.