Tuesday, April 7, 2009


This is a morning for brief bird visits – this snowy morning when the flurries finally adhere to the ground, and white carpets the hills surrounding Sewanee. At 7 a.m. Eucharist, safe and snug inside St. Mary’s Chapel, I watch a flock of crows whirling around the Chapel window, finally flying away when the bell for Eucharist rings. However, a few flap by during the readings and disappear hurriedly when the words, “righteous,” “redeemed,” and “sanctified” resonate through the chapel and against the window. Ravens – you unchurched bandits, I thought, remembering my Godfather’s disapproval of the black warriors who’re said to bring messages of bad tidings.

Later, at home, I saw a pileated woodpecker attempt to bore a hole in the trunk of an oak in my front yard, the freezing temps causing him to withdraw his bill from his drilling project. Yesterday, sparrows briefly landed in the now-grassy yard and, discouraged by the sleet and snow, flew away to warmer nests. I’m surprised to see any visible bird life, but when I open the French doors fronting the cottage, I hear faint chirps coming from the underbrush. In this strange Spring weather, I spent the afternoon searching for signs of some wildlife in the woods that adjoin the cottage – I knew the moles would have better sense than to emerge from their subterranean hide-outs, but I anticipated rabbits or deer. I think the deer have been almost decimated by last year’s culling, but they’ll probably return after I plant the first impatiens, their favorite fare!

The Rev. Suzanne Metz delivered a Holy Week homily this morning, confessing that this week usually inspires her to read poetry and listen to music, and I understand her inclinations. She read to us from John Donne, one of her favorite poets (She is a professed Anglophile working on a Ph.D. – the second Ph.D., which she will receive from Exeter in England). I was deeply moved, listening to the recitation of this tall woman with long auburn braids. Every finger of her two hands is encircled with gold and silver rings that glint in the white light streaming through the chapel window when she raises the chalice.

The temps outside approach freezing, and feelings of warm community life overwhelmed me at the long oak table where we shared a biscuit breakfast. Diminutive Sister Mary Zita (A Filipino nun who has been with the Sisters of St. Mary for years) appeared in her bathrobe and slippers that bore the message ‘Cold Feet,’ and we inundated her with greetings as she’s frail and doesn’t slept well. The Order of St. Mary has a sister convent in the Philippines dedicated to assisting those who suffer from AIDS, but Sister Mary Zita prefers convent life here on The Mountain and can be found weeding and wielding a small rake in the Convent gardens and yard when warm weather arrives.

This halcyon time of snow during Holy Week evokes poetry, as The Rev. Metz suggested, and yesterday I penned this snippet:

Sleet, snow, sun,
at once in mid-afternoon;
these April fingers of gray trees,
steel engravings in a solitary sky,
writing the story of a languid day
longing for less of bitter weather,
and waiting for the gray spell to lift.
Tuneless sparrows in yellow-green grass
refuse to linger until it passes,
and I wonder where and how far away
they fly before they find milder climes
to book a room in a leafed-out tree;
Indoors I watch,
each moment, growing more peripatetic,
dreaming of sunlit days,
the hot high desert of California…
while reading wintry New England poets.
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