Saturday, April 13, 2013
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The day didn't begin this way. It began in pain--fully embodied, attention-hungry suffering, bone and muscle in plaintive agreement and vociferous demand. I greeted the rising sun not with joy, but with more of a whimper.
See, a recent blizzard required the shoveling of many paths, and as we are without farmhands, I pitched in a little too earnestly the day before, leaving my back on fire. After a restless night I awoke stiff and sore, able to move only slowly and with long exhalations, calling on my old Hatha yoga training to "breathe into the stretch." The Piper performed all the morning farm chores while I watched rather helplessly, unable to lift more than a piece of firewood without wincing. I managed to make breakfast and tend to household things, but that was about all.
The chiropractor (desperately sought and providentially found) sent me off with into the afternoon with a gracious smile and gentle warnings. "Don't expect to be healed all at once. Over the next few days, you'll find the pain moving around as pathways open. Rest when you can. Drink plenty of water. Be gentle with yourself. Attend to what your body is saying."
My body said, "go home and take a walk." Back at the farm, the late winter sun was low and golden over the three-day-old drifts. I gulped a glass of cold well-water and stepped outside. The snow near the house was speckled with cinders, carried on the wind from the woodstove. The drifts near the henhouse were scattered with guinea fowl feathers, the exquisitely-patterned calling card of a Cooper's hawk who had slain one of our birds two days before. Elsewhere the snow was marked with bootprints, animal tracks, sawdust shavings, and blizzard-blown debris: here a spray of pine needles, there a dry oak leaf. Everywhere I walked, the once-pristine snow was marred with evidence of life and death, decay and disarray.
And then it was time to gather my gear and drive down the road, into the dark, to lead an Ash Wednesday service at my church--MY church, yes, my new and beloved congregation, with their thrift store and food bank run out of the peeling 1800s parsonage, their town populated by hardscrabble locals and seasonal pleasure-seekers. We put the folding chairs in a circle in the little parish hall. We shook the ashes of last year's Palm Sunday branches into a small dish. We sang, haltingly and hauntingly, and listened to the ancient challenges of prophets:
"Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?"
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
--Isaiah 58:3-12, NRSV
Then we passed around a basin, gently washing and drying each other's workworn hands. I thought about parched places and watered gardens. Sitting there in the circle, with my back newly flexible but still tender, I thought about bones made strong.
Another reading, and then it was time for the Imposition of Ashes. As each person came forward, I pressed my thumb into the ashes and drew the mark on their forehead, saying, "remember: you are dust and to dust you will return, God's beloved child forever." In silence, we put the chairs away and blew the candles out, then headed out to drive off into the night.
There was grit on the roads and a deep peace over the barren, frozen countryside. When the pavement gave way to gravel, I could hear the crunch and spatter as my wheels moved over the uneven ground. The easing of pain, the elemental engagement of the day, the challenge and joy of full embodiment in an imperfect world--all of it rushed sweetly together as the car bounced and jostled down the dark back road.
I have been waiting years for this sweet confluence of ragged edges, this blend of water and ashes into lovely mud. Praise be for compost and chiropracters and congregations. Praise be for pain that moves as pathways open. Blessed be the dust.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Tomorrow morning, I'll stand in front of a new-to-me congregation in a small church somewhere in Maine. I'll preach my "candidating sermon," a sort of ecclesiastical audition, the penultimate step in the hiring process. I've been waiting for this, training for this, for years--decades, actually. Then, after a question-and-answer session, (which sounds much better than "grilling"), I'll leave the room and wait while they vote, as a congregation, on whether or not to accept me as their pastor.
It's all pretty exciting.
And yes, I should be finishing that sermon, the one I've been writing in my head all week. Yet something else is tugging at my spirit's sleeve. Something else has wrapped itself around my heart and--this morning, at least--has garnered my attention.
At midnight, when the seconds ticked just past and the day--12/29/2012--officially began, Maine's marriage equality law came into effect. At Portland City Hall, couples lined up to acquire the first same-gender marriage licenses. Hundreds of others lined up too, there to support them and cheer them on, there to witness to their loving commitments, there to stand in the freezing cold under dark skies and be a part of history in the making. Earlier in the evening, a man who refused to give his name stood at the far edge of the plaza, shouting bible verses and singing gospel songs, bewailing the moral degradation of the state. By midnight, though, the miasma of his diatribe was effectively blown away by a trombone-toting bystander, who launched with gusto into the Beatles' tune, "All You Need Is Love." The gathered crowd joined in and took up the chorus, sending the Love, Love, Love echoing off brick and stone edifices and swirling up into the midwinter night air.
A local seamstress and fellow farmers' market vendor got in on the festivities as well. She and two friends formed a boutonniere battalion, crafting over four hundred in time to hand them out, free of charge, to waiting couples and well-wishers. Others handed out bubble-soap and rose petals so the raucously joyful crowd could fill the air as the first, freshly-married couples re-emerged.
I wasn't there--as much as I love the idea of history-making, the combination of late nights, icy roads, and upcoming professional presentations kept me home and found me under my own blankets long before the clock struck twelve. But this morning, as soon as the farm chores were completed, you can bet I went online to look for news, and grinned extra-wide to see the very first couple sporting--in all the videos and photographs--purple boutonnieres made by my friend.
It turns out, there weren't as many couples lined up as many people expected. But the licenses are only good for 90 days, and I imagine most Mainers--being practical, cautious folk--had the same thoughts The Piper and I have had regarding the challenge of winter travel for friends and relatives, the cost of out-of-season foods and flowers, and a general hard-won distrust of all manner of Good News. Remember, this is New England, where harsh storms weed out the fragile, the foolish, and the unlucky, gentle weather brings biting flies, and the "home team" didn't win a World Series for 86 years.
After reading a few news stories and looking through the photos, I was left mute and awash in the midst of my unsorted feelings. The people who married weren't flashy hipsters or svelte society types--they were parents and grandparents, local working folks like me who--also like me--hadn't dared to hope for a long, long time. They were wistful and reticent, even as the crowd cheered, shy as the press photographers vied to capture a glint of their rings. Mostly, they were people who had lived together and cared for each other year upon year, always without legal protection, always a step away from the condemnation of kinfolk and strangers. Now they were being welcomed into a wider community of support, a wider circle of protection. Still, I thought, maybe some had stayed away because of that very fear: the fear that, in light of recent public shootings, Portland City Hall might not be the best place to be.
Still, I celebrate. I celebrate my friend and her four hundred carnations. I celebrate the couples who walked up the steps together and came out to shouts of joy from an eager and joyous crowd. And I celebrate the weight that...slowly...lifts from my own wary heart. Today, all loving, consenting adults in the state of Maine are now free to marry. Sooner or later, with an eye towards our own hard-earned understanding of committed partnership and our own agreements on sensible scheduling, The Piper and I will make our way into that wider circle of freedom and protection. All over the state, in their own leery and cautious ways, folks like us are making similar plans. Yes, freedom--it's going to have a whole new ring.
Now... I guess I better finish that sermon.
(Photo swiped from K. Skillin. Thanks!)
Sunday, November 18, 2012
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.”
Sunday, September 23, 2012
There we were, arrayed amidst the splayed shadows of wild asters in the fire's flickering light. After a few minutes of contented, food-shoveling silence, the banter began. There were snippets of song. There were questions about tradition and experience of the season and its shifts. One farmhand asked if I knew any "Mabon myths," Mabon being the pagan name for the observance of the autumnal equinox. I laughed dismissively. "Celts tend to focus on the cross-quarter days, (the mid-points between solstice and equinox), but we don't really do much for equinoxes. The cross-quarter days represent big changes in seasonal work and human agricultural activity. Nothing much changes at equinox. Anyway, balance is too boring to celebrate."
My words stuck in my own craw. I'd spent most of the day at a conference for members and leaders of small UCC churches in Maine. This year's theme was, "full-time church, part-time pastor," a description that applies to the majority of the state's rural UCC congregations. There had been all manner of workshops during the day: successful stewardship, improving worship and music, dealing gracefully with progressive/conservative tensions, involving children more fully, developing local caregiving ministries, and so forth. I was especially interested in a panel discussion of part-time pastors, as I myself hope to be serving a local church as a part-time pastor soon. I sat and listened as every single pastor on the panel admitted that they worked more than their contracted hours each week, and none of them found it easy to manage the boundaries between work and the rest of their lives. All of them felt some aspect of their lives had suffered as a result: their families, their physical health, their intellectual depth and breadth, their engagement in larger issues, and especially their own spiritual well-being.
So, I'm wrong. Balance, it turns out, may be a rare enough treasure that we need to stop, consider it, even marvel at it when it is revealed. Balance is a gift, a source of health and grace. Balance isn't boring at all, but rather distinctive and uncommon. Balance IS worthy of celebration, after all. Maybe I need to start marking the equinoxes with more intention!
Now the coals have burned down, the smores have been consumed, and the sound of singing wood and chirping crickets has faded in the bright, clear light of another September day. After a morning of rushing around, I took off my shoes and grabbed my newly-acquired issue of the journal TAPROOT, the one with a theme of "retreat." I headed up the stairs to my bedroom, each riser a tentative step towards some sabbath-keeping in an effort to build better habits of balance.
It was hard work.
Much to my chagrin, even with a good soul-food journal in hand and my head cradled on my favourite pillow, I could not make myself relax through force of will. When my eyelids began to lower, my internal protestant cattle-prod started jolting away with as much shouldness and oughtness as it could muster. My farm-manager mind came up with a thousand tasks I might yet accomplish in this particular weather and span of time. I pressed on. Taproot offered me an essay by Shannon Hayes on "Radical Homemaking" wherein she explained that her investment of time and presence at home was not an attempt to flee from the day's pressing issues, but rather an effort to engage those issues more fully, an effort to defy consumer culture with deeper interactions, more sustainable livelihoods, and healthier ways of being. This was followed by a gently reflective poem and a photo-essay of various sleepy people settling into their beds.
Something shifted, then. Perhaps the twinging tension of my spine untangled itself a bit. Perhaps the neglected depths of my lungs received long-awaited oxygen as I drew a deeper breath. Somehow I realized, more viscerally than before, the grace that emerges in the tandem disciplines of recreation and rest. I followed the example of those sweet, sleepy people draped across the pages. I let my eyes close. I let my heart and breathing slow. There, in the amber afternoon light, with a slight breeze from the open window and soft sounds of conversation drifting up from the room below, I slipped into the blessed torpor of a good old-fashioned afternoon nap.
Yes, I slept. It wasn't long, but there were dreams and delicious, languid rest. Meanwhile, the rest of the household happily read and breezed and puttered about. Meanwhile, the plants grew and the livestock calmly meandered without my professional intervention. Creation continued to weave its cosmic patterns of mystery and grief and beauty, all without my help.
Huh. Balance. I need to try more of this sabbath/napping stuff. Let's call it...professional development.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Sermon for Proper 16B 2012: “Hold Everything”
(Based on 1 Kings 8:22-30, 41-43 & Ephesians 6:10-20. Copyright Mainecelt 2012))
We had to stay awake. It wasn't easy-- most of us at the Conservation District meeting were farmers, and we'd been up since dawn for one reason or another: nursing a sick animal, repairing a fence, picking greens and packing them off for a long day at the farmers' market. But the District's monthly meeting was an important one. The hard metal chairs and the fluorescent lights would have to be endured.
Now, usually, these monthly meetings are pretty routine. Maybe a landowner needs help with erosion control, and the District's staff works with the board to develop a service plan. Or maybe a town has trouble with storm-water runoff and they ask the Conservation District to help with assessment and management. Usually there's great news from the one of the District's educators, who works with schoolkids on all kinds of projects, like local food lunches and hands-on science where they study the ecology of wetlands and streams. We hear the reports, smile and applaud, and go home feeling pretty good about all these good local efforts to care for our land and water.
But this time around, everything was different. After the usual reports, a new document was handed around, and the room grew quiet. When a copy reached my hands, I realized why. The title read, “Going in Reverse: The Tar Sands Threat to Central Canada and New England.” Nineteen different organizations had signed on, from the Maine Clammers' Association and the Appalachian Mountain Club to the Natural Resources Defense Council and Maine Interfaith Power & Light.
In twenty pages, it laid out the properties of tar sands oil, a type of bitumen: extra-corrosive, extra-acidic, extra-abrasive, and basically extra-everything-bad. There was a map of the 60-year old pipeline they want to send this stuff through, from Alberta, Canada, to Portland, Maine. It explored the potential harm to waterways and watersheds, from the Great Lakes to the Androscoggin, Sebago Lake and Casco Bay, if this bitumen ever busted through the aging metal anywhere along the way.
Turns out, the stuff is so heavy and thick they have to dilute it with lots of chemicals to make it flow at all. They have to pump it at higher pressure, and it tends to heat up as it flows. The more we learned, the more concerned we became. That 60-year old pipeline was built before they imagined pumping anything this thick. And because the pipeline was already built, the company could reverse the flow at any time, without even informing the public.
I lived in Alaska from 1989 to 1994. I knew what a regular crude oil spill could do to wildlife and fishing communities. But this stuff wouldn't just float on the surface and wash up on the beaches. Bitumen sinks. We don't have any containment systems designed for that. If the Conservation District was going to figure out how to serve the public in the event of such a disaster, it was going to require the wisdom of Solomon.
Unfortunately, Solomon had his own containment problem. His people had been on the move for so long, pushed from one place to another, caught up in conflict after conflict...and now that Solomon was king, he wanted to make good on his father David's promise: to raise up a temple with a solid foundation, to root God's people in one glorious place, to announce that God's favour had come to rest right here, right now, finally, in a purpose-built structure with the best materials and designs and craftsmen that royal money and influence could buy.
Solomon was probably a little bit stressed about this. His own route to the throne hadn't been particularly neat and clean. His older brothers had all been victims of wartime schemes, power-plays and horrible misunderstandings, until finally Solomon was the one left standing—the tenth boy-child of David, practically the last in line. And so Solomon prayed. He prayed not for riches or power, but for wisdom and understanding. And God heard Solomon's prayer and blessed him with that very gift.
Now, after all that, the big day arrived: the precious box of holiness that had rolled alongside God's people for so many years, that bouncing little God-buggy called the Ark of the Covenant, was carried up the steps by specially-selected priests, observed by the gathered elders of all the tribes of Israel. They proceeded to sacrifice so many sheep and oxen that the Bible says they lost track. Then the priests carried the ark into the inner sanctuary and installed in the newly-completed temple.
What happens next? A cloud of glory fills the whole temple. It knocks the priests to the ground and rolls through the corridors and seeps out of every possible crack and opening. The temple cannot contain the raw power and beauty and love of the Creator of the universe. Solomon has a serious containment issue. He cries out to God: “But will God indeed dwell on earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built. In other words, never mind the oil. This is a Godspill of epic proportions, and nobody makes clean-up gear or haz-mat suits for that.
Good thing Solomon prayed for wisdom. Wisdom tells him to open himself up to all God's glorious possibilities—and it tells him to keep praying. Pray he does—not just for his royal house, not just for the priests and the elders, not even just for the people of Israel. God is uncontainable. Solomon gets it. And so he prays for foreigners, for everyone beyond the circle of the chosen and the blessed. He prays that all the peoples of the earth may come to know the God who spills out everywhere, and that God would hear and answer even the prayers of the lost and wandering, the poor and the placeless.
Meanwhile, over in the New Testament, Paul is having some containment issues of his own. He's under a special kind of arrest, literally chained to a Roman soldier—sort of a living ankle bracelet for rabble-rousers. Waking and sleeping, he hears the clatter and clank of his captors' plate-mail, the iron rings rattling as they shift, leather bands creaking underneath. There's no ignoring the flash of the swords and daggers suspended from their wide copper-plated belts, or their bronze helmets with the long cheek-guards and wide brims, fancy crest-ornaments stuck on top for extra show. Every soldier's footfall rings on the tile walkways thanks to the iron hobnails on their leather boots. These sights and sounds, along with the clanking weight of his own chains, create the rhythm of Paul's days and nights.
Yet, somehow, Paul is allowed to write. Manacled and under watch, he is still allowed to compose and send letters that travel far. He knows his words may be carried from one household of believers to another, from one faith community to the next. And so, for the sake of his brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul has a little fun at the soldiers' expense. He suggests another dress code for followers of the Christ: not the gear of an imperial warrior, certainly not the gear of his Roman security guards: “ Put on the whole armor of God...fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.” Shoes that make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace... Not Bean boots? Not Nikes? Not Crocs? What is Paul suggesting? He goes on with his list of recommended gear: a shield of faith. A helmet of salvation. And the only weapon in the list: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
This is not, as some Christians suggest, battle gear for Armageddon or the Rapture. This is how we prepare ourselves for all the everyday temptations, all the subtle evils and seductive double-talk that bleed us, bit by bit, in our daily lives. It is gear for our efforts on the home front: gear that shores up the spirit, gear that keeps a heart from breaking in the thankless, exhausting work of care-giving, gear that keeps us engaged in community outreach, gear that helps us respond to those who fear disaster, gear that keeps us connected to the health and healing of our wider world.
The whole armor of God is a metaphor, a way of reminding ourselves that we cannot fight evil with its own weapons—we have to use something different. It is a reminder that God's loving, creative, redemptive power trumps all our clever human constructions, from fancy shoes to temples to pipelines and empires. It is a reminder that we are God's beloved family, bound into the same cosmic network of action and accountability.
Especially, it is a reminder that this work is not for superheroes in a galaxy far, far away. It is here, now, in our own time and place, that we must take on the work of living faithfully. It is here, now, that we shoulder the challenge of reconciliation and justice-making. It is here that we must learn how to walk, proclaiming with each step the Gospel of Peace.
We have to stay awake. Because, all around us, people are trying to shove and shoehorn God into boxes and temples, trying to blind us to the glory of God that seeks to bust out in our midst. They're trying to weigh everyone down with the heavy armor of empires, until our helmets cover our eyes and we trip over our own chains. But we serve the God of the foreigner, the God of royal wisdom and holy foolishness, the God of the last-in-line. We serve the God who longs for our wholeness— and the wholeness of Creation.
We serve a God for whom there is no containment system, and God's power and love spill out everywhere, transforming and healing each of us. This is the Good News. Thanks be to God!
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Lunasdal, (a.k.a. Lughnasadh or Lammas), the old Celtic feast of the grain harvest, has been my mini-New Year for these last eleven years, ever since I boarded a plane in Scotland and ended up in Maine on August 1st to begin my post-seminary life on a new coast. Each year at this time, I do my own bit of in-gathering as I consider the harvest the past twelve months have brought.
I hardly remember that first year, except for the waves of grief and despair that washed over me and lapped at the edges of every small, anxious attempt to explore new ways of working, thinking, loving and being. Just prior to my month-long Trip of a Lifetime in Scotland, I'd been told by the pastor of my home church that my gifts were not evident and my vocation to Christian ministry was unwelcome. Just prior to that, I'd graduated from seminary with honours in a beautiful ceremony that abounded with signs of grace, welcome, and radical inclusion. The pastor's words were a spiritual sucker-punch from which it took years to thaw out, heal, and recover.
The Scotland trip passed in a blur, my intended joyful adventure lost in a fog of pain and betrayal. How I'd love to go back and experience those things while fully alive, fully engaged, fully awake! Still, it was a good gift and I tried to make the most of it, intellectually if not emotionally. There was a week at Ceolas, the traditional Scottish arts school on the isle of South Uist. The Piper and her two sons travelled with me. During the days, I studied traditional singing with Margaret Stewart while The Piper and her eldest son studied with Allan Macdonald and other tradition-bearers. There was a week at Sabhal Mor Ostaig on the isle of Skye, where I took an immersion class in intermediate Scottish Gaelic with Muriel Fisher. There were wonderful rambles up and down and around the Highlands and Islands, with stops in Lewis, Harris, Mallaig and Oban. Finally, there was a week on Iona, place of dream-pilgrimage, heart-home of Celtic Christians the world over.
When I returned to the States, my head was buzzing with cultural riches and vocational longings, neither of which had any apparent outlet. I had only one firm plan in place: get to Maine and find a small place just big enough for my and my shadow to set up housekeeping. Essentially, I went underground, hoping that the old promises of seed and harvest would still prove true, hoping that time wrapped in darkness would one day lead to emergence and fruition.
It was not the darkness of death. My Piper lived only one town away, and her constancy kept the darkness warm and rich and full of earthy promises. Slowly, slowly, I began to put down roots. Slowly, slowly, my new life began to unfurl. The string of hand-to-mouth jobs included barista, deli worker, house-cleaner, nanny, farm-sitter, craftswoman, Gaelic teacher, concert promoter, and "educational technician." Yet there were also days spent tending The Piper's garden and talking together of how we might create a shared life, a shared farm. There were nights among friends, singing our hearts out and playing centuries-old tunes into the "wee smas." While my seminary colleagues were out serving churches, raising families, and organizing labour unions, I was arduously seeking my place in the grand scheme, listening for the sometimes faint, but always present, whispers of guidance from a loving Cosmos.
Many days, my conversations with God felt like the Burnistoun elevator sketch, where two office workers in Glasgow try to direct an elevator's voice-recognition system to reach floor number eleven. (Watch it here. Note: contains a smattering of terms common to frustrated Glaswegians.) There were so many things I wanted to share, wanted to give, wanted to offer up to my community and the world beyond, but I no longer trusted myself to communicate in ways that would reach others or be recognized. And then, one day, I found myself in church again--not the denomination I'd grown up in, but a different one, where I'd heard that all people were actively welcomed. Four years later, I have now passed my Ecclesiastical Council and Examination for Ordination in the United Church of Christ, and I'm now in the process of seeking a church to serve as a local part-time pastor. Yeeeeee-haaaaaaw!!!
Eleven years: eleven season-cycles of fallow time, planting, growth, and harvest. In that time, I've planted fruit trees and watched them bear, taught students and watched them thrive, served churches and felt the Spirit move in our midst. (In between, there have been plenty of failures, plenty of frustration, plenty of hand-wringing and exhaustion!) I've come to understand that my vocation to ministry includes this history-rich, nutrient-poor parcel of land on which The Piper and I have created our farm. Here, rooted in this place, surrounded by love and all the challenges and joys of our rural community, my spirit has been nurtured and restored. Other travellers have found their way here for a weekend, a fortnight, a season...and they have been restored and nourished too. Their paths toward wisdom have varied widely and rarely matched mine. This, too, has been a source of richness!
Eleven years--and was it really two years ago that we bought the farm, after all those years of agonizing? Last year, we bought a Highland bull, a Tamworth boar, and a Devon sow. This year, with the help of friends and WWOOF volunteers, we've raised two greenhouses and an artisanal outhouse. We've welcomed a new heifer calf (born at Bealtuinn/Beltane) and Welsummer hens. A friend stopped by for a music session a few weeks ago, sized up the new greenhouses, and said, approvingly, "You know, this place is really shapin' up to look like a farm."
Happy Lunasdal, Y'all. May your own hardscrabble efforts blossom and bear. May you be blessed with the riches of harvest, joyfully welcomed and safely gathered in.