Old Farmhouse

While chatting with some other visitors at the Winfield Chamber of Commerce yesterday, I noticed a picture of an old frame house. Unless my imagination was playing tricks on me, it is a picture I’d seen there before. For some reason, Bill Graham’s “White Farm House” had a more profound effect on me yesterday, and I’m really not sure why.

Somehow, the watercolor rendering reminds me of the place where Pap and Grandma Bazzell lived near Coldwater, Kentucky. It reminds me of their place even though it looks nothing like it. Maybe it’s the simplicity of clean lines and the lack of ornate embellishments. The honesty, if you please, of the construction: wood boards nailed to wood frame, painted white.

Maybe it reminds me of the people I knew and loved in Todd County and in Browns Grove. Raymond Stokes, Preach Simmons, Roy Morris. Jack Harrison, Alvie Farris, Fred Harrison. A host of others connected by faith and family, culture and sub-culture. Years of crops and cows, harvests and milkings. Friday night frog gigging, hay curing in the sun, church on a summer Sunday morning. A cappela singing and funeral home fans fluttering along lines of hardwood pews. Softball and ice cream on Sunday afternoons.

Maybe it’s something even deeper than all of that.

Even though I’m pretty sure I’ve been in several similar houses, I’m really not certain that I was ever in a house even close to being exactly like that. And yet there was something powerfully familiar and homey about it.

Maybe it’s the sense that I could step up on that porch and already know which board will creak the loudest. Maybe it’s the feeling that if I reached out to knock on the door, it would open for me and warm voices would welcome me inside. I’m pretty sure that I would smell supper cooking on the stove and see a fresh pie sitting on the enameled counter of an old sideboard. There would be an extra place already set at the table and a chair waiting for me. For some intriguing unknown reason, I think that painting gives me the sense of being welcomed home to a place I’ve never been before.

I can’t explain it and maybe I don’t have to; maybe it’s something so primal, so mysterious that it’s deeply embedded in each of us, even though it might be triggered by different things. That sense that there’s a better place waiting, a place wonderfully new and yet fantastically familiar. A place where people we’ve loved and lost will be sitting around, sharing stories and joys and wondering why it took us so long to come home.

By God’s good grace I will one day stroll through Heaven’s pearly gates. Once I pass by where all the big houses and grand mansions are, I’ll eventually get over to my new place. If it turns out it’s just an old wood-frame farmhouse, that’ll be just fine with me.

I hope you’ll drop by and visit for a century or two…

H. Arnett

Old Home-pict

Posted in Aging, Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Death & Dying, Family, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond Destruction

Though all of earth will some day pass,
the mountains melt with fervent heat
and even stones be consumed with fire:

yet until that day children must eat,
the sick shall need their care
and the whole be better off clothed.

Until the lion lie down with the lamb,
the eagle fly with the dove
and the bear be gentle as the dew,

until all things be made new
and we receive the kingdom from above,
this earth shall need its stewarding

and all who live on it
will live in need of love.
And even after faith shall turn to sight

and hope receive its desire,
yet shall live love and light,
as one eternal fire.

H. Arnett

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Late Summer Drive through the Flint Hills

A stiff breeze bends stalks
across miles of blended grass
as I drive through the rolling plains,
heading east from El Dorado
through the Flint Hills of southern Kansas.

A mix of greens and tans
and hints of autumn shine in the sun
as ripples of reflected light
define the arced angle of shuddering grass—
a silver second in my brief passing.

Jags of stone emerge from thin soil
along the banks where wet-weather runs
make their breaks and turns
through a tangle of roots and rocks.
In greener season drenching rains
can turn a barren bottom
into a rush of running water
that will sometimes over-run the road.

Today, though, in the dry dying of summer,
only a few pools break the twisting runs of rock
beneath the long-shadowed limbs of cottonwood.

Near the top of the last hill before Emporia,
I pause for a look back toward the west.
A red ball sunset glazes the shimmering prairie:
greens and golds, blonds and tans,
and a myriad of orange hues
sift through this shifting view of limber stems
and a seemingly boundless span
where the cattle of a thousand hills
graze their way toward the ending
of this good day the Lord has made.

H. Arnett

Posted in Farming, Metaphysical Reflection, Nature, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Prayer on an Autumn Morning

Help me, O Lord,
to live a quiet and peaceful live.
Strengthen me with gentleness of a falling leaf
though I walk in the midst of strife.

Restrain my tongue from speaking guile
even though I be accused and reviled.
Make my lips a source of grace
no matter what trials I may face.
Empower me to sing your praise
in my darkest nights and brightest days.

Neither let me arrogant nor lifted up with pride
but rather humble as the dew and faithful as the tide.

No matter what come to me,
no matter what life afford,
help me walk in quietness and peace
I pray by your grace, O Lord.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Poetry, Prayer, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Walking the Dog

Perhaps more for me than for her, I decided to start taking Layla for an evening walk. I’d rather we take those walks along some mountain trail or at least on some path that gives a view of a lake, leads along some stone-bed creek or through a woods. But I am known to occasionally sacrifice my druthers for the sake of convenience and so I’ve opted for the streets.

Conveniently, there’s a 1.1 mile loop that takes us around Highland Street to where it meets the gravel version of North F Street. The gravel runs just over a quarter-mile from Highland to Radio Lane which leads back by our neighborhood. There are a few streetlights along the route and it seems there are fewer other dogs in their yards at night so I’ve taken to the darker version of our hike. The air is cooler and we’re still able to find our way around through the mystery of night. Knowing the terrain a bit seems to help, too.

The houses on the north loop of Highland are surrounded by trees and hills which make up something of an unofficial wildlife refuge. The first time Randa and I drove around Highland Street we saw a group of wild turkeys strutting through a yard. A couple of months ago, I saw a deer standing in our neighbor’s yard. So it wasn’t a real shock when I was walking Layla last Wednesday night and we surprised a group of deer in a yard at the corner of Highland and the bean field. Actually, the surprise was rather mutual but I have neither the reflexes nor speed of deer.

The deer jumped to their feet and retreated a hundred feet or so into the field and then turned and stared at us. Although she strained at the leash in eagerness to more closely investigate, Layla never barked or yelped. She did whine a time or two as I kept pulling on her leash and walking along the gravel, away from the deer.

On our walk the next night, I was a bit more prepared. I paused at the bend just west of the intersection where we’d seen the deer. Sure enough all five of them were back and this time all of them were lying in the yard, near the streetlight pole. I tried to point them out to Layla but it’s mighty near impossible to make a dog see something when they’re already interested in something else. As we neared the house, I moved to the far side of the street and kept watching the deer. I tightened my grip on Layla’s leash, knowing that she would be eager for the chase as soon as she spotted the deer.

The deer spotted us while we were still a couple hundred feet away. Their heads rotated in unison, ears erect and tilted toward us. We passed by within fifty feet of them; they never moved and Layla never saw them. I marveled at both facts but it was the wonder of walking so closely to a small herd of wild animals that most moved me.

We do not have to travel to the mountains or the oceans to see amazing things. There is always some wonder close at hand. Whether it’s the dew on a silver strand of web or rain drops hanging from the roses, we live in a world of small wonders and marvelous grace.

If we walk softly and keep our eyes open, we will find they often show up in the most unexpected places at a rather perfect moment.

H. Arnett

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Autumn Calling to Labor and Rest

It comes softly to us like a gentle friend
on these fine September mornings,
stepping lightly through the forming dew
and speaking quietly in a low voice
that barely ripples through the receding chorus
of crickets and cicadas.

It lays a hand upon our shoulders
in something like the touch of small brown leaves
gathering in the gutters on the eaves
and lying along the grassy edge of the concrete driveway.

It bends slowly toward our ears,
near enough that we can feel the breath of autumn
against the skin.
We drink in the cool, clean fragrance
that wipes away the clinging tiredness
of long, humid days and summer’s aching sun.

We know that harvest is just begun
and there are many fields
yet to surrender their yields to the barn.
There is labor left that will draw us nearer to
the halos of harvests gliding through distant fields:
long, late nights of equipment lights
shining through the dusk and into the dust
of seed husks separated from the seed,
leaves shattered from the forgotten needs of dry stalks
forming strips along the endless ridges.

But even though we know that we cannot shirk this work,
we wake to such days as this,
grateful that the days of planting
have yielded the fruits of labor and faith,
the blessings of sun and rain
upon the fields of both the just and the unjust
and will give thanks for the harvest
and the rest that is yet to come

and for these fine September mornings
that come to us like a gentle friend,
fresh coffee steaming new promises
into the healing air.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Farming, Metaphysical Reflection, Nature, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Old Fools and Little Children

In order to help our children at church understand how “unity” gives us strength, I had glued together several thin strips of wood. Although most of the pieces were of similar length, some of the pieces were longer than the others. One of them was three inches longer than any of the others.

After explaining that each piece was thin and weak by itself, I showed them the thick piece I’d made by gluing them all together. “Do you think this piece is weak?” I asked them. There was a chorus of emphatic “No’s!”

“Do you think you could break this piece?” Same response.

Then I pointed to the single thin strip sticking out past the others. “See this one?” I asked to focus them. “Now watch this:” Then I gripped the piece and bent it hard. It snapped off right where it joined the adjacent strips that had been glued to it. Some of the children flinched at the sound.

“Why did it break off like that?” I asked the group of children. One girl who looked to be about seven or eight years old held up her hand.

“Because it was sticking out by itself and it didn’t have the others there to support it.”

Absolutely right! I couldn’t have come up with a better answer myself.

It seems like children often understand important truths that us old folks often ignore, doesn’t it? We are hardly ever more at risk of significant personal harm than when seeking our own way becomes more important to us than the welfare of our group.

But when a bunch of us thin strips stick together, it’s mighty hard to break us.

H. Arnett

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