Rocks & Rills

June 10

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life,
in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful
which God has implanted in the human soul.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Two weeks ago I met a recovery goal. Donning cycling shoes, I clipped in and pedaled out of our driveway onto asphalt for my first bona fide solo bike ride of 2024. While I wasn’t able to pedal very far (a short 8 miles) or for very long (45 minutes), the fact that I was rolling along on two wheels, wind in my face, hues of luscious green hillsides soothing my eyes, sounds of water and chirping birds greeting me, was exhilarating. That night while I endured fresh pain from the afternoon’s newly applied stress on shoulder/bicep tendon and bone I also found renewed energy to keep on keeping on with the daily drill of reaches and stretches with pulleys, bands and weights. I also recommitted to persevering with twice weekly outings for PT scheduled to continue into the 3rd week of July. Centimeter by centimeter, gains in rotation, mobility and strength are emerging: last week I was able to use my right hand to pull my left arm behind my back and even up my spine a few inches; I am getting closer to a genuine child’s pose, stretching arms out ahead of me on the floor mat; I am even almost able to reach both hands behind my head and gather my hair into a ponytail. I am not where I aim to be, but I am not where I was. Years ago someone introduced me to Jane Kenyon’s poetry by gifting me with a book of her poems. “Otherwise” is one I have returned to repeatedly over the years but most especially during these long months of recovery. I KNOW the outcome of this humeral fracture and surgery “could have been otherwise.” Some tell stories of infections on the heels of surgeries, of falls after surgeries, of repeated surgeries, of very limited mobility after weeks and weeks of therapy after surgery. All of life is ‘gift.’ All recovery is ‘gift.’ My mantra for every centimeter of improvement: “Thank you, Jesus. It could have been otherwise.

Early 2024 has felt like an extended ‘mud season.’ Jane Kenyon writes “Mud season is a time of waiting. Gardeners wait to garden. Farmers wait to lime and plow. Fishermen and -women wait to fish. Housekeepers wait for the first day they can throw open the doors and windows, shake out the bedding and hang it on the line, wash curtains and dry them outdoors. We need a warm wind to blow through us, to cleanse us, restore us. Instead we have muddy ruts in the roads that soften by day and freeze again by night.”

She continues: “Act as though you had faith,” Isaac Bashevis Singer said. “Faith will come afterward.” So I cleared the asparagus bed the other day, finding beneath dirty leaves the bent stalks….” (from Jane Kenyon in A Hundred White Daffodils)

We are not clearing asparagus beds but Steve and I have turned and mulched the often clay-packed dirt to reveal the beauty of this plot we call home. The rocks we find are sometimes above ground in plain sight. But more often, they are underground, hidden in brush, spread amongst stands of trees waiting to be wrestled or hoisted into place as accents or as a way of defining and protecting borders around the beds we are cultivating. Yesterday, as I walked about, I marveled at the numbers (I stopped counting at 150), shapes, and sizes of rocks we have managed to move. By faith. One rock at a time. Markers of our life here and now and of God’s goodness in granting us continuing strength and mobility.


It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

~ Mary Oliver