Thursday, October 24, 2013

Please Send Our Roots Your Rain

Parched

The ground is clumps of hard and crackled clay
where creeks and ponds and puddled mud once lay
in meadows draped in a purple haze
of cocklebur in bloom. Gone are the days
of soft, dark loam when just as spring's begun
the plowshare sliced from morn to setting sun.
Too long the wind and weathered walls
have whispered in the empty stalls
of barns and whined at windows in the night
where just beyond in the flickering light
a shadow prays…as another sighs,
and with calloused hands against their eyes
they plead again in soft steadfast refrain…
“Ours, O, Lord, yes ours… please send our roots Your rain.”
Tom Kapanka
©Begun 1-26-12;/ completed 2-8-13

I realize that this poem comes out of nowhere and doesn't fit the season or the recent exciting events at school. I found a draft of it in a file on my external hard-drive today. It was just a bunch of lines that I did not recall even starting until I read them again. The date on that file was January 26, 2012. So the thoughts had sat there undisturbed for over a year, and then as I read them today, I remembered where I was going with it and finished them. Like so many things I write, if not properly read aloud, the lines seem to run-on, but I trust the images come through. It happened to fall into a sonnet of sorts.

Two summers ago, while visiting Julie's folks in Kansas in July, I was in the car with my father-in-law. Many farms in that part of wheat contry still have the remnant of a barn with gaps between the boards that let in light and wind, but they are typically still maintained by someone no longer living there.

I saw rolling hills of cocklebur and said something about the purple cast they gave the landscape. My father-in-law told me the weed was an invasive species that takes over acres and acres of pasture, leaving them unfit for crops or livestock. He pointed out that the fields I was admiring were once good farm land but had gone feral many years ago. I had heard that term applied to wild animals (like cats found in abandoned houses) but never to land, and it made me ponder the farmer's plight: even in the best of times he struggles to keep the growing things he wants from those he doesn't--to separate the wheat from tares, so to speak. He knows that, left alone, the weeds win. That much he expects as part of life and Eden's curse. But there are other times, times of drought, when even the daily struggle of separating good from bad is lost for lack of rain, and in such times he is reminded of his total dependence on God. This is hard for farmers because they are problem solvers who believe hard work gives hands their worth.

Such were my thoughts when I began this piece more than a year ago before forgetting I'd begun it. I chose not to set it in time, and kept the praying couple vague (shadows). The flickering light could be a candle, a lantern, or a bare dim bulb. They could be settlers from a 150 years ago; they could be the grandchildren of settlers in the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression; they could be living on a barren farm right now.

But I mostly left the time and characters vague to take the notion of being parched beyond dry land to a sort of personal, spiritual drought. This latter image needs no season, and like the farmer's plight can only be solved from above. So many good things are currently happening for our school, and we thank all of those who are praying for God's continued blessing. He is indeed sending our roots rain. May this be true for each of us in every way.

The refrain at the end is a variation on a line from Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89) I first read the poem entitled ‘Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend’ over 30 years ago, and though I cannot say I'm an avid reader of Hopkins, his earnest plea for rain and personal restoration has come to mind at various times of "drought" through the years.

Psalm 42: 1
"As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God."

Note: This post was originally published here in February, and it remains in that February 2013 space. It was re-posted in October to follow the post about roots.

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