Thursday, February 25, 2010


People tell me that we have no seasons in Florida, and I smile silently. I know, when they say that they do not live here. We have seasons. Certainly, they are not the cycles of my childhood, and I do sometimes miss the classical turn of the year. I miss the smell of fallen leaves and the spice of false death as the plants withdraw to wait out the winter. I miss the crisp, shivering smell that heralds new snow. I miss the shimmering green and white of snowdrops braving the cold to whisper the promise of summer. But the turning of the year is not gone here, far from it. It is, like so many things in this wild, young place, simply different, unsympathetic to the puny creatures that reside on the primal land, so desperately trying to tame what is not so easily dominated. Here the year turns from unbearable jungle green, bathed in shimmering, tangible air supporting the almost invisible wings of the dragonflies as their heavy bodies hang beneath a sky bleached from blue to white in the heat, to a muted carpet of browns and grays, pitifully unclothed without a forgiving blanket of snow – a denuded land waiting beneath barren tree branches with Spanish moss waving like grave clothes in the wind.

The seasons are less dramatic here, one of the few things that is less dramatic in this wild landscape. They turn quietly, shifting hue without the breathtaking show of leafy color or dazzling snow. I often think that people claim there are no seasons here because their turning is so quiet, and in our day to day lives we are so distracted that it takes the excitement, and sometimes the inconvenience, of dramatic season shift to make us notice them. Yet sometimes there are reminders we cannot ignore; sometimes the inevitable cycle of nature presents us with something so simple, so primal that we cannot ignore it, even in the grip of modern hustle and bustle.

Take the color green. In Florida, green is inevitable. In a “land of perpetual summer” (whoever said that wasn’t here this January), green is stock in trade for attracting tourists and setting social standards for suburban lawns. Mid-range golf courses trying to be upper crust paint their greens…well…green. It’s a part of life here. Florida is green. Until winter at least, when the greens fade into brown and olive, their gradual transition barely noted by those of us who live here; for us, the landscape is familiar, habitual, and we tend to let it blur past our car windows, not really considering its subtle shifts in color.

But spring is upon us. I hurried home yesterday, piloting my metal chariot past acres of Florida countryside, my mind already miles ahead of my spinning wheels, considering all the minutiae that seem to fill our every waking moment. I was planning dinner, television viewing, class material for the next week, and suddenly I was confronted with green.

Along the side of the road, an early crop had been planted; the huge chunk of farm equipment that had done the sowing was still resting in the corner of the field. Behind the machinery, the field stretched back from the roadside, redolent in fresh growth that spurted up from the dull ground in a defiant riot of color. I have no idea what the plants were, and I have no need to know. What I do know is that they were green as only new life can be, riotous with the color that allowed them to live and grow in the light of the sun, jostling for its rays, competing with every ounce of chlorophyll to take and use more of the light to thrive. The color was breathtaking, standing out like neon against the suddenly noticeable brown and grey world around it, reminding me how beautiful life is and whispering the promise of new life that sometimes seems a cliché part of the spring.

That green stayed with me through the barren branches and brown woods of the trip home, reminding me of hope, of the desperate joy of reaching for the light and soaking it in – the need to grow. It was green, not in the painted status-conscious perfection of manicured lawns and golf tees, but in the wild, true way that only the hand of nature colors the world around us. It was the promise of spring and the reminder that life, even just for a moment, can be green.

Friday, February 5, 2010

My God Speaks in Poetry

My God speaks in poetry.

He whispers in the rhythm and meter, telling wonders in rich images woven together into a glorious pattern of order. He does not merely fling color onto a canvas expressing some inner truth about Himself that I need to divine by searching my inner soul for some meaning or reflection. He does not present himself in definitive, exegetical prose that starkly outlines fact to be assimilated. He dances in metaphor and ripples in simile, reaching out to me in the terms of human familiarity, yet reminding me that his images are not like ours, not as comprehensible as we might like to think.

My God speaks in poetry,

stanzas formed with the power or rhyme and meter, following traditional measures even as He reshapes them with the power of message. The wonder is communicated more strongly within the form, shaped and shaping in the flow of metrical feet, speaking to the beat of breath and heart, echoing the form of life itself. He spurns free form verse – there is no need to defy order when it is beautiful, shaping, making. It speaks to my need for order and my need for intimate transaction in the same flow.

My God speaks in poetry,

giving images rather than rules, inviting me to bring my own dreams, my own memories, and my own experience to the milieu, meeting the imagery half way, letting it speak to me and speaking back. There is an individualism of experience, a transaction between being shaped by the verse and shaping it that reforms the form or rhyme and meter into something that is mine, something that calls out the soul beyond the every day and elevates it. Poetry transcends prose, for it demands more of its reader, speaking truth and beauty and demanding the same in return.

My God speaks in poetry,

saying things that cannot be expressed so directly, pulling in nuance and image, drawing out tears and truth. The music and the images say all the things words cannot, a dance of creating language, drawing nothing into something, formed, yet demanding participation. The music of words, the Logos that undergirds the universe swells around me, and the stanzas stretch on ahead.

My God speaks in poetry.