This morning, I came across a favorite poem of mine that seemed to have special significance here in this time of plague.
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.
It’s almost impossible not to get caught up in worries and “what ifs” in the midst of this kind of crisis. And, of course, there are some sensible “what ifs” for us to address. Have you appointed guardians for your children in case something happens to you? Do your family members know where your medical directive is? Can you get your doctor to write a three-month prescription for that drug you need so that you aren’t having to go to the pharmacy to pick it up every few weeks?
But so many things are out of our hands and “thinking so far away” doesn’t really help us to gain any extra control. Frost’s poem is a good reminder to enjoy what we can enjoy while we wait for an “uncertain harvest” which may be the best possible outcome or may be rather grim.
When I was a girl (and it was many and many a moon ago!) in Catholic school, the nuns used to read to us from the Lives of the Saints. I’ve always remembered St. Anthony who was sitting with some brother monks discussing theology when the question came up: “What would you do if you knew that you had only an hour to live?” And as they went around the circle, one monk said he would go to Confession. Another said he would want to hear Mass. A third said he would spend the hour in prayer. When it was St. Anthony’s turn, he said, “I would be sitting here, with my brother monks, discussing what to do if I had only an hour left to live because that is obviously what God wants me to be doing.”
If you’ve done all the practical things you can to cope with this crisis, then give yourself permission — in fact, force yourself if you have to — to take some “pleasure in the flowers today.” Love your loved ones, play with your pets, have some fun, and, if at all possible, go outside and enjoy the “springing of the year.” Whether this is your last or one of many still to come for you, go breathe it in.
Picture found here.