Come Some Sweet Bluebonnet Spring

This is the only place on earth bluebonnets grow / Once a year they come and go / At this old house here by the road / And when we die we say we’ll catch some blackbird’s wing / Then we will fly away to heaven come some sweet bluebonnet spring. (James Hooker, Nanci Griffith, Danny Flowers)

I am an uneasy Texan. I mean both that the name “Texan” sits uneasily on me and also that there is plenty about Texas that makes me uneasy. On the other hand, my heart is guaranteed to swell with Texan-pride once a year, right about now. Dadgum, the hill country is lovely in the spring. And never more lovely than right this minute, when the bluebonnets are going berserk.

bluebonnet blog
C. Boyd photo: March 27, 2015, Marble Falls, Texas.
Introvert bluebonnet selfie.

In just the last week, the Texas bluebonnet has exploded on the scene like a kid busting out of a four-month detention. Bluebonnets will pop up in small bits along the road, and then the next patch over will extend as far as the eye can see, in a crazy, generous profusion. The bluebonnets don’t last long, so folks are real aggressive about getting out to enjoy them. On the weekends there are a bazillion families, babies, wedding couples and dogs getting their pictures taken in the fields along country roads. Texpats always talk about longing for bluebonnets in the spring.

Nanci Griffith’s lovely song Gulf Coast Highway claims that Texas is the only place on earth bluebonnets grow, and I want to believe her. I was also curious about this year’s over-the-top volume of flowers, so I checked with Flavia, my nature-smart-teacher friend. Flavia says this year’s bumper crop is mostly the result of rain at the right time, which we had last fall. “There are lupines all over the world,” she says, “but think our gal Nanci is right about this species which is texensis!”

The excessive generosity of bluebonnet fields always makes me think of Jesus’ parable of the sower, with the farmer who was so happy flinging seed he didn’t care where it landed. Surely the bluebonnet is a metaphor for the extravagant love God shows us, and which is so obvious, if we just have the eyes to see it. And surely we are meant to fling our love willy-nilly out into the world, like the generous farmer in the parable. Our broken world needs it. Shower the people, people.

Easter Moves in Mysterious Ways

It’s time to get your Easter outfit all lined up.

The final approach to Easter has always snuck up on me, for several reasons. First of all: Easter is practically synonymous with spring, and in some places where I’ve lived, we were more likely to have gray skies and snow than sun and crocuses. That sucks, I tell you. (In the north, the traditional idea of an “Easter dress” is simply a cruel joke: it’s just wrong to have to dress your kid in pastel-colored long-johns.)

You would think that my being an Episcopal priest would help me remember when Easter is, what with the whole season of Lent being a 40-day liturgical heads-up. But no. The problem–as you know–is that, unlike Christmas, Easter is on a different date every year. So you need special tools to help you figure out how to get it on your calendar.

Nowadays we have The Google, so looking Easter up has gotten way easier than it used to be. I imagine Siri knows when Easter is, too. But back in the analog days of my youth, one had to consult this nifty and easy-to-use chart in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

1928 BCP2

This is super-helpful, don’t you think? I love that it’s filled with so much optimism: I mean, “the Year of Our Lord 8400”! Oh, but wait: I think you need this explanatory chart. (Please don’t be distracted by the use of the word “bissextile”, which sounds like a gay fabric.)

1928 BCP3

Feel free to print these out; maybe keep it on your fridge for the next 6385 years. You’re welcome.

Spring Gave Me the Willies Today

courtyard flora
Flora, at the monastery of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Cambridge MA. C. Boyd photo.

This first day of spring–which in central Texas is, miraculously, actually spring-like—is brought to you by Willie Nelson, patron saint of the Texas Hill Country. Here he is, performing Willie Dixon’s “I Love the Life I Live.” Damn, this is lovely. Maybe it’s the weed, but something tells me Willie means what he says.

So I ask myself this question: what keeps me from loving my life? It’s the life I’ve got, after all.

The answer is: It’s the little stuff, the small infuriations that rob my moments. I don’t WANT to “see the cashier”; I want the receipt to come out of the danged pump. What do you mean, CoverGirl has discontinued my lipstick color? Why isn’t this frigging traffic moving? Why is that person being a jerk? Stop telling me my call is “important” to you and answer the damned call.

The little stuff can really add up to a big grim outlook. It creeps up on me, and before I know it, I don’t love my life. (American singer-songwriter David Wilcox says it beautifully in this strangely depressing-and-encouraging song.)

courtyard rain2
Water, stone and light, SSJE. C.Boyd photo.

Thanks to the Willies, I had a nice moment today, on this first day of spring. I remembered that the antidote to Negative Creep is noticing the good stuff and practicing gratitude.  The spring light hits the wet pavement. A stranger smiles and makes eye contact. A worry ceases. Something tastes wonderful. Something goes right, and I notice it and thank somebody.  (Anne Lamott, that brightest of souls, says the three essential prayers are ‘help’, ‘thanks’ and ‘wow’.) How I spend my moments is how I spend my life. And before I know it, I love the life I live.

It’s Lent again. If you’re doing it anyway, why not call it a spiritual discipline?

Surrounding myself with possessions
I surely have more than I need
I don’t know if this is justice, hard earned,
Or simply a matter of greed
A matter of greed.
Dan Fogelberg, “Loose Ends”

I’ll bet you didn’t know that there is an American Institute of Stress. It is apparently housed in Fort Worth (which sounds pretty stressful to me) and has the worthy mission of “preventing human illness related to stress.” (I don’t know why they need to specify “human” illness, since it doesn’t seem very stressful to be…say…a cat, but whatever.) Anyway. I stumbled across the American Institute of Stress because I am moving my residence, and I was researching whether “moving” is on the list of most-stressful things. It totally is. The move was necessitated by the recent retirement of my spouse. (Also on the list. Retirement, I mean, not my spouse.)

Turns out there is a thing–The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory–that will score your odds of suffering a stress-induced health breakdown. (It’s too stressful for me to take the test right now; I’m moving.) But now that I know this thing exists, I feel entitled to my feelings about moving.

Because: Holy Mary, Mother of God. Where did all this stuff come from? Why do we have two humidifiers, five corkscrews, two ice cream scoops, 40 bowls, and approximately 1.5 million things to hang on walls?

Oh: and So. Much. Glassware.

This is just the tip of the glassware iceberg.

Since we’re (“only”) moving across town, we’re doing that thing where we are chipping away at it, a little bit at a time. It took me a couple of sessions to get up to speed on packing, because the grim reality of the task revealed itself gradually. One closet, one drawer at a time, accompanied by a growing feeling of doom.

Once I got on a roll, though, it started to be wonderful. Like…all that chi was unblocking. And therapeutic: I bet we are donating or throwing away over half our stuff. (And since it’s Lent, I’m totally calling this whole process a spiritual discipline.) But lest you think this is some kind of monastery-inspired down-sizing, I hasten to say this is not self-denial. We had twice the stuff we needed. At least.

Why do we have so much stuff? Why is it hard to throw away/give away/donate/admit we are powerless? I’ll bet moving wouldn’t even be on the stress-list if people didn’t have so damned much crap.

I’m not kidding about calling this a spiritual discipline. To have an incarnational world view is to see God in all things, and in all our ways. Any task can be offered to God as an offering, and all our tasks are connected. Freeing up space in my life is freeing up space in my spirit. It’s nice.

Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.
Thích Nhất Hạnh, “Being Peace”