Because money is hard made and easy spent, when we were about 3 years into our agrarian dream we could only afford a little homestead and not a big rolling farm. G.K. Chesterton claimed that is all I needed. He also said you need a cow on those 3 acres, which we have. Actually we have two milk cows. Which means every day, morning and evening, I walk from the house to the barn to milk, singing “Milk ‘Em Blues” by Tennessee Ernie Ford. My wife is enduring this daily song pretty well, but I think mortal patience has its limits, which is why I try to sing it outside more than in.
We’re making it work with some clearing and grading, but for my twice-daily walk to the barn the sun and moon have proven to be great friends. Actually along with the Milk ‘Em Blues, and whenever my son John is with me (who loves the moon), we recite Belloc’s morning poem toward our lunar siblings:
The moon on the one hand, the dawn on the other:
The moon is my sister, the dawn is my brother.
The moon on my left and the dawn on my right.
My brother, good morning: my sister, good night.
What amazes me, or stops me in my tracks rather, is how much the contact with this little patch of land seems to be singing (and sighing) with the Liturgical seasons, the moon and the sun being the most obvious example of liturgical rhythm and God’s presence in creation. The Psalmist seemed to agree:
See how the skies proclaim God’s glory, how the vault of heaven betrays his craftsmanship! Each day echoes its secret to the next, each night passes on to the next its revelation of knowledge; no word, no accent of theirs that does not make itself heard, till their utterance fills every land, till their message reaches the ends of the world. (Psalm 19)
In my end of the world, this tiny spot, the message is Advent. Darkness has been looming and is almost eclipsed the coming light. The reason this is especially so is that our homestead is on a north-facing slope that arches across the horizon behind us. In the summer the sun passes almost completely overhead, but its path begins to sink. In the early fall it ducks behind the trees atop the hill, bringing more shadows and less direct warmth.
But then it gets worse. The sun sinks to where it hugs the contours of the hill behind us. What this means is that it never really feels fully like day time of year, because our source of light and warmth, even in the day, seems obscured and hidden. The darkness is thicker and seems ready to have its turn whether the sun is ready or not. And the trees and plants are almost entirely stagnated or even given to an apparent defeat of death. Without the sun we’re dead, or at least feel so.
Being with the earth’s cycles (again, its more of a friendship than a scientific knowing) I know the light will return. Knowing confidently in its return yet feeling its absence is a perfect image of the virtue of hope. Hope is not wishing God will maybe help or do something good, but knowing He will – really it means to wait expectantly on Him. The point is to be in the darkness but ready, not wishing.
You’re feeling the Advent too now aren’t you? It’s not hard to find dark areas in life from global chaos to disgruntled calendars. But we hope. Go visit your lunar friends and let them tell you about it. Not because we wish God’s light will penetrate this darkness and return, but because we know it will.