A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle
Many years ago one of my pilot buddies was stationed with the military in England. As was often the case, he chose to live on the local economy, and found a room he could rent from a dear old widow who was glad to have a brawny lad around the house.
He happily did odd jobs for her, and in due course noticed that her front step, a single slab of stone, was deeply worn from having been trod upon for who knows how many years.
So one day he took it upon himself to dig it up and turn it over, hoping to present his landlady with a nice smooth surface for her front step.
Only to find when he flipped it that it had already been turned!
I thought of that story last weekend as I was taken to a different place by the Colorado Children’s Chorale. They were singing the Samuel Lancaster setting of John Holmes’ “The People’s Peace.” The line that fired my imagination: “Days into years, the doorways worn at sill…”
How many soles of how many shoes had swept the granite of that stoop at my friend’s lodging? What tidings had they brought? Babes-in-arms carried across; becoming toddlers, adolescents, young adults wearing at the stone of their own accord. Then old. Then children. Until the tread is worn to the point that it must be turned. And turned again.
The stories that stone might tell! They might begin something like this:
“Summer gives way to fall, but winter always gives way to spring, which must then become summer again. The sun passes from east to west each and every day; each and every night, it passes from west to east again while we sleep.”*
Which sometimes gives us pause when we realize that while days can seem to drag, the years fly by.
Today at the solstice, at the point of mid-winter, enduring the bitterness of cold and the quiet of the long night, we might find ourselves thinking about the turning of the stone. Loved ones long gone and sorely missed may come to mind. And this shortest day, like our lives, is over almost before it begins.
Then what? If you’re like me, you may feel a bit unsettled by what seems in this moment to be a sort of futility of living. Today we might be asking, “why bother with living at all?”
Thankfully, as I heard at Boettcher Hall a few days ago, Holmes and Lancaster and the Children’s Chorale have a suggestion. I think they would offer this, “The People’s Peace” as a reason to bother:
“Peace is the mind’s old wilderness cut down-
A wider nation than the founders dreamed.
Peace is the main street in a country town;
Our children named; our parents’ lives redeemed.
Not scholar’s calm, nor gift of church or state,
Nor everlasting date of death’s release;
But careless noon, the houses lighted late,
Harvest and holiday: the people’s peace.
The peace not past our understanding falls
Like light upon the soft white tablecloth
At winter supper warm between four walls,
A thing too simple to be tried as truth.
Days into years, the doorways worn at sill,
Years into lives, the plans for long increase
Come true at last for those of God’s good will:
These are the things we mean by saying, Peace.”
Our children named, our parents’ lives redeemed: those following in our footsteps together with those who came before us… abide. In our stories within the stone in the doorway. Written yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Remembered and retold around the table at the holidays. Because the years don’t fly into oblivion. Rather, years flow into lives. Creating plans for long increase!
This shortest day, like our lives, is over almost before it’s begun. But the stone in the doorway endures! And tomorrow will be longer, as will the day after. And our lives redeemed through the stories our children will tell.
And so, on this mid-winter day, despite the bitterness of cold, as those long gone are remembered and fondly missed, while wondering at the turning of the stone and the stories it could tell, if we simply choose, we can be warmed and comforted watching the plans for long increase come true at last. Even here, even now, if we stop to look, is peace.
We see it in the clearing of the mind’s wilderness; the stroll along main street; the naming of the children. It’s in the warmth of summer noon gone by and yet to come. The harvest brought in. The table set, the lamps lit, the guests arrived for dinner. The unremarkable yet profound rising and setting of the sun. The turning of the stone. The things that remind us why to bother with living at all: the days into years, the doorways worn at sill. The things we mean by saying, Peace.
This sparkling winter, then, on this, the shortest day of the year, with best wishes for you heartfelt, I offer you…
Peace. In your stories. It’s yours for the taking.
The Symphony of Your Life
*The Symphony of Your Life: Restoring Harmony When Your World Is Out of Tune, page 7