“The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing.” Psalm 65:13
Truth be told, her son or daughter came with, came in the door considerably before her, I should say.
I'm sorry. That opening line is not a comely description and herewith apologize because it jokes a bit about the young lady’s state of being: she was pregnant--waaaay pregnant; and when she stepped into the restaurant, her profoundly rounded profile suggested a blessed first cry could well sound momentarily. This beautiful young girl--just a kid it seemed, long dark hair, oval face, and rich, dark eyes--was just about as stout as she was tall. She was so richly pregnant, I think she was due.
Honestly, she was beautiful in a way that most of us somehow recognize. I am absolutely certain that nine months before last night she was gorgeous too in a wholly different way. Last night, however, she was just about ready to give birth. She was that kind of beautiful.
It’s a strange phrase really, isn’t it—“to give birth.” Birth is not really a metaphor, not if we think of the word as a synonym for life. Last night, that young lady—she had trouble getting herself comfortably in her chair--was ready to give life.
That life started long ago, of course, at conception. But last night the drama seemed just a scene away from its own spectacular close, which is to say a scene away from a new beginning really. The rest of that child’s life will be her mother’s story’s denouement—how then shall this child live?
It's probably chauvinistic of me to say that young lady was gorgeous. What do I know about lugging around an eight-pound baby?—about cramping and thimble-sized bladders and morning sickness, aching backs and varicose veins? This old man spots a beautiful girl great with child, happens to see her walk into a restaurant, and I want to enlist Vermeer to park right beside me, haul out a canvas, and create a ageless portrait. If I were a musician, I might well want to sing.
There’s a dry, tawny-ness to late September just outside my window. Beans thin into dust when they mature; the leaves go gold in less than a week. A deep emerald landscape is gone so quickly you wonder if a magician dropped a blanket over the land, then jerked it away in the twinkling of an eye, so great and quick the change.
Corn rustles aloud when the leaves dry. A whisper of wind sets a field to song. If farmers can hit it right, the grain is bone dry when they combine. Everywhere you look, a blanket of harvest dust hovers over the land and won’t leave until north winds blow.
The land where I live is beautifully pregnant in August, when the whole emerald world gleams richly. The land is beautifully pregnant when as far as you can see the valley stand thick with corn, and beans flourish waist-high. The land is beautifully pregnant when all you see is jade.
I’m no farmer, never have been. I’ve watched my wife carry babies, but some parts of ordinary life I’ll never experience. What do I know about any of this?
It's beauty David sees in the last verse of this psalm of praise. “The meadows are covered with flocks,” he says. I’ve seen it, and it’s beautiful. “. . .And the valleys are mantled with grain.” Happens here every year. “. . .They shout for joy and sing.”
I can’t speak for the land, really, or for farmers, just as I can’t speak for that young lady last night so boldly pregnant.
I can’t speak for them, but I can speak for me, and I'll try my best to speak for beauty.
Even if I can't sing, I can try.
For a dozen weeks now, every Sunday we’ve been reading David’s song, number 65 in his psalter, this song of the beauty of the earth. Think of this as mine.
And do sing along.