You may have noticed that I’ve been away from this space since May: first, to lead two back-to-back trips in Italy (for college students and for a group of adult learners), and then, to help my father in New Mexico continue his recovery from a terrible bout of pneumonia (which began as I was about to leave for Italy and saw him in the hospital for many, many weeks). So these have been fraught months on a personal level.
It has felt odd to be at a distance (quite literally while I was in Europe) from the news: Uvalde and Buffalo, the Supreme Court, the CRC Synod. And sometimes, not at a distance at all: the train that derailed near St. Louis carried a former student and her family. A colleague’s daughter (also my former student) was at the parade in Highland Park on Monday. Overwhelming. Lord, have mercy.
To be honest, I have no idea what to say about any of it. Various ideas have come to mind, but each could easily devolve into platitude or “toxic positivity” or rant or worse. Words are insufficient for feeling. And I fear that an urge to punditry can be a form of self-idolatry. Academics, perhaps, are prone to this impulse especially: “if I don’t say something, it hasn’t been fully said.”
I don’t say this because I think no one should be talking—not at all. Many voices are necessary. But the imperative to “be still and know” seems important for at least some of us. To intentionally commit to humble listening—to not jump to immediately be the fixer. It doesn’t make for a great blog, but this week, I embrace that.
I’ve shared the poetry of Christina Rossetti quite often here. In this lament, she articulates the deep sadness that comes with unseasonableness, when life and death are out of sync. That feels like what is able to be said today.
by Christina Rossetti
Why were you born when the snow was falling? You should have come to the cuckoo’s calling, Or when grapes are green in the cluster, Or, at least, when lithe swallows muster For their far off flying From summer dying. Why did you die when the lambs were cropping? You should have died at the apples’ dropping, When the grasshopper comes to trouble, And the wheat-fields are sodden stubble, And all winds go sighing For sweet things dying.