By Gerard Manley Hopkins
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
My husband and I have been taking an English Literature class together this semester at a local community college. Well actually, he's taking the class, and I got special permission from the professor to audit it. The teacher is really fantastic and it's been a treat to sit in on the lectures and do the readings--and I'm not on the hook for grades or homework! It's just pure learning and brain stimulation for me.
We read some poetry this week by a fascinating man I'd never heard of, Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit priest who lived and wrote in Victorian England. Many of his poems are a celebration of the natural world and he had a way of seeing God in all things, even in things that most people would say are ugly or strange.
I think this poem, Pied Beauty, is so lovely. Glory be to God for dappled things, it says. Hopkins takes such joy in the unusual and imperfect and it seems that these things, for him, only reinforce the presence of God in the world.
This poem has reminded me to try to be more intentional about seeking God and noticing Him, even when the world around me seems plain or frustrating or unpleasant. Yesterday I stepped outside to take a walk and it immediately started to sprinkle, but I decided to keep walking. I decided to embrace the rain and try to enjoy getting wet and the cool drops on my face, and once I did that, I began to feel the beauty of it all. The sky was gray, the rain made the grass smell musky, and it was a far cry from the perfect afternoon stroll. But perhaps that's just a matter of perspective. The rain was God's rain, it was falling on God's earth, and it was falling on me, and I am nothing if not a child of God. If I decided to look at it this way, wouldn't that make it good?
Who am I to rule that this day, this moment, isn't just a wonderful as the next? For by Him were all things created...all things were created by Him, and for Him. Maybe in wading through dreariness, in soaking it in and embracing it and accepting it, we can find good in it--we can find God in it. Holding it at arm's length is what makes it ugly.