Auld Lang Syne – “Times Gone By”

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And auld lang syne.

 

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Two summers ago I spent a couple of weeks in Scotland with a fantastic theatre group performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. There are so many things to love about Scotland ~ the friendliness of the Scots, the history, the castles, the theatre.

But far and away the memory that remains, nay, haunts me from those few precious days is the doleful sound of bagpipes playing everywhere, all through the day and night, people practicing and performing, marching loud or standing quiet, respectful of the mournful sound of the ancient pipes.

Pausing to ponder.

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At the grand event that is the Edinburgh military tattoo, toward the end of that majestic performance, a lone bagpiper stands aloft as the sun sets behind him and he plays Auld Lang Syne, in remembrance of soldiers fallen in battle. The thousands in attendance grow still and quiet, we cross our arms and join hands and sway gently in the evening breeze and listen as tears gather and fall.

We remember our fallen and our falling.

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Auld Lang Syne means, roughly, “Times gone by” or “For old times’ sake.”

What will I think of this New Year’s Eve, what will I remember as people around the world join hands or raise them to sing Auld Lang Syne?

I pause to ponder.

 

This has not been the easiest of years ~ I know many of you could join me in this sentiment, heads in hands.

People I know and love have been diagnosed with diseases ~ some are doing quite well now, some are not. Many are sitting in that odd, hovering holding pattern between doctor’s visits, just waiting for the pathology report or the surgeon’s statement, the place no one expects or chooses. I sat in waiting rooms this fall with my mother and brother, and do you know what happened?  Old acquaintances arrived with smiles and prayers and coffee and hope. They should not be forgot.

For old times’ sake.

 

I’ve seen lots of change this year, it’s that way every year, I guess. Some friends I love have made huge life adjustments ~ some have been easy, some not so much ~ some planned, some not-so-planned.

Marriages and friendships ebb and flow in this grand tidal planet just like water and air do. The rain falls on the just and the unjust and God says that even this is somehow good.

 And time goes by.

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There are some who have passed from this world to the next ~ the letter to Lord Tennyson upon the death of his dearest friend Arthur Hallam says it like this ~ “It has pleased God to remove him from this his first scene of Existence, to that better world for which he was Created.”   A better world.   They should not be forgot.

Times gone by.

 

The stanzas in Auld Lang Syne remind us that life and love and friendship are sometimes hard, not always easy for those of us, all of us, who finally tire and find ourselves, unexpectantly, faint of heart.

We’ve wandered many a weary step the song reminds us. Maybe this is why old acquaintances should not be forgot, and should be ever brought to mind. Our steps on this grand planet are not always easy ones, many are wearisome and just-plain-exhausting. If someone tells you differently, she hasn’t experienced much life yet, or she simply isn’t looking around. Give her time.

The seas between us broad have roared, it sings. For some of us, a literal sea divides us from ones we love, a lonely sea who constantly roars its grand protest to the universe, begging for answers and just a moment or two of calm stillness. Maybe your sea is metaphorical, but its broad roaring is ever loud, maybe louder still in its stormy metaphysical and emotional upheaving.

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So what do we do now?

This wonderful melancholy song reminds us to raise a cup to kindness.  I’ve needed kindness this year (haven’t you?), and in my moment of most need, there were those who arrived with unexpected gentleness and mercy and grace on their lips. I saw a new kind of grace this year, grace unencumbered, in a group of folk who saw everything about me and still loved me, raw and real. I raise a cup to their kindness and let it be known ~ I will arrive on their doorsteps when their need arises with the same graciousness they have shown me.

This kind of love shall not be forgot.

 

So ~ Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?   No, of course not.   Pick up a pen or a phone, that’s what I’m going to do, and for old time’s sake, don’t forget.

And have a happy new year.

 

Please listen to the song as you read this post again ~ and remember.

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If You Can’t Find the Forest for the Trees, then for Heaven’s Sake, Look at the Trees

The Gift of Intricacy ~ a blessing, on the occasion of Ashley and John’s wedding

 

There is something mystical and spiritual about the start of a thing – a wedding, a year. The birth of a thing brings hope, its newness must give us pause.

We live our lives, or I have, with an exalted view of the grandness of things ever-lurking in my mind’s corners. “What’s the big picture?” people ask and are asked, and while this question is not inherently wrong or certainly not evil, it seems to me that this is a question more appropriate for business ventures or long-range planning. I think there is a better ideology for the business of day-to-day living, a better view for living happily alongside another person.

Life is indeed big, and often so very noisy.   The days and weeks of weddings are grand and noisy, and they should be. But life is also small and quiet and intricate.

There’s not much I can give you in the way of a gift, except this – the hope that you will ponder the idea of intricacy, the thought, the ability to see the beauty in the small things.

 

Life is not smooth.  It is bumpy and full of difficult terrain.  The ancient historian Pliny the Elder, so far ahead of his own time, knew that the earth was not flat. But he didn’t think it was round, either; he thought it was spherical and shaped more like a pineapple. With all the mountains and hills and ridges and valleys, certainly the surface earth could not be smooth, he reasoned.

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Life is not smooth.  It is dappled and messy.  My favorite poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, finds glory and beauty in the motley-ness and knows Who to thank:

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…

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 Life is not smooth.  But it is intricate. Let us look at the beauty of the created natural world, and wonder. Chloroplasts bear chlorophyll and give the green world its color.  Neutrons and electrons whirl and swirl in musical cadences that keep us living and we never think on it.

Every snowflake is completely unique. Every one.

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Water bugs and speckled frogs flit and float on ponds whether I am looking or not.  Beautiful fringed feathers clothe the mere sparrow at my birdfeeder with a dappled beauty man could ever replicate, and yet I daily fail to see the miracle.

There are, on average, six million leaves on the branches of any given large elm tree. Have I really ever seen one?

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God creates an extravagance of minutiae. Even on the perfectly ordinary and clearly visible level, creation carries on with an intricacy unfathomable and uncalled for.

The least we can do is slow down and take a look.

 

Life is not smooth.  The surface of mystery is never smooth.  But it is certainly beautiful.  Fix your attention to the fish’s fin and the flower’s pollen-smile, to the fruity sharpness of the tart apple, to the sun-sprinkles of gold in the gentle blueberry of her eyes.

 Ashley and John, readers and friends ~

God is giving you another happiness, unexpected.  His mercies are new every morning.     This is His way.

 

If I were able it to do over again, I would live much of my life differently. I would open my eyes sooner to the gift of intricacy ~ I will begin today, again.

On these days of weddings and years new, may you open eyes wide to the extravagance of God in every miniscule, intricate detail – His gifts are given in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.