A Vespers for these times… Monday June 8, 2020


Hark the Vesper bell is pealing, 

O’er the meadow soft and green.

Nearer now and nearer stealing, 

Soft it breaks upon my ear.

Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen. Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen.

First Thoughts:   If ever there were a week or two when it would feel so good to gather, these past two are high up on the list!  It would have been a thrill to gather together in the lodge to watch the SpaceX rocket lift off two astronauts headed for the International Space Station.  That would have been a fine gathering!  Then there was the police killing of George Floyd that has inspired people of all generations, all walks of life, all political opinions to gather in outrage and with the hopes that their messages and words will inspire cultural change.  Did you watch how people across the world joined in the work and the moment.  It would have been a luxury to gather today, there in the birch grove, to hear each other’s stories about these days and this historic moment.  These Vespers hopefully will inspire everyone to tell their stories, their feelings and their actions to those around them.  The support will feel so good.

Sing: ” Here we have Gathered”

Here we have gathered, gathered side by side.

Circle of kinship, come and step inside.

May all who seek here find a kindly word.

May all who speak here find they have been heard.

Sing now together this our heart’s own song.

Here we have gathered, called to celebrate.

Days of our lifetime, matters small and great.

We of all ages, women, children, men.

Infants and sages, as we give we gain.

Sing now together, this our heart’s own song.

Life has its battles, sorrows and regrets.

But in the shadows, let us not forget.

We who now gather know each other’s pain.

Kindness can heal us, as we give, we gain.

Sing now in friendship, this our hearts own song.

Words from the Astronauts: 

“All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.”    -Sally Ride

Note:  Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, the third woman in space overall.  She was the youngest American astronaut to have traveled in space, having done so at age 32.

“When you look at the stars and the galaxy you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land,  but from the solar system.       -Kalpana Chawla

Note: Kalpana Chawla was the first American astronaut of Asian Indian origins.  Tragically she was killed in 2003 along with the other six astronauts on the Space Shuttle Columbia mission.

“It was a mission of celebration: never had two Mexican-Americans flown up in space on the same mission, and never did burritos shine so brightly.”      -Gustavo Areliano, author

Note: There are three Mexican-Americans astronauts, Ellen Ochea, John Olivas and Jose Hernandez.

“The International Space Station would not be the incredibly capable orbiting research facility it is today without either Russians or Americans just as it couldn’t have been built without the Canadian arm used in its construction.”        -Ron Garan

Note: Ron Garan is a NASA astronaut.  He has logged 177 days, 23 hours and 54 minutes in space!  He served for six months on the International Space Station in 2011.

“I find it curious that I never heard any astronaut say that s/he wanted to go to the Moon so that s/he would be able to look back and see the Earth.  We all wanted to see what the Moon looked like close up. Yet for most of us, the most memorable sight was not of the Moon, but of our beautiful blue and white home, moving majestically around the sun, all alone and infinite black space.”      

-Alan Bean, Apollo 12 astronaut

Words about Space:

“A blade of grass is a commonplace on Earth; it would be a miracle on Mars.  Our descendants on Mars will know the value of a patch of green.  And if a blade of grass is priceless, what is the value of a human being? “        -Carl Sagan, astronomer and author

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”      -John F. Kennedy

A PHOTO GALLERY: from EARTH FROM ABOVE by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Yann Arthus-Bertrand uses his talents as a photographer, film maker and environmental activist  to produce art in a number of forms.  In 1999 he took many photos of earth and the activities on earth that were compiled in his book, “Earth from Above: 365 days”.  It is a beautiful collection, and though the distance from earth from which he took his photos is a lot less than the astronauts, the images inspire us in much the same way.  On Earth Day in 2009, he was designated Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme in recognition of his vision and work.  Here is a small gallery from “Earth from Above: 365 days”.  Here is a list of the images offered here.  See if you can match the image to its location and as you do, think about the rich diversity across our planet!

Mangrove swamp in France

Camels in Mauritania 

Cotton fabric drying in Jaipur, India

Harvesting cranberries in Massachusetts

Tractor at work in Bozeman, Montana

Amazon river in Brazil

View of Tokyo, Japan

Swimming in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Tractors working in a rice field in Thailand

Irrigation circles in Jordan


SING:  “From a Distance”, by Bette Midler

From a distance, the world look blue and green, 

And the snow-capped mountains white.

From a distance the ocean meets the stream,

And the eagle takes to flight.

From a distance, there is harmony,

And it echoes through the land.

It’s the voice of hope, it’s the voice of peace, 

It’s the voice of every one.

From a distance we all have enough,

And no one is in need.

And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease,

No hungry mouths to feed.

From a distance we are instruments

Marching in a common band.

Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace.

They’re the songs of every one.

God is watching us. God is watching us.

God is watching us, from a distance.

From a distance you look like my friend,

Even though we are at war.

From a distance I just can’t understand

What all this fighting is for.

From a distance, there is harmony,

And it echoes through the land.

And it’s the hope of hopes, it’s the love of loves,

It’s the heart of every one.

It’s the hope of hopes, it’s the love of loves.

This is the song of every one.

And God is watching us, God is watching us,

God is watching us, from a distance.

Oh, God is is watching us, God is watching us, 

God is watching us, from a distance.

Further Thoughts: It’s interesting to think about our two astronauts rocketing up to  the International Space Station while we also think about the protests that have blanketed our country for nearly two weeks now.  Imagine what the astronauts and Yann Arthus-Bertrand would have seen from above our world in recent days.  They would have seen people gathering in small and large groups.  They would have seen signs clarifying the hopes, dreams and also the failures of our cultures in assuring that important hopes and dreams would be available for all people.  Dropping lower over earth, they might have picked up important discussions between people, all of whom are working on understanding the issues, in fact,  working to begin by defining the questions that emerged for all of us  in recent days.  There would be lots to see, lots to hear, lots about which to think deeply.

Today Monday morning trivia (posted on our camp Instagram account) was a question about lady slippers, a fanciful flower, a member of the orchid family, that grows in the camp woods each spring. We’ll see if anyone can guess what similarities there are between camp and this annual bloom that carpets parts of the camp woods.  Native Americans who inhabited these woods well before the arrival of people from our cultures, have a story that explains the origins of these flowers.  Can’t you imagine the telling of this myth around a campfire long ago—or even today around your cabin Sunday-night supper fire?    Imagine that scene as you read on!

The story is a late winter story.  An unusual May blizzard brought back snow and ice to the woods.  As the story goes, the weather brought with it a disease that struck the Abnaki village sitting on the edge of a still-frozen lake.  Isn’t it interesting that this myth has a pandemic in it.  We can relate!  Sadly, many people in the village were dying of this disease.  But word that a neighboring village had an herbal cure for it reached the affected-village elders.  A decision was made that, once the blizzard ended, a delegation would cross the lake and collect this herbal cure.

Among the village families was a small group of four, or perhaps five, two parents and the children.  One young girl was particularly anguished about the disease as her favorite brother had come down with it.  As night fell over the village, she determined that she would cross the frozen lake, despite the blizzard, and would collect the cure for her brother and the village that very night.  When her family was fast asleep, she slipped into her deer-skin moccasins and crept out of the longhouse.  

The walk across the frozen lake, with winds howling and ice groaning, was fearsome.  But the girl bent her head against the storm and continued on.  After a harrowing walk, she fell into the arms of the good people in the neighboring village.  They promised to provide her with ample amounts of the herbal cure, after she ate some warm food and slept for the rest of the night.

You can guess what she chose to do instead.  She warmed up on the good food she was offered, packed up the herbs in her traveling pouch, and pretended to go to sleep along with the rest of the village.  But once again, she did not stay asleep.  Fearing for the life of her brother and others in her own village, she crept back out into the raging blizzard.  

This time, the storm was even worse.  She had to push directly into the gale.  The snow felt like needles as it was pressed into her face by the wind.  The snow was deeper and the going much slower.  

Finally after an exhausting effort, she saw her own village ahead.  Nearly unable to finish the journey, she fell into a snow drift, losing her moccasins in the cold drifts.  You’re right if you imagined that she crawled the last few yards of her journey.  Her feet, bleeding from being barefoot in the icy snow, were almost frozen.  However she did make it back to her own family where, after handing the herbs to her parents, she curled into her sleeping mat in relief.

Her brother did survive.  So did the rest of the village.  And when the spring sun returned to melt off the remnants of the winter, the girl went back to the spot where she had lost her moccasins.  Do you know?  As she searched, she noticed a path of lady slippers.  For every drop of blood from her bare feet during her brave adventure, a beautiful orchid grew.  A ladyslipper.  Many of them.  

And that is why, in the woods of the northeast, we find paths of lady slippers each spring to remind us of the sacrifices that must be made in order to make right things happen.

President John F. Kennedy, in his quote about the reason for our country’s investment in space travel, makes the point that we choose to do hard things , things that require our urgent attention and imagination, because they need to be done in order to make our country better for all.  The young Native girl chose a nearly impossible task because it had to be done.  Too much was at stake if she did not choose the difficult path.

Today, each of us faces the chance to act decisively and bravely as the Black Lives Matter movement opens paths we can choose to follow that will make everyone’s lives and our country’s life fairer, more equitable, more full of important values we all can share.  We choose to say “Black Lives Matter” because for far too long, the lives of our black citizens have not mattered enough for us to guarantee these goals.  There have been chances offered up earlier in our history, and while some changes have occurred, it is not yet enough.  Work must continue with fierce dedication to see the changes realized, just as the Native girl fiercely dedicated herself to saving her village.  

Imagine the next images taken from the next groups of astronauts, or the next photos that Yann Arthus-Bertrand takes from above our countries.  Could they be of a healthier planet on every level: environmentally, for all people, for our cities and towns and the country side.  

Each of us can help make that the case.  It is time to do it!  Together.

Sing: “Lift Every Voice and Sing”,  Black National Anthem

Lift ev’ry voice and sing,

Till earth and heaven ring.

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;

Let our rejoicing rise,

High as the list’ning skies

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.

Sing a song full of the hoope that the present has brought us;

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

Let us march on ‘til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,

Bitter the chastening rod,

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;

Yet with a steady beat, 

Have not our weary feet, 

Come to the place for which our fathers’ sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,

Out from the gloomy past,

Here now we stand at last,

Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.


Last Words:

“You cannot take your freedoms for granted.  Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms…you need to be preparing yourself to add your voice to our national conversation.  You need to prepare yourself to be informed and engaged as a citizen to serve and to lead, to stand up for our proud American values and to honor them in your daily lives.”            -Michelle Obama



Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen. Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen.



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