A Vespers for these Times…Sunday, March 29, 2020

Last Sunday, Lorrie and I posted a Vespers- the BC weekly Community Meeting, based on the recommendation from a wonderful alumnae, Betsy, currently living in North Carolina.  We received a wonderful response from all of you! 

And then another long time BC woman, Nina coordinated a “Zoomspers”  with about 40 other BC women in attendance! Wonderful Again!  Although Lorrie is not quite ready to host a Zoomspers, we welcome you all to call, face time,  Zoom,  Hangout, or use some other video chat your friends and have a Vespers online!  Or if you prefer, find a quiet lovely space and have yourself your very own BC Vespers. Anything goes!  Thinking of all of you!

Sing “Jubilate”

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: This week, a long-time camp community member asked me to serve as a reference for her.  She is applying for a position at a school that has a final goal for students that they learn a Pedagogy of Joy.  I loved that phrase!  When students leave that school, they will have all the skills they need to find joy in the process of learning!  That is such a fine goal!  Over the rest of the week I thought to myself that these times require that each of us discover how to find joy, even in the tough times.  And that’s what we will think about today!

Sing: “For the Beauty of the Earth”

For the beauty of the earth,

For the glory of the skies.

For the love which from our birth,

Over and around us lies.

Mother Earth to thee we sing

This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour

Of the day and of the night.

Hill and vale and tree and flower

Sun and moon and stars of light.

Mother Earth to thee we sing

This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,

Brother, sister, parent, child.

Friends on earth and friends above,

For all gentle thoughts and mild.

Mother Earth to thee we sing,

This our hymn of grateful praise.


“When you do things from your soul you feel a river moving in you, a joy”. 

-Jalal ad-Din Rumi

“Sorrow prepares you for joy.  It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter.  It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place.  It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow.  Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.

-Jalal ad-Din Rumi

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”

 -Iris Murdoch

“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.”

-Emily Dickinson

“Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.”

Helen Keller

Sing:  excerpt from, “Morning has broken”

Morning has broken, like the first morning.

Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.

Praise for the singing, praise for the morning

Praise for the springing, fresh from the word.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning.

Born of the one light, Eden saw play.

Praise with elation, praise every morning.

Our re-creation of the new day.

The Story

It’s raining here at camp today.  It’s almost April, after all, the month when it’s supposed to rain.  It brings forth the flowers.  In fact, as I sit here writing, I can see buds forming on the lilac bushes outside the Farmhouse, buds that I am sure were not there yesterday.  I take joy in these signs of spring, whether or not I can be out in them for hours like we are at camp.

The weather made me think of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories, Bartholomew and the Oobleck I am sure many of you know it!  The main characters in the story are a grumpy old King, King Derwin of Didd, and young Bartholomew Cubbins, his court page.

King Derwin is grumpy about most things.  In the first few pages, we learn that he grumped about the rain, the sunshine, the fog, the snow, each of the four things that came down from HIS sky.  He seems quite unbearable, really.

And then one day, he orders young Bartholomew to make something new fall from the sky.  Of course, Bartholomew Cubbins had no way to do that himself, and having said as much to the King, he went off to bed to see what the King would do.  And old King Derwin of Didd spent the night pacing, evolving plans to find a strategy for making his wishes come to be.  For that is what some Kings think they have the right to do.

In the morning hours, King Derwin of Didd ordered Bartholomew to call up the royal magicians.  (If we were at camp, we would be acting out this story, of course, and perhaps the Mugwumps would shuffle in, in fine form as the magicians.)  Dr. Seuss writes a lovely chant that we can almost hear as we read:

Shuffle, duffle, muzzle, muff.

Fista, wista, mista-cuff.

We are men of groans and howls,

Mystic men who eat boiled owls.

Tell us what you wish, oh King. Our magic can do anything.

And so the King directed the magicians to make something new fall from the sky.  A very bad idea, as it turned out, and of course.

It took a few hours before the magicians could brew their brew and stew their stew.  But thereafter, much to Bartholomew Cubbin’s horror, small drops of greenish goo drifted down over the Kingdom.  And they only grew larger and more frequent.  Dr. Seuss’s clever illustrations show the reader that the oobleck gummed up the palace bell tower, the robins in their nests, the royal trumpeters trumpets, and, when the King’s Captain of the Guards decided to eat some of it, “his mouth glued tight shut with oobleck.  He tried to speak, but no words came out.  All the noble Captain of the Guards could do was blow a lot of little sticky greenish bubbles.”

The story goes on with descriptions of further disasters as farmers, animals, kids, their parents, everyone got stuck in old grumpy King Derwin of Didd’s wish.  Eventually, the story ends with a grand apology from the King as he, himself gets caught up with a great glob to the head.  That apology was the King’s first.  Can you imagine how much freer a King would feel once he learned that even Kings can fix mistakes by offering an apology?  Anyway, there’s a happy ending as the King’s apology magically dried up all the oobleck that had covered the Kingdom.  Dr. Seuss’s final image is that of the King and Bartholomew Cubbins ringing the palace bell in an oobleck-free world.  Dr. Seuss tells us that,

The King proclaimed a brand-new national holiday…

in honor of the four perfect things that come down from the sky.

The King now knew that these four old-fashioned things…

the rain, the sunshine, the fog and the snow….

were good enough for any king in all the world, especially for him,

old King Derwin of Didd.

It seems very likely that for each of us in these highly unusual and hopefully unique times, joy is to be found in the ordinary-ness of daily life.  The ordinary, of course, is often not that.  Look around yourself, whether you are in a house, an apartment or another space.  There is so much to take stock of—so much to admire—so much in which to take joy.  Sitting here in the Farmhouse living room, I note my old piano.  I can make it bring joy into this household (if I am careful with my playing!).  I note a stack of very interesting books that, once opened, will take me to new and remarkable places.  I am typing on a machine that can take me into your lives where we can each find strength and support.  Author Tasha Tudor once wrote a holiday book called Take Joy.  In these times, isn’t it up to us to find and take joy in things, ideas, images and people that bring us easily to Joy…yes, with a capital “J”.  Doing so will soften the hard moments we each will also feel.  But remember Rumi’s words from earlier—that sorrow will make room for great Joy.

Thinking of each of you today and for next week.

Sing: “Here comes the sun”

Here comes the sun….

Here comes the sun and, I say

It’s all right.

Little darlin’ it’s been a long cold lonely winter.

Little darlin’ it feels like years since you’ve been here.

Here comes the sun…

Here comes the sun, and I say

It’s all right.

Little darlin’…..the smiles returning to their faces.

Little darlin’….it feels like years since it’s been here.

Here comes the sun…

Here comes the sun, and I say

It’s all right.

Little darlin’..I feel the ice is slowly melting

Little darlin’…It feels like years since its been here.

Here comes the sun…

Here comes the sun, and I say

It’s all right.

George Harrison

Final thought:

In 2016, two of the world’s wisest people, the Dalai Lama and South African Bishop Desmond Tutu met for conversations about Joy.  There was a final product to their meeting, a wonderful book called The Book of Joy. For these two people, victims of violence and suffering on a scale that most of us fortunately will not experience, to find and write about Joy makes this book very special and helpful to us in these times.

There’s a chapter in the book entitled “Despair: The World is in Such Turmoil.”  In it Bishop Tutu makes the suggestion that hope is the strongest cure for despair, even though one must be courageous to hope in hard times.  Here are Bishop Tutu’s words:

 “To choose hope is to step firmly forward into the howling wind, baring one’s chest to the elements, knowing that, in time, the storm will pass.”

For the upcoming week and the weeks beyond, choose hope, everyone.  This storm will pass!  Revel in the delights in your life, whatever they may be, and by all means, don’t wish for Oobleck!




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