Wednesday, January 3, 2018

January 2018 Newsletter


Dear Friends,
         I never get tired of The Farm. The Farm, which has been in Marianne’s family for over a half century, is 260 acres of sandy fields, fragrant pines, and a chaotic mix of sweetgums, cedars, oaks, and dense, toothy briars. The old house where Marianne’s great-grandparents lived is still standing – more out of habit than structural integrity. The tin-topped gable and the crumbling brick chimney have parted ways. The heart-pine clapboards are warped and sagging. They line up like a mouthful of neglected teeth. The house is uninhabitable by anything other than spiders, mice, wasps, and snakes. A few memories cling to the rotting front porch like dusty cobwebs.
         A local farmer rents the open land to raise cattle. There are also a fair number of acres of long leaf pines neatly planted in brilliant green rows. But the majority of The Farm is surrendering to the slow creep of scrub oaks, fruitless vines, and the invasive and utterly useless privet hedge. If I were to drive you down Captola Road and point out The Farm, you would be underwhelmed. But like I said, I can’t get enough of the place. Every time I drive down the rutted farm road, thirty-five years of memories welcome me and ground me in familiarity, while the woods and their wildness keep the place lively and new.
         Each new year is kind of like returning to The Farm. There is much that will be the same as last year. But in the midst of the humdrum of it all, every minute, hour, day, week, and month hold the potential to surprise us with something delightful or disturbing. Like 2017, 2018 will do the same. This year, some aspect of our aging selves will wane a little more. Regardless of age, all of us will grow, become, and deepen in some way. Even the painful moments will invite us to recognize something holy about ourselves and about life itself. And inevitably, the creep of death, the ultimate wilderness, will touch each of our families with its terrible, life-altering beauty.
In his book Now and Then, writer and Presbyterian minister Frederick Buechner writes: “If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
May God be with all of you in this splendid New Year.
                                                               Grace and Peace,
                                                                        Allen