Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hunger and Feeding

"He said to him the third time 
'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' and he said to him,
'Lord, you know everything; You know that I love you.'
Jesus said to him, 'Feed my sheep.'"

                                                                                               John 21:17

They looked hungry outside the window, all of them:  hickories, maples, and oaks.  They stood in my back yard against the winter field in the gray time when gray is what I opened my eyes to, and what I looked out at, and what filled me in the moments leafing out.  Their tangled emaciation of branches clicked against one another like old bones in cold breezes.  With my four year old will I was determined to feed the winter trees out back with sleeves of saltine crackers I would sneak from the often bare pantry and conceal in my coat or scarf or hat.  Tugging on my rubber boots before crossing the threshold of the side garage door on a daring mission through the deep snow; stepping wobbly into old boot prints as I went along, tracing the imprints of a broken calligraphy from yesterday's play like some secret code scrawled out across the frozen paleness of the lawn. 

Kneeling in my puffed up snow pants at the base of old trunks I would slip off my mittens and rub the crackers between my hands until they were a salty dust I spread around the base of as many trees as there were crackers for.  The feel of the prickly crushing reminding me of bees and the buzzing sound left my lips like little frosty hives into the stillness of the air.  A sawing song as I wound round and round the bases of trees.

While my hands grew numb I would finish the secret feeding until the next time I was able to return, unnoticed as a special op.  I tended to these feeding operations until I got caught with a sleeve of crackers zipped up in my coat.  I then resorted to absconding with boxes of instant Jell-O, spreading a cherry flavored dust around the trees leaving, what looked like to me then, bright ruby necklaces, but to others, sacrificial, blood offering rings put there by some deranged cult lurking in the neighborhood.   

I would not give up on the hunger wood and took to sneaking food to them like Dickens' Pip to the old convict hiding in the marsh.  I often got sent to my room as punishment or whacked up side the head with a dish cloth for dumping perfectly good food into the yard:  but I was certain as only a child can discern the truth and felt a kinship with the hungry trees laying in bed, late, listening to their murmurings in the westerly wind that slid off the back field at night like so many arguments tumbling down the banks of sleep. 

Since that young and intense inclination to feed the hungry I continually have to learn back to it. To notice hunger in all its obvious and subtle disguises that can slip through my attention like the cracker dust through my small hands so long ago. To set out once again with a determination to do something about it in the moments we are given. One small act at a time and against all odds, however it presents itself 

“Do you love me? Do you love me?  Feed my sheep.”  
The Lord’s voice through stark branches within. 

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