As a child, Sarah Orne Jewett accompanied her father when he made rounds as a country doctor. It acquainted her with the sights, sounds and culture of her native Maine, and gave her a unique understanding of its people — an understanding that shines through in her writing.
Although Jewett never considered herself religious, she was attracted to spirituality and joined the Episcopal church in 1871 at the age of 22.
For today’s inspiration, we’re looking at a poem that speaks to Jewett’s belief that church isn’t the only place one can experience God on a Sunday morning. It’s a piece titled, “At Home From Church.”
AT HOME FROM CHURCH
By Sarah Orne Jewett
The lilacs lift in generous bloom
Their plumes of dear old-fashioned flowers;
Their fragrance fills the still old house
Where left alone I count the hours.
High in the apple-trees the bees
Are humming, busy in the sun,—
An idle robin cries for rain
But once or twice and then is done.
The Sunday-morning quiet holds
In heavy slumber all the street,
While from the church, just out of sight
Behind the elms, comes slow and sweet
The organ’s drone, the voices faint
That sing the quaint long-meter hymn—
I somehow feel as if shut out
From some mysterious temple, dim
And beautiful with blue and red
And golden lights from windows high,
Where angels in the shadows stand
And earth seems very near the sky.
The day-dream fades—and so I try
Again to catch the tune that brings
No thought of temple nor of priest,
But only of a voice that sings.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See Jewett: Novels and Stories, edited by Michael Bell.
More spiritual nuggets for today …
Today is the birthday of the equipment manufacturer, John Deere, in 1804.
Born in Rutland, Vermont, Deere’s father left for England when he was four and disappeared, leaving his wife to raise their son on her own. He started work as a blacksmith’s apprentice at the age of 17 and went on to become one of the nineteenth century’s greatest manufacturers of agricultural equipment.
In addition to his business pursuits, Deere was active in social and political causes for most of his life. Most notably, he was a passionate abolitionist and personally broke up pro-slavery meetings by:
“… yelling, hooting, and bellowing, in a manner that would disgrace the lowest brothel in existence.”
Even though Deere was a member of the Congregationalist church, it’s believed that he played a key role in financing the African-Methodist Episcopal Church in his adopted hometown of Moline, Illinois. He later became the second mayor of Moline, and during his tenure created the city’s first Board of Health, allocated funds for the expansion of the local cemetery, and advocated for the development of street cars for public transportation.
And on this day in 1845, the Portland Vase was vandalized and nearly destroyed at the British Museum in London.
The Portland Vase is an extremely rare, two-handled glass amphora that dates to around 25 A.D. It’s the world’s most famous piece of Roman cameo glass and probably contained the cremated remains of a high-ranking official.
One of the most interesting characteristics of the Portland Vase is that it features cameo-reliefs depicting the marriage of the sea-gods Peleus and Thetis, Cupid carrying a nuptial torch and other scenes from Greek history and religious mythology.
The vase has a complicated history, but it’s been held in the British Museum since 1810. On the afternoon of February 7, 1845, a Trinity College student who had been on a week-long drinking spree threw a stone sculpture at the vase for no apparent reason — shattering the vase into 80 pieces. But due to a legal technicality he wasn’t charged with damaging the item itself. Instead, he was ordered to pay a fine of just 3 pounds for destroying the glass case that contained it.
Fortunately, historical restoration specialists were able to put the vase back together and it’s currently on display at the British Museum.
Finally, today’s happy thought comes to us from the Dalai Lama:
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac.
For additional reading, see Jewett: Novels and Stories, edited by Michael Bell. There’s a link above.
Thanks for listening. Be kind, take good care and I’ll see you tomorrow.