I have made it to Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

I’ve stayed the last two nights at what used to be a dairy farm in New Hope. Beautiful old stone house, surrounded by perennial beds–strawflowers, yarrow, morning glories, fuchsias, begonias, all evocatively decaying in early fall. The weather’s been unseasonably warm. Yesterday I was able to amble the path that’s been mown around the perimeter of the back field.

The grasses, the milkweed, goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, the afternoon light–everything makes me want to cry. I grew up in New Hampshire, a few states north obviously, but the East Coast landscape is deep, deep and dear to my heart. I feel in one way that I never left. In some ways I wish I never left.

My bum leg (trip and fall in NYC) is healing by the day. The cane I bought at Duane Reade (Walmart) fell apart after three days. I patched it up and then it died yesterday while I was touring Fonthill Castle.

Almost at that exact moment, however, I found I could more or less walk unaided and in a couple of more days may even be able to climb stairs like a normal person, instead of both feet on one step, inching up one at a time.

I’m overwhelmed by the healing properties of the human body and the adaptability of the human spirit.

I’ve had a different kind of trip than I would have, and that’s been instructive and beautiful. On the other hand, the whole incident has made me newly aware of my fragility. I begin to see that old people, mostly overlooked by the world, play some mysterious role in holding the tension of the world.

When you’re young, you look at older people and sort of think, Well, they’ve had their lives and they don’t really care about or mind dying. It’s not quite that callous but on some level, that’s kind of the thought. The young are not equipped to dwell, and almost shouldn’t be dwelling, on death.

But if you’re lucky enough to make it this far, a whole new vista opens up. Another vantage point.

One main thing I see is the vitality of prayer. The years of prayer–however faltering, distracted, and lackluster; whatever form our “prayer” may take–have shaped and formed us. It’s one main thing we can continue doing, no matter how diminished we may become.

This lanscape–the colors, the bird calls, the cool, dew-laden air–all make me think of my mother. Think of her and long for her.

Jesus had it so right in giving us Mary.

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

10 Replies to “SORROW’S SPRINGS”

  1. Mary R. Blanton says: Reply

    One of my my favorite poems of Hopkins. You have given voice to so many of us as we get older and see the connectedness of all things and all times/stages in our lives. Was just walking along the Shenandoah River-on a golden afternoon in prayer about the “last things as they come closer and hoping I may embrace “the art of dying” and live my last years more fully. Thank you, and hope you are soon taking steps two at a time.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh beautiful, Mary–“last things as they come closer and hoping I may embrace “the art of dying”…autumn does bring up these kinds of thoughts!…I am walking better by the day. Blessed Memorial of St. Therese of Lisieux to you…

  2. Robert T Rueger says: Reply

    Gerard Manly Hopkins – The Best!
    Still in Bucks County, PA? Our former home, wife Stella & I, only left because of wife’s med. condition, relocated to FL @ recommendation of Dr. If you can visit Pearl Buck home / house near New Hope, PA. Worth your time.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh thank you–the Pearl Buck House looked great and I did take note of it, but visited the Moravian tile works and Fonthill instead–now a bit north in Upper Black Eddy, then headed to upstate New York–next time! Blessings on your life in Florida–

  3. You are amazing Heather and touch so many chords with me. I live very close to New Hope and am an avid follower of yours. We are close in age and so your topics are often aligned with my daily ruminations. So, for example, I am currently facing my first significant health issue. With that in mind, your reflection on your fall and the vulnerable feelings these types of events bring is so real. Aging (and how to keep upbeat and open while we do) is another recurring topic for me. And your Mother…..just lost mine at the end of last year and her birthday was at the end of September …many reminders of her especially this time of year. Anyway I share so many of your experiences on the journey (although don’t we all when it comes down to it?) or I guess its that our timelines are closely aligned! Anyway, thanks for putting voice to so many things I could never adequately express. God bless you and keep you safe on your travels….watch your step!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Maureen, just beautiful, your comment. What is it about autumn, death, mothers…our hearts catch in our throats…New Hope and environs were beyond lovely. One of my airbnbs had lots of arts books about the Bucks Cy Impressionists…so many paintings of houses along the river, in various seasons, especially fall. I had dinner with friends at the Riegelsville Inn one night, outside Upper Black Eddy (I think no longer Bucks Cy but also lovely) with a bridge spanning the Delaware River directly opposite…It’s always a gift to hear from a reader I may not have previously known about–and I feel strongly the blessing I receive from each place, and its people, that I visit. Walking helps to solidify the feeling–I am healing (slowly) by the day and big-time watching my step! Prayers to you and wishing you every blessings in your journey through October–

  4. Mary Beth Paul says: Reply

    Dear Heather, first of all, hope you encountered a rose or two or more today…. I selected the carved little wooden statue of St. Therese to place on my kitchen window with a candle. To think that I first encountered you via “Shirt of Flame” so many years ago already! I believe that St. Therese has continued her work here on earth via such avenues as your writing and walking ministries as well as so much more.
    I so feel your pain with your fall while traveling. Done that a few times myself and it is such a shock to the system. Nothing like Divine Intervention rewriting this last leg of your journey! I am so relieved to hear that you are healing well.
    These days, opening your blog is sort of like wondering “what did she bring me today?” I love being surprised and amazed and then called to meditate on what I read here, always….

    Sending love, and prayers, and a big hug…. XXOO

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      1 Oh Mary Ann, so lovely to hear from you! And yes, we are forever connected by St. Therese of Lisieux. Her insight and wisdom become ever more precious to me as the years pass…and these falls, as you say, ARE a shock to the system. I am still processing and probably will be long after I return home. I’m in Woodstock NY for my last couple of days–just watched the sun rise…may it shed its light on you and your pilgrimage in Columbus! Sending love, prayers and big hug back–xxx

      1. Hi Heather, Enjoy your time in Woodstock. The area is so pretty in the fall. Lots of cute shops to visit, too.

        1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

          Thanks, Carol, and yes, I saw some of downtown yesterday–lovely!


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