A Capital Morning on Virginia’s Eastern Shore by Alex Joyner

You tiptoe back towards religion, in my experience, cautiously and nervously and more than a little suspicious, quietly hoping that it wasn’t all smoke and nonsense, that there is some deep wriggle of genius and poetry and power and wild miracle in it, that it is a language you can use to speak about that for which we have no words.

—Brian Doyle, A Prayer for You & Yours


Those trees just there were purple a half-hour ago. The kind of mango purple that only appears on winter mornings when the sun’s light has to make its way through cold air with hints of frost on the ground below. Now the trees are gray again, awaiting another fiery burst of beauty.

It’s so like the Winter to allow only these brief glimpses of glory. Still I long for an undisciplined ramble amongst the glowing trees in that forest.

Across the street, the screens are hanging off Martha’s front porch like a clothesline of gray ghosts dancing in the wind. She’s well and truly gone now. The window to the upper left is full smashed allowing the squirrels and God-knows-what-else unfettered entry. The porch roof sags in the middle. The mottled shingles on the roof foretell a collapse to come. How quickly the house has become an Eastern Shore classic—all pretense of carrying on abandoned, all signs of human habitation reduced to echoes.

Things endure and they don’t. The Fullness is pleased to dwell in memory and in these passing vessels. Why take such delight in the endlessly decaying material world, this temporary flesh? Why invest a sense of the sacred in so frail a constitution, in confection?

It’s down to time again. We count in sequence when She has no numbers but one. And no matter the quantity of our moments they amount to nothing in Her endless light. How many days have passed since I last realized this? The tragedy is only mine because the time has not been lost in Her economy of Love.

I will resort to capitals much more because so much now seems Divine. Even the gold dawn Light on the peeling paint of Martha’s place. Count it all Grace and Genius, Poetry and Power and Wild Miracle. But count only as far as One.

Photo of old house with light shining over it
An Old House in Black and White by William Ross. CC license.

Alex Joyner
Alex Joyner is a writer and pastor on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a place he describes as “the edge of the world and the verge of heaven.” Alex is the editor of Heartlands (www.alexjoyner.com), an online magazine exploring rural life and ministry through literature, poetry, and essay.

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