Linda Pastan is a wonderful American poet, now in her eighties, who writes often from her own experience. She has a set of verses for each of the year’s 12 months. These are her verses for the month of March:
When the Earl King came
to steal away the child
in Goethe’s poem, the father said
don’t be afraid,
it’s just the wind. . .
As if it weren’t the wind
that blows away the tender
fragments of this world—
leftover leaves in the corners
of the garden, a Lenten Rose
that thought it safe
to bloom so early.
Source: Poetry (October/November, 1999; Poetry Foundation)
We know about the wind, we who live on the northern tundra. March in Minnesota can bring its windy blizzards and blow away the tender fragments of our world. It’s March, and we’re still talking wind-chill. We are usually not afraid of the wind in March. If we fear the wind at all, it will be the twisting winds of late spring and summer. I was installed as the pastor in a new church on a June 14, and the tornado ripped right through the rooftops of nearby buildings.
Goethe’s poem, “Erlkönig,” referenced in the opening verse above, tells of the Earl King, a dark and menacing figure bent at stealing away the dancing spirit of children. In the poem the child’s father tries to still his son’s fears but ultimately fails to protect him because he too has had his spirit taken by the Earl King. It is a tragic story.
Hip deep in Lent, the Scriptures remind us that there are, of course, things more dreadful than the wind. Still, for Jesus’ disciples, the wind plays a frightening role in the storm on the Sea of Galilee or as Peter tries water-walking for the first time. St. Paul warns against being like children tossed to and fro by “every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). There is that wind blowing across the landscape of the church – a subtle wind, first perceived as almost a fresh breeze, but dangerous to the church. It’s a wind that calls us to sway and compromise the truth and beauty of our faith.
More threatening still is “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) who would steal us from the kingdom. We know he is nearby, and the demon spirits whom he sends. They would sap our souls of Lenten joy and leave behind a wilted Lenten rose. Not here, not now, not us. We are too close. From here, we can see the cross. We know this story’s end – ablaze with resurrection light and life. We sense another wind, the Spirit’s wind, a second wind and third, to breathe new life into us all.