Partly Free [Poem by Mom]

Winter is a time of waiting. True, activity abounds in places as varied as ski hills and bird feeders. But the grand cycle of life is largely on pause, or at least pursuing quieter goals, waiting for spring’s exuberance.

SnowyBranch Photo Credit: Greying_Geezer via Compfight cc

Waiting isn’t always easy. It creates unresolved tension between the present and the future. Waiting draws our eye incessantly to the future with its promise of fulfilled hope, yet the very distance of the future means that we return our gaze to the present to find sights that reinforce our hope.

Thankfully, when we wait on God, he provides both a promise worth waiting for and daily mercies to renew our spirits while we wait.

Mom explores thoughts such as these in “Partly Free,” the poem she’s sharing this month. Her words remind me of winters at my childhood home, which is where she wrote this poem years ago. Here is an aerial view of that home, surrounded by lakes and the northern bush (Canadian for “woods”). We lived on the little peninsula right in the middle of the photo:

Mom’s poem also reminds me of some words of Paul, which I’ll share as a final prelude to Mom’s poem:

You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

…We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:15-16, 23-25)

Have we been adopted, or have we not? Truly, we are “partly penned in, partly free.”


Thanks be to God for peaceful northern woods,
That this home is mine,
That all my cares of life and earthly goods
Can be cathedralled in white birch and pine.

For placid lakes that beckon in the morn
With loon’s wailing words,
Still as a waiting church while day is born,
Prayerfully listening to the waking birds.

For winter walks when morning holds its breath,
At God’s extravagance,
Snowfalls cocoon in a world as still as death,
Woodpeckers telegraph my hushed advance.

For skies that lift me from my close-walled house,
From a world too small,
For ancient pines that move me with their boughs,
Bent but unconquered by the wintry squall.

Thanks be to God for His hand-print all around,
In a world that waits;
Nature, as well as my body, still is bound,
Saved by the hope of redemption by His grace.

How I would miss the glimpses of His face
Were this kept from me,
Though I suspect, in any time and place,
I would feel partly penned in, partly free.

—Elaine Gingrich, May-June 1994

For the rest of the poems in this monthly series, see here.

And if you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!

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7 thoughts on “Partly Free [Poem by Mom]”

  1. Elaine (and Dwight),
    What a delightful poem, capturing so well the beauty, power, and voice of nature and how it draws us inexorably to the Creator. I also loved the sense of deep belonging and sheer delight we so often experience in this beautiful, God-soaked world.
    Your final couplet spoke so powerfully in that context, and I can’t seem to place it, but it seemed an echo from another famous line /couplet somewhere. It’s driving me crazy! But well done. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Brandon! How ironic that such a peaceful poem should end up driving you crazy. 🙂 Now you have me wondering what lines I may have echoed. I am not aware of any, but just the suggestion of echo I take as a compliment, since one of a poet’s longings is for her lines to be memorable, quotable, lingering in the consciousness long after the read. Please let me know if you find lines somewhere expressing a similar tension/peace.

  2. Wow! I love this one Elaine. It takes me back to my last romp in the bush close to where I live, with woodpeckers, pine, and for me a fox and deer. In nature, all that I seem to care about disappears and God comes near. I am “partly free.” Thanks again!

    1. Thanks Yolanda, Enjoy, since the longest life is not long enough to savour all the beauty. Thank God for His grace in a sin-cursed earth that allows us to be “partly free.” 🙂 Do you have a nature poem to send me?

  3. This poem brought me to tears, its serenity perfectly expressing the
    beauty of nature and the beauty of trust. “Like a child quieted is my soul”! I live in a deep-south suburb, with barking dogs, noisy garbage trucks and school busses, a nearby freeway, and not a snowflake in sight, ever — but this morning I lived in a pine woods and heard the cry of the loon!! Thank you!!

    1. What a sweet gift to me to be able to share with you the serenity of a northern winter and the incomparable wildness of the loon. I pray God sends you some bird, some blossom, a gentle spring rain that muffles city sounds, or a moonlit walk in some less light-polluted place to reflect His quietness to you in your own space. The wonder of words is that we can carry them with us always in our memory–just as we do with God’s own promises. 🙂 Thanks for your note!!

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