Summer Rain

summerrainDrip drip the trees for all the country round,
And richness rare distills from every bough;
The wind alone it is makes every sound,
Shaking down crystals on the leaves below.

For shame the sun will never show himself,
Who could not with his beams e’er melt me so;
My dripping locks—they would become an elf,
Who in a beaded coat does gayly go.

~Henry David Thoreau from “Summer Rain”

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How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!

How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!

Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from “Rain in Summer”

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Everything blooming bows down in the rain:
white irises, red peonies; and the poppies
with their black and secret centers
lie shattered on the lawn.
~Jane Kenyon from “Heavy Summer Rain”

Moody Dusk

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I’m out here in the dusk…

There is no one home but me—
and I’m not at home; I’m up here on the hill,
looking at the dark windows below.
Let them be dark…

…night has silenced
the last loud rupture of the calm.
~Jane Kenyon from “Frost Flowers”

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The Tears of Summer

cowmorning

The grasses in the field have toppled,
and in places it seems that a large, now
absent, animal must have passed the night.
The hay will right itself if the day
turns dry.
I miss you steadily, painfully
~Jane Kenyon from “Heavy Summer Rain”

The sun returns
and the tears will dry.

The impression left on my heart
still twinges with every beat.

Eventually, though trampled and toppled,
I right myself to face the rain again.

The truth is, I need it, can’t live without it.

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photo by Nate Gibson

photo by Nate Gibson

The Ravaged Field

Photo of Moore Oklahoma following May 20 earthquake taken by Steve Gooch for the Associated Press

Aerial photo of Moore Oklahoma following May 20 earthquake taken by Steve Gooch for the Associated Press

Yes, long shadows go out
from the bales; and yes, the soul
must part from the body:
what else could it do?

…These things happen … the soul’s bliss
and suffering are bound together
like the grasses …

The last, sweet exhalations
of timothy and vetch
go out with the song of the bird;
the ravaged field
grows wet with dew.
~Jane Kenyon from “Twilight: After Haying”

Celebration is a sign of life in the rubble, the bliss of those arising from an ash heap to walk and breathe again.  Heartache is the sight of death in the rubble, the suffering of those trapped and crushed by a roaring force too immense to imagine yet devastatingly real.

Bliss and suffering are bound together like the grasses; we are grasses torn from our roots, ravaged.

Tears flow as they must, wetting the stubble left behind like dew.  We weep in sorrow for those lost; we weep in joy for those spared.

What else can a soul do but weep at parting and weep at welcoming?

These things happen, oh yes, these awe-full awful things, they happen.

Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
~Psalm 103: 15

The Moment of Leaving

back of the pickup 1994

back of the pickup 1994 — only yesterday but another lifetime ago

And once, for no special reason,
I rode in the back of the pickup,leaning against the cab.
Everything familiar was receding fast…

Whatever I saw
I had already passed…
(This must be what life is like
at the moment of leaving it.)
~Jane Kenyon from “What It’s Like”

Moving forward, looking back at what is already passed.

Our children begin coming home today for their summer visits….

The Abyss

photo from the top of Mt. Baker by Josh Scholten

photo from the top of Mt. Baker by Josh Scholten

The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for.
~Vladimir Nabokov from Speak Memory

I think Nabokov had it wrong.  This is the abyss.
That's why babies howl at birth,
and why the dying so often reach
for something only they can apprehend.
At the end they don't want their hands
to be under the covers, and if you should put
your hand on theirs in a tentative gesture
of solidarity, they'll pull the hand free;
and you must honor that desire,
and let them pull it free.
~Jane Kenyon from "Reading Aloud to My Father"

We too often mistake this world, this existence,  as the only light there is,  a mere beam of illumination in the surrounding night of eternity, the only relief from overwhelming darkness.  If we stand looking up from the bottom, we might erroneously assume we are the source of the light, we are all there is.

Yet looking at this world from a different perspective, gazing down into the abyss from above, it is clear the light does not come from below –it is from beyond us.

The newborn and the dying know this.  They signal their transition into and out of this world with their hands.  An infant holds tightly to whatever their fist finds,  grasping and clinging so as not be lost to this darkness they have entered.  The dying instead loosen their grip on this world, reaching up and picking the air on their climb back to heaven.

We hold babies tightly so they won’t lose their way in the dark.  We loosen our grip on the dying to honor their reach out to the light that leads to something greater.

In the intervening years, we struggle in our blindness to climb out of the abyss to a vista of great beauty and grace.  Only then we can see, with great calm and serenity, where we are headed.