The darksome burn, horseback brown, His rollrock highroad roaring down, In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam Flutes and low to the lake falls home.
A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth Turns and twindles over the broth Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning, It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.
Degged with dew, dappled with dew, Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through, Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern, And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.
What would the world be, once bereft Of wet and wildness? Let them be left, O let them be left, wildness and wet; Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet. ~Gerard Manley Hopkins “Inversnaid”
There is despair in the wilderness of untamed hearts. Such wildness lies just beneath the surface; it rounds and rounds, almost out of reach. How are we spared drowning in its pitchblack pool? How can we thrill to the beauty rather than be sucked into the darkness?
He came not to destroy the world’s wildness, but to pull us, gasping, from its unforgiving clutches as we sink in deep.
As weeds surviving in the wilderness, we must grow, flourish, and witness to a wild world bereft.
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow; Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued Elations when the forest blooms; gusty Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights; All pleasures and all pains, remembering The bough of summer and the winter branch.
But in contentment I still feel The need of some imperishable bliss. ~Wallace Stevens from “Sunday Morning”
Earthly contentment~ whether a full stomach or adequate bank account or a covering of snow~ these don’t last.
May I not settle into comfort, but seek to fill my continual need with what will never perish, even as the latest snow melts and the late afternoon light fades.
Rest assured, simply knowing there comes imperishable bliss someday, I too am transformed.
First day of February, and in the far corner of the yard the Adirondack chair, blown over by the wind at Christmas, is still on its back, the snow too deep for me to traipse out and right it, the ice too sheer to risk slamming these old bones to the ground.
In April I will walk out across the warming grass, and right the chair as if there had never been anything to stop me in the first place, listening for the buzz of hummingbirds which reminds me of how fast things are capable of moving. ~John Stanizzi “Ascension”
It has been a wintry February here with more days with snow on the ground than not. There has been constant challenge of finding safe footing when surfaces are snow and ice-covered; the local orthopedists have been busy putting together broken bones and dislocated joints from too many unscheduled landings.
Just when it seems winter will never be done with us, here come hints of transformation: bulbs cracking the soil, koi in the fish pond moving about beneath the ice, shoots shooting, crocus opening. Winter is not forever, February will wrap up its short stay on the calendar and we move forward as if we never had to worry about breaking a bone while traipsing about out in the yard.
All who have fallen are righted again. All is forgotten. All is forgiven. All is well.
When, in the cavern darkness, the child first opened his mouth (even before his eyes widened to see the supple world his lungs had breathed into being), could he have known that breathing trumps seeing? Did he love the way air sighs as it brushes in and out through flesh to sustain the tiny heart’s iambic beating, tramping the crossroads of the brain like donkey tracks, the blood dazzling and invisible, the corpuscles skittering to the earlobes and toenails? Did he have any idea it would take all his breath to speak in stories that would change the world? ~Luci Shaw “Breath”
Breath created the world by forming the Words that tell the stories that change everything and us.
…Then how his muffled armies move in all night And we wake and every road is blockaded Every hill taken and every farm occupied And the white glare of his tents is on the ceiling. And all that dull blue day and on into the gloaming We have to watch more coming.
Then everything in the rubbish-heaped world Is a bridesmaid at her miracle. Dunghills and crumbly dark old barns are bowed in the chapel of her sparkle. The gruesome boggy cellars of the wood Are a wedding of lace Now taking place. ~Ted Hughes from “Snow and Snow”
I wish one could press snowflakes in a book like flowers. ~James Schuyler from “February 13, 1975”
It’s true that three snow days in a row is unprecedented in our part of the world. Being snowbound by driveway-blocking drifts has its advantages until it isn’t fun any longer and means even more work to be done both on and off the farm, especially for a physician stranded from her closed clinic.
I’ve been doing my best taking care of our clinic’s patients via messaging, text and other media, but there is a limit to my virtual reach: I can’t palpate a tender belly, or feel swollen lymph nodes or listen to someone’s palpitations, though it is a little easier to discern despair, anticipate anxiety and work out someone’s worries from afar.
But I do have a view of the wedding lace of our woods and the sparkling chapels made of our tired old barns and buildings on the farm. I’m reminded that even I can be dressed up with a covering as white as snow. So lovely to look at, if only to be preserved for the long summer days that lie ahead — a wilting snowflake pressed into a book like a flower remembered, its fragrance still attached.
Birds afloat in air’s current, sacred breath? No, not breath of God, it seems, but God the air enveloping the whole globe of being. It’s we who breathe, in, out, in, in the sacred, leaves astir, our wings rising, ruffled — but only the saints take flight. We cower in cliff-crevice or edge out gingerly on branches close to the nest. The wind marks the passage of holy ones riding that ocean of air. Slowly their wake reaches us, rocks us. But storms or still, numb or poised in attention, we inhale, exhale, inhale, encompassed, encompassed. ~Denise Levertov “In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being“
God reminds us when we are at our most anxious and needy: He cares for the birds and feeds them, lifts their wings in the wind and their feathered down keeps them warm. He gives them air to ride upon and air to breathe.
If them, then He cherishes us as well.
We too breathe in, breathe out, ruffled and fluffed, surrounded by the air we need and the air that lifts us. Lacking down, it is His breath keeping us warm.