photo of Watson Lakes in the North Cascades by Benjamin Janicki
The fire in leaf and grass so green it seems each summer the last summer.
The wind blowing, the leaves shivering in the sun, each day the last day.
A red salamander so cold and so easy to catch, dreamily
moves his delicate feet and long tail. I hold my hand open for him to go.
Each minute the last minute. ~Denise Levertov
To think that this meaningless thing was ever a rose, Scentless, colourless, this! Will it ever be thus (who knows?) Thus with our bliss, If we wait till the close?
Though we care not to wait for the end, there comes the end Sooner, later, at last, Which nothing can mar, nothing mend: An end locked fast, Bent we cannot re-bend. ~Christina Rossetti “Summer is Ended”
As now school buses drone past the farm,
no longer bearing our children away to greater knowledge,
as they each have caught rides far beyond my reach.
I recall each first day of school feels like a day of mourning
each “last” of summer a loss, each ending so bent
I find no strength to bend it back carefree,
and I must learn, once more, with each “last”,
how fleeting the bliss of this life.
The world slipped bright over the glassy round of his eyeballs like images sparked in a crystal sphere. Flowers were suns and fiery spots of sky strewn throughout the woodland. Birds flickered like skipped stones across the cast inverted pond of heaven. His breath raked over his teeth, going in ice, coming out fire. ~Ray Bradbury from Dandelion Wine
I became aware of the world’s tenderness,
the profound beneficence of all that surrounded me,
the blissful bond between me and all of creation,
and I realized that the joy I sought …
breathed around me everywhere…
in the metallic yet tender drone of the wind,
in the autumn clouds bloated with rain.
I realized that the world does not represent a struggle at all…
a predaceous sequence of chance events,
but shimmering bliss,
a gift bestowed on us and unappreciated. ~Vladimir Nabokov from his story “Beneficence”
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
In Summer, in a burst of summertime Following falls and falls of rain, When the air was sweet-and-sour of the flown fineflower of Those goldnails and their gaylinks that hang along a lime;
~Gerard Manley Hopkins from “Cheery Beggar”
Sweet and sour extends far beyond a Chinese menu; it is the daily air I breathe. Dichotomy is so much of my life and times, more distinct than the bittersweet of simple pleasures laced with twinges and tears.
I am but a cheery beggar in this world, desiring to hang tight to the overwhelming sweetness of each glorious moment — the startling sunrise, the lush green and golden blooms following spring showers, the warm hug of a compassionate word, the house filled with love and laughter. But as beggars aren’t choosers, I can’t only have sweet alone; I must endure the sour that comes as part of the package — the deepening dark of a sleepless night, the muddy muck of endless rain, the sting of a biting critique, the loneliness of an home emptying and much too quiet.
So I slog through sour to revel some day, even more so, in sweet. Months of manure-permeated air is overcome one miraculous morning by the unexpected and undeserved fragrance of apple blossoms, so sweet, so pure, so full of promise of the fruit to come. The manure makes the sweet sweeter.
And I breathe in deeply, content and grateful for a moment of grace and bliss, wanting to hold it in the depths of my lungs forever.