Some of us . . . are darkness-lovers. We do not dislike the early and late daylight of June, but we cherish the gradually increasing dark of November, which we wrap around ourselves in the prosperous warmth of woodstove, oil, electric blanket, storm window, and insulation.
We are partly tuber, partly bear. Inside our warmth we fold ourselves in the dark and its cold – around us, outside us, safely away from us; we tuck ourselves up in the long sleep and comfort of cold’s opposite, warming ourselves by thought of the cold, lighting ourselves by darkness’s idea. ~Donald Hall from “Season at Eagle Pond”
loving the dark as much as light.
Drawn without alarm clock
away from my pillow,
I awake early
covered in inky blackness
of unlit January mornings.
An uncharted day
so raw with ripening,
belongs to no one else
until the light comes
to force me forth.
Only from darkness do I
sprout so boldly.
Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour. ~ John Boswell
As temperatures rose 40 degrees from a snowy/icy first half of January to a balmy third week, it feels like our winter isn’t going to linger long after all. As much as my frozen fingers appreciate the reprieve while during barn chores, I am wistful that winter may have already decided to pack up and move on for another year. It seems its departure was a bit hurried from the scattered reminders left behind — a bejeweled owl feather here, a molding leaf there, crusts of melting ice everywhere.
We need a little more of this season of bare bones and stark landscapes, of time for remembrance and restoration. I won’t bid goodbye yet, hoping it may yet linger a while longer.
A narrow pond would form in the orchard, water clear as air covering grass and black leaves and fallen branches, all around it black leaves and drenched grass and fallen branches, and on it, slight as an image in an eye, sky, clouds, trees, our hovering faces and our cold hands. ~Marilynne Robinson from Housekeeping
My hands are torn by baling twine, not nails, and my side is pierced by my ulcer, not a lance. ~Hayden Carruth from “Emergency Haying”
Miles of baling twine encircle
tons of hay in our barn,
twice daily cut loose,
freed of grasses
and hung up to reuse again
in myriad ways:
~~tighten a sagging fence
latch a swinging gate
tie shut a gaping door
replace a broken handle
hang a water bucket
suspend a sagging overalls
fix a broken halter
entertain a bored barn cat
snug a horse blanket belt~~
It is the duct tape of the barn
whenever duct tape won’t work;
a fix-all handy in every farmer’s pocket
by a morning fog’s weeping.
Tell me, where is the road I can call my own, That I left, that I lost, So long ago? All these years I have wandered, Oh, when will I know There’s a way, there’s a road That will lead me home?
After wind, after rain, When the dark is done. As I wake from a dream In the gold of day, Through the air there’s a calling From far away, There’s a voice I can hear That will lead me home.
Rise up, follow me, Come away, is the call, With the love in your heart As the only song; There is no such beauty As where you belong: Rise up, follow me, I will lead you home.
~Stephen Paulus “The Road Home”
We want to remember,
and be remembered.
We want to welcome,
and be welcomed.
We want to return,
for whatever we had done.
We seek the comfort of
where we belong.
He brings us home from wandering.
Full of longing for belonging,
homeless no longer,
now homeful and hopeful.
Silence and darkness grow apace, broken only by the crack of a hunter’s gun in the woods. Songbirds abandon us so gradually that, until the day when we hear no birdsong at all but the scolding of the jay, we haven’t fully realized that we are bereft — as after a death. Even the sun has gone off somewhere…
Now we all come in, having put the garden to bed, and we wait for winter to pull a chilly sheet over its head. ~Jane Kenyon from “Good-by and Keep Cold”
Every day now we hear hunters firing in the woods and the wetlands around our farm, most likely aiming for the few ducks that have stayed in the marshes through the winter, or possibly a Canadian goose or a deer to bring home for the freezer. The usual day-long serenade of birdsong is replaced by shotguns popping, hawks and eagle screams and chittering from the treetops, the occasional dog barking, with the bluejays and squirrels arguing over the last of the filbert nuts.
In the clear cold evenings, when coyotes aren’t howling in the moonlight, the owls hoot to each other across the fields from one patch of woods to another, their gentle resonant conversation echoing back and forth. The horses confined to their stalls in the barns snort and blow as they bury their noses in flakes of summer-bound hay.
But there are no longer birdsong arias; I’m left bereft of their blending musical tapestry that wakes me at 4 AM in the spring.
And no peeper orchestra tuning up in the swamps in the evenings, rising and falling on the breeze.
It is too quiet, a time of bereavement. The chilly silence of the darkened days, interrupted by gunshot percussion, is like a baton raised in anticipation after rapping the podium to bring us all to attention. I wait and listen for the downbeat — the return of birds and frogs tuning their throats, preparing their symphony.
The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year.
It is that we should have a new soul. – G.K. Chesterton
We have had considerable winter already in the northwest with a white Christmas that soon melted away and then snowfall again on New Year’s Eve. It has been beautiful – a welcome change from our typical winter rain and mud-fest. It is natural to desire an overnight transformation of the old and dirty to something new and beautiful: an all clean pristine white cottony sheet covering thrown over everything making it look completely different than before.
Similarly, at the tick of the clock past midnight on New Years’ Eve, we hope for just such an inner transformation as well, a fresh start, a leaving behind of the not-so-good from the past and moving ahead to the surely-it’ll-be-better in the future.
But it usually doesn’t stick, despite a flurry of good intentions and a skiff of newness plopped down here and there. Even if we find ourselves in the midst of blizzard conditions, unable to see six inches ahead and immobilized by the furious storms of life, that accumulation eventually will melt, leaving behind even more mud and raw mess.
It isn’t how flawless, how clean, or how new this year will be, but rather how to ensure our soul transformation stays whole and pure, unmelting from within, even when the heat is turned up and the sweat drips. This is not about a covering thrown over the old and dirty but a full blown overhaul in order to never to be the same mess again.
I lift my eyes to the hills where the snow stays year round: sometimes more, with a few hundred new inches over several weeks, or sometimes less, on the hottest days of summer. Our new souls this new year must be built of that same resiliency, withstanding what each day may bring, cold or hot.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…transformation that sticks within my soul.
Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow. Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
~James Nicholson (hymn chorus)
Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. ~Mary Oliver
All days are sacred days to wake New gladness in the sunny air. Only a night from old to new; Only a sleep from night to morn. The new is but the old come true; Each sunrise sees a new year born. ~Helen Hunt Jackson from “New Year’s Morning”
The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul. – G.K. Chesterton
To live is so startling, it leaves little room for other occupations. ~Emily Dickinson
…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable —if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things. … And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4: 8 -9