~William Shakespeare — Sonnet 73
with each passing season,
as my outer self fades and fails,
wrinkles and withersI am consumed wholly
by glowing embers of love
received and thereby shared;
no warmth compares
to such a grace freely given.
Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.
leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs–
leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.
~Rainer Maria Rilke “Sunset” (Trans. by Robert Bly) from The Soul is Here for Its Own Joy
We are born with one hand still grasping tight to the star-studded heaven from which we came, still dusty from creation. The other hand grabs hold of whatever it finds here on earth and won’t let go, whether the riches of relationship or the coldness of stone.
It can take decades, but our firm hold on heaven loosens so that we forget the dusty origins of our miraculous being. We forget Who made us and why.
We can’t decide, tangled up in the threads of life: dust of earth, stone heart? Or dust of stars, child of Heaven?
We are daily reminded by the Light which clothes us in new colors – early in the morning as it crests the eastern hills and late as it descends in the west. Heaven still reaches down once again to grasp our hand, making sure we know the way home.
To make myself understood and to diminish the distance between us, I called out:
“I am an evening cloud too.”
They stopped still, evidently taking a good look at me.
Then they stretched towards me their fine, transparent, rosy wings.
That is how evening clouds greet each other.
They had recognized me.
~Rainer Maria Rilke from Stories of God
From this hill, we can see for miles. At certain times of morning and evening, it can feel as if we are aloft, closer up to the clouds, seeing the terrain from their vantage point. There are the snow-covered peaks to the east, the craggy Canadian coastal range to the north, the stretch of river valley to the north west, the Salish Sea to the west and the forest to the south.
Surrounding us is the farmland and the good people who feed this community: the expanse of dairy land and its vast pastures, the corn fields, berry rows and potato mounds, acres of orchard espaliers and local farm-to-market and CSA growers.
The ever-moving, ever-changing immensity of the clouds covers us all. As those clouds touch, embrace, release, mold and transform, they show us how connection with others is done. As we county folk pass on the roads during an evening walk, as we are running late to town jobs, as we meet in the store or at church or community events, we too should touch and greet one another, nod and encourage, acknowledge the shared light that comes from beyond us that restores and transforms us.
Most of all, like the clouds, we are too often full to brimming, a shedding of shared tears at how easily this land can be taken away — whether remembering the sad history of people group domination and removal from their ancestral homes, or the ravages of hurricane or flood or volcano, the effects of drought and wildfire, of blight or sickness, or the over-regulation of government ensuring no farmer can afford to continue to do what they know best to preserve the land, the habitat, their animals and their crops.
We weep in recognition, like these clouds, to make ourselves understood and to diminish the distance between us.
I know this happiness
the looming presences –
great suffering, great fear –
into peripheral vision:
but ineluctable this shimmering
of wind in the blue leaves:
this flood of stillness
widening the lake of sky:
this need to dance,
this need to kneel:
~Denise Levertov “Of Being” from The Stream and the Sapphire
Last night the sky was dancing;
waves and sweeps and swoops of clouds feathering the horizon.
I am mere audience, not dancer,
too weak in the knees to do anything but kneel in witness,
knowing that fear and suffering lies beyond this hill
and how much I don’t understand of what has been
and what is to come.
I was happy the sky was dancing amid
Yes, I see you down there
looking up into my vastness.
What are you hoping
to find on my vacant face,
there within the margins
of telephone wires?
You should know I am only
bright blue now because of physics:
molecules break and scatter
my light from the sun
more than any other color.
You know my variations—
azure at noon, navy by midnight.
How often I find you
then on your patio, pajamaed
and distressed, head thrown
back so your eyes can pick apart
not the darker version of myself
but the carousel of stars.
To you I am merely background.
You barely hear my voice.
Remember I am most vibrant
when air breaks my light.
Do something with your brokenness.
~David Hernandez “Sincerely, The Sky”
I probably spend too much time looking up at the sky – waking early to see what colors are being painted across the horizon and rushing through chores to try to catch the last streaks of orange in the west.
Yet the vast and overwhelming vistas tape together the fragments left of my day; I have been sliced and diced into 15 minute segments, trying hard to be the glue for others who arrive shattered into pieces.
I am a broken witness as Someone choreographs the movement, the shapes, the colors and the light.
So much to be done with brokenness.
… if you ran, time ran. You yelled and screamed and raced and rolled and tumbled and all of a sudden the sun was gone and the whistle was blowing and you were on your long way home to supper. When you weren’t looking, the sun got around behind you! The only way to keep things slow was to watch everything and do nothing! You could stretch a day to three days, sure, just by watching!
~Ray Bradbury from Dandelion Wine
Late summer is a time to slow down and just watch, to stretch the days out as long as possible.
I have a tendency to race through the hours granted to me, heedless of the sun settling low behind me; I don’t want to surrender the day to the advancing march of darkness.
So I choose for now to be observer and recorder rather than runner and racer, each moment preserved like so many jars of sweet jam on a pantry shelf.
The sun may be setting, but I want it to take its time.
The daylight is huge.
Five a.m. and the sky already
blushing gray. Mornings so full
of blue the clouds almost sheepish
as they wisp over hills.
High noon only happens in June,
mid-day a tipping point, the scale
weighed down on both sides
with blazed hours. And the evenings—
so drawn out the land lies stunned
by that shambling last light.
~Amy MacLennan “The Daylight is Huge” from The Body, A Tree.
May a sunrise or sunset never become so routine that I fail to stop what I’m doing and acknowledge it and be stunned:
the richness of the backdrop where the paint is splashed though the foreground remains unchanged.
the timing being all its own, whether slow simmer that never reaches full boil, or a burst and explosion that is over in a matter of minutes.
the expanse and drama of unique color and swirl, layers and uniformity, gentle yellows and purples and pinks or glaring reds and oranges.
May a sun be ripe for picking, to grasp briefly and hold on to and then let go – too hot to handle, too remote to tuck away in my pocket for another day.
“Once I saw a chimpanzee gaze at a particularly beautiful sunset for a full 15 minutes, watching the changing colors [and then] retire to the forest without picking a pawpaw for supper.”
~Adriaan Krotlandt, Dutch ethologist