The whole world is in motion to the center.
I only went out for a walk
and finally concluded to stay out till sundown,
for going out, I found,
was really going in.
Alone in the night
On a dark hill
With pines around me
Spicy and still,
And I know that I
Am honored to be
Of so much majesty.
~Sara Teasdale from “Stars”
The melancholy unconsoling fold
When I should be
cleaning the barn,
filling water buckets,
returning phone calls,
I’m out on a hill with my camera
watching for what can never come again
exactly like this
It doesn’t take long
maybe a minute or two
to become a witness,
carried by breath,
ferried into darkness
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I waited. I don’t know for what.
Sometimes I’d sit so long the sun would sink,
a fiery stare blinking shut beneath the horizon,
and the drooping electric wires would borrow the dark
until the dark seeped back into the sky. And when stars
surfaced like needles piercing through velvet,
I’d hold myself back just a moment more.
What made me feel watched in the naked field?
I was paying close attention and could discern only
a begging to be cloaked and a begging to be released.
~Jennifer Grotz from “The Field”
As I age I observe the world in a new way,
my eyes scanning for the unnoticed and plain,
not just the dramatic and majestic,
sometimes just sitting still as witness to each moment.
I preserve that which will keep for another day,
like a jar of canned peaches in my root cellar,
so I won’t forget, and in a darker time be cloaked once again
when I taste its sweetness.
Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
that witnessing presence.
~Denise Levertov “Witness”
Even on the days like today when the mountain is hidden behind a veil of clouds, I have every confidence it is there. It has not moved in the night, gone to another county, blown up or melted down. My vision isn’t penetrating enough to see it through cloud cover today, but it will return to my line of sight, if not tomorrow, perhaps the next day. I know this and have faith it is true.
On the days when I am not bothering to look for it, too preoccupied so walk right past its obvious grandeur and presence, then it is reaching out to me and calling me back. There are times when I turn a corner on the farm and glance up, and there it is, a silent and overwhelming witness to beauty and steadfastness. I literally gasp at not noticing before, at not remembering how I’m blessed by it being there even at the times I can’t be bothered.
It witnesses my lack of witness and still stays put to hold me fast yet another day. And so I keep coming back to gaze, sometimes just at clouds, yearning to lift the veil, and lift my veil, just one more time.
A waning November moon reluctantly rose,
dimming from the full globe of the night before.
I drive a darkening country road, white lines sweeping past,
aware of advancing frost in the evening haze,
anxious to return home to familiar warmth and light.
Nearing a county road corner, slowing to a stop,
I glanced aside where
a lonely rural cemetery sits expectant.
Through open iron gates and tenebrous headstones,
there in the middle path, incongruous,
car’s headlights beamed bright.
I puzzled, thinking:
lovers or vandals would seek inky cover of night.
Instead, these lights focused on one soul alone,
a hand resting heavily on a stone, head bowed in prayer.
This stark moment of solitary sorrow,
a visible grieving of a heart
illuminated by twin beams.
This benediction of mourning
as light pierced the blackness;
gentle fingertips traced
the engraved letters of a beloved name.
as uneasy witness, I pull away
to drive deeper into the night,
struggling to see despite
my eyes’ thickening mist.
Angel of Grief, Stanford University Mausoleum
The moon now rises to her absolute rule,
And the husbandman and hunter
Acknowledge her for their mistress.
Asters and golden reign in the fields
And the life everlasting withers not.
The fields are reaped and shorn of their pride
But an inward verdure still crowns them;
The thistle scatters its down on the pool
And yellow leaves clothe the river—
And nought disturbs the serious life of men.
But behind the sheaves and under the sod
There lurks a ripe fruit which the reapers have not gathered,
The true harvest of the year—the boreal fruit
Which it bears forever,
With fondness annually watering and maturing it.
But man never severs the stalk
Which bears this palatable fruit.
~Henry David Thoreau
So many eyes turned skyward last night
to witness the shadowing of the moon,
its large unblinking eye turned bloodshot.
The wonder is that we are mere witness
to something beyond our reach,
trying our best to harvest, record and keep it.
This morning the moon sets,
bright and cheerful,
as it always does,
and we go about our daily lives
oblivious that it will continue to do so
long after we ourselves are harvested.
To be a witness
does not consist in engaging in propaganda
or even in stirring people up,
but in being a living mystery:
it means to live in such a way
that one’s life would not make sense
if God did not exist.
~ Emmanuel Cardinal Suhard of Paris
I’m not sure how much a mystery I am;
I feel transparent as glass most days.
But I make no sense at all,
I could not be seen or seen through
without God’s mystery
creating me and all that exists.
His mystery has lived and breathed
alongside us —
we cannot deny our witness of Him.
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
~Thomas Chisholm “Great is Thy Faithfulness”
Same scene of our barn weathervane,
through the years
through the seasons
through the changes
of children growing up
of children flying away
of our heads getting grayer
our steps now slower.
Morning by morning
this manifold witness
to such steadfast love
to infinite mercies
to unending faithfulness.