“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
One afternoon, on a relatively smooth patch of snow, I found: baby steps, goose steps, rabbit, dog and deer prints, and the marks of a cane. The magic of looking is never knowing what you’ll find.
Crossing time’s wide street
here, our life’s heartbeat
explore, part, retreat —
Our song’s incomplete,
But, from its downbeat,
Leave your footprints, though all such prints be ephemeral. They’re playing your song. Arise and shine.
Because Barb brought this to mind the other day:
By Sara Teasdale
Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.
Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.
Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.
Mere beauty is not enough – not to sell all you have, not for merely appearances. But for something more – the tiny moments of grace which give ease, and fuel strength to last another moment, then, yes, for this loveliness. For this moment. For this breath, which is a miracle. Arise and shine.
O Me! O Life!
~ by Walt Whitman, 1819 – 1892
O Me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
You will contribute that verse, no matter what. Curtain’s rising. Time to shine.
“There are things you can’t reach. But
You can reach out to them, and all day long.
The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of god.
And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier.
I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
As though with your arms open.”
― Mary Oliver
Arise. Shine. LOOK.
From A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard: “Thomas Merton wrote, “there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.” There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage.
I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.
Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock-more than a maple- a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”
May you live all the days of your life.
Oh, Tennyson, how I loathed you in college. Through no fault of your own, of course. You did write such beauty, but when one is helping a desperately overbooked loved one finish a massive seventy-five page paper (probably was only thirty pages, but it felt like seventy-five. TRUST ME.) for ALL the final grades in an independent study project that has gone on three months too long and has switched professors twice because the first gave the assignment and then had a breakdown, and the second professor told you your interpretation of the first project was all wrong when it was already almost done, and sent you away with a new assignment which was nothing at ALL like the first and gave even less oversight than the first professor — well. It is far too easy, then, to resent you, poor Tennyson, and your massive work IN MEMORIAM.
And yet, there is such loveliness within.
Because of yesterday’s reminiscing on my days in the vast green of Glasgow (Glas cu, the city’s name in the proto-Brythonic language indeed means a green hollow) I’m still thinking on their coat of arms, and bells. Tennyson’s Ring Out is often resurrected around the new year, so I’ll indulge myself with a bit of it today.
In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]
Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1809 – 1892
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
(To the left, the bell tower of Dunkeld Cathedral, Scotland, which has a tiny, scary spiral staircase to get up to it.) Poetry Friday hosted today at Random Noodling. Arise and ring.
The City of Glasgow has an intriguing coat of arms – which features a bell, a bird, a fish, and a tree, elements of four stories told about the city’s 6th century patron, St. Mungo (or known to some as St. Kentigern). The City motto, indeed, is There’s the tree that never grew, There’s the bird that never flew, There’s the fish that never swam, There’s the bell that never rang, (Clearly, in ancient Scotland, ‘swam’ and ‘rang’ rhymed. Or not), telling of St. Mungo’s miracles in Glasgow. If you want to know the legend of St. Mungo, you can find them, for myself; my chief amusement was finding variations on the coat of arms, and its symbols etched into public buildings and included in art glass. I found this bit of poem outside City Halls, the lovely, high-ceilinged 1841 concert venue where the BBC Scottish Symphony plays.
Praise for the tree that growled but grew
Praise for the bird that fainted but flew
Praise for the bell that rusted but rang
Praise for the fish that sighed but swam
Growling or sighing. Fainting. Rusting. This is how we go, these days. We are tired. The winter holidays are wearing. We would all like a nap right now, please and thank you. Even if we’re not quite Bah, humbug, it’s easy to get trapped in feeling like we must smile and give and give and give this season.
We want to sleep, but – we birds must fly. We trees ought to grow, we fish have to swim. We need your song, bells, while it is dark. Soon, the Light is coming. Arise and shine.