Whence comes Solace?—Not from seeing What is doing, suffering, being, Not from noting Life’s conditions, Nor from heeding Time’s monitions; But in cleaving to the Dream, And in gazing at the gleam Whereby gray things golden seem.
Thus do I this heyday, holding Shadows but as lights unfolding, As no specious show this moment With its irised embowment; But as nothing other than Part of a benignant plan; Proof that earth was made for man. ~Thomas Hardy “On a Fine Morning”
“Earth was made for man”
We tend to forget our original task of caring for the Garden we were placed within. Soiling our own nest, we can’t abandon this place for another greener, brighter, happier planet. Of all the planetary options in this infinite universe, we were placed right here and here we remain.
Our solace is that all that ordinarily seems gray gleams golden in the Light that shines down on our shadows. Even when the news is dismal, and the pain is great, and history seems to keep repeating itself despite our best efforts, our Creation is purposeful and preserved through divine sacrifice.
The solace of gray shadows turns to gold.
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Now in the blessed days of more and less when the news about time is that each day there is less of it I know none of that as I walk out through the early garden only the day and I are here with no before or after and the dew looks up without a number or a present age ~W. S. Merwin “Dew Light” from The Moon Before Morning
Dear March—Come in— How glad I am— I hoped for you before— Put down your Hat— You must have walked— How out of Breath you are— ~Emily Dickinson
I measure time by calendar page turns…
there is less left of time each day as I look to the sky to see the sun come and the sun go
I greet the new month as the old one passes reminding myself there won’t be another like it
The morning dew light fades without a before or after only a moment of blessing now.
How can this not be the way of things?
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Heaven-invading hills are drowned In wide moving waves of mist, Phlox before my door are wound In dripping wreaths of amethyst.
Ten feet away the solid earth Changes into melting cloud, There is a hush of pain and mirth, No bird has heart to speak aloud.
Here in a world without a sky, Without the ground, without the sea, The one unchanging thing is I, Myself remains to comfort me. ~Sara Teasdale “White Fog”
We’ve had all-day fog up and down Puget Sound over the past few days, atypical for a Pacific Northwest winter. This is fog that literally drips from the trees and soaks like rain, swallowing up visible landscape, hushing bird song, erasing all color by homogenizing everything.
When not barn-bound in the winter, a foggy day means our horses are literally sucked up into the morning mist as I send them out one by one to the field from the barn. Stopping at the barn door, they sniff the wet air, hesitant to be turned out into the grey sea surrounding them. What could there be to eat out in this murk? Each one, when turned loose, would wander into the soup, disappearing, as if never to be seen again. One by one they wander out to look for their buddies, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, smelling nothing. They are lost and alone and bewildered until somehow they meet up out in the pasture, forming a pod of Haflingers.
I muse at their initial confusion and then their utter conviction there must be “something out there” worth finding. They are dependent on the usual cues–visual, auditory, olfactory–all limited in the fog. Instead they rely on some inner sonar to find each other and bunch together in a protective knot, drops of fog dew clinging to their manes, their eyelashes and their muzzle whiskers. As day wears on, the fog usually dissipates, their coats drying under a warming sun, and the colors of the fields and trees and chestnut horses emerge from the cocoon of haze.
This winter, I have felt lost in fog too. I’m disconnected from a regular work schedule since retiring as a physician, so am helping as a volunteer in a variety of service opportunities. I am still feeling afloat and circling somewhat aimlessly, searching for a touch point of purpose and direction. Every so often I bump into a fellow fog wanderer and we’ll knot together for a bit, relieved to be connected to something solid and familiar.
My isolation is likely a combination of pandemic limitations and my own self-absorbed state of mind, sucking me in deep, separating me from others, distancing me from joy. At times, I feel soaked, dripping and shivering. If I only had the faith shown by my horses in the mist, I’d charge into the fog fearlessly, knowing there are others out there ready to band together for company, comfort and support, awaiting the sun. When warming and rejuvenation do come, I hope it will be enough to dry my whiskers, put color back in my cheeks and refresh my hopes and dreams.
Most importantly, I am reminded yet again — no fog is forever.
An absolute patience. Trees stand up to their knees in fog. The fog slowly flows uphill. White cobwebs, the grass leaning where deer have looked for apples. The woods from brook to where the top of the hill looks over the fog, send up not one bird. So absolute, it is no other than happiness itself, a breathing too quiet to hear. ~Denise Levertov “The Breathing”
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Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern. ~Oscar Wilde from The Picture of Dorian Gray
Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves. ~Leonora Carrington
In the moments before dawn when glow gently tints the inside of horizon’s eyelids, the black of midnight waxes to mere shadow, the fear forgotten for but a few hours.
Gloaming dusk fades into gleaming dawn, its backlit silhouettes stark as the darkening earth slowly opens her eyes to greet a new and glorious morn.
There are days we live as if death were nowhere in the background; from joy to joy to joy, from wing to wing, from blossom to blossom to impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom. ~Li-Young Lee from “From Blossoms”
These are impossible mornings of color and cool breezes. A hope of immortality extends across the sky as far as the eye can see. Impossible — because we know it won’t last; these ordinary days, this precious time is ephemeral. Still I revel in it, moving from joy to joy to joy, from tulip to tulip to tulip, rising up so vividly alive from mere dirt, eventually to sink back down to dust so gently, ~oh so gently~ to rest in the promise, that vibrant living promise that spring someday will last forever.
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14
a spider’s web under the olive trees
splendidly hung with early drops, already
vanishing up the vortex of the air
…a heaven-sent refreshment? or a curtain
cutting out the light?
And I must ask it now (small moisture that I am) under the sun of God’s great grace on me: Which am I–dew, or fog? ~Luci Shaw from “…for you are a mist“
To be mere mist that clarifies
rather than opacifies,
that reflects new worlds
rather than absorbs,
that replenishes grace
rather than depletes~
at once evaporating heaven-ward within His warmth
while glistening from His descended touch.
The sun-dipped isle was suddenly a sheep Lost and stupid, a dense wet tremulous fleece. ~George Mackay Brown “Fog” from The Weather Bestiary
When I was young, fog felt oppressive,
as mournful as the fog horns sounding continually in the nearby bay.
Now in late middle age,
I appreciate fog for slowing me down
when life compels me to rush too fast.
When forced to take time,
I begin to notice what I missed before:
clouds descend to hug and kiss the ground
to bejewel everything they touch.
The dead and dying
become glorious in subtle beauty,
the farm all gossamer garland and transparent pearls…
Through the ample open door of the peaceful country barn, A sun-lit pasture field, with cattle and horses feeding; And haze, and vista, and the far horizon, fading away. ~Walt Whitman “A Farm-Picture”
When the light rises on the hills,
slowly fading the haze of a late summer morning,
I feel the veil lift enough
that I am able to see
far beyond my reach or grasp.
The horizon extends on and on forever
and I will endure another descent into winter.