Melancholia

A fine rain was falling,
and the landscape was that of autumn. 
The sky was hung with various shades of gray,
and mists hovered about the distant mountains –
a melancholy nature. 
The leaves were falling on all sides
like the last illusions of youth
under the tears of irremediable grief. 
Every landscape is, as it were,
a state of the soul,
and whoever penetrates into both is astonished
to find how much likeness there is in each detail.”
~Henri Frederic Amiel from The Amiel Journal

What is melancholy
at first glance
glistens bejeweled
when studied up close.

It isn’t all sadness~
there is solace in knowing:
the landscape and my soul
share an inner world of tears.



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A State of the Soul

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A fine rain was falling, and the landscape was that of autumn.  
The sky was hung with various shades of gray, 
and mists hovered about the distant mountains
– a melancholy nature.  
Every landscape is, 
as it were, 
a state of the soul, 
and whoever penetrates into both 
is astonished to find how much likeness there is in each detail.
~Henri Frederic Amiel

 

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What is melancholy
at first glance
glistens bejeweled
when studied up close
in the right light.

It can’t be all sadness~
there is solace in knowing
the landscape and I share
~a state of the soul~
an inner world of tears
nevertheless forever illuminated.

 

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The Universe in a Droplet

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And when the Sun comes out,
After this Rain shall stop,
A wondrous Light will fill
Each dark, round drop…
~William Henry Davies from “The Rain

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I wouldn’t mind mud in August, just once, to see what is brown become lush and green overnight.

How sweet it would be to see copious tears spilling unchecked from a shrouded heaven.

Instead I must settle for one morning of northwest drizzle. An emerging sun illuminates these perfect round spheres with wondrous light as they roll off leaves and petals to huddle puddled together in community on the ground, only to evaporate by mid-day.

However, the wait for rain is never too long in this land of mush and mud ten months out of the year.

Rain will come sooner than I can imagine; soon again I will see a glistening crystalline reflection of the universe in a droplet.

The Living Water is always undimmed, its taste ambrosial.

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The Fog Rising

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Let us go in; the fog is rising…
~Emily Dickinson, her last words

I have watched the dying
in their last hours:
often they see what I cannot,
listen to what I do not hear,
stretch their arms overhead
as fingers extend and grasp
to touch what is beyond my reach.

I watch and wonder how it is
to reverse the journey that brought us here
from the fog of amnion.

The mist of living lifts.

We will enter a place
unsurpassed in brilliance and clarity;
the mystery of what lies beyond solved
only by going back in,
welcomed to return to where we started.

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Grief Illuminated

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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,
kneeling graveside,
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.

Feeling touched
as uneasy witness, I pull away

to drive deeper into the night,
struggling to see despite
my eyes’ thickening mist.

a full moon in Ireland

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Angel of Grief--Stanford University

Angel of Grief, Stanford University Mausoleum

Not One Blade of Grass

 

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There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.
~John Calvin

 

We are given the option to notice
or not
We are given reason to rejoice
or not
We are given a rain-bowed promise to witness
or not.
So why ever not?

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Let Fall Your Shadows

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Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Let fall your shadows on the sundials,
upon the fields let loose your winds.

Command the last fruits to be full;
give them just two more southern days,
Press them to completion, and chase the last
sweetness into the heavy wine.

Who has no house now – he will never build.
Whoever is alone now, long will so remain;
will stay awake, and read, and write long letters
and wander the alleys up and down,
restless, as the leaves are drifting.
~Rainer Maria Rilke “Autumn Day”

 

This sadness that fall brings
is less about the ending of a long hot dry summer
and more about deepening shadows,
the fullness of harvest,
the drifting and dying to self.

I am misty in memories
of children dressed for school
eating around a full kitchen table,
of chores done hurriedly on frosty mornings,
of afternoons darkening too early
from drizzly clouds,
of nights under heavy comforters.

Lord, it is time.  Too soon, too soon.
Help ready me.

 

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Giving Ground

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The air was soft, the ground still cold.
In the dull pasture where I strolled
Was something I could not believe.
Dead grass appeared to slide and heave,
Though still too frozen-flat to stir,
And rocks to twitch and all to blur.
What was this rippling of the land?
Was matter getting out of hand
And making free with natural law,
I stopped and blinked, and then I saw
A fact as eerie as a dream.
There was a subtle flood of steam
Moving upon the face of things.
It came from standing pools and springs
And what of snow was still around;
It came of winter’s giving ground
So that the freeze was coming out,
As when a set mind, blessed by doubt,
Relaxes into mother-wit.
Flowers, I said, will come of it.
~Richard Wilbur “April 5, 1974”

 

As the ground softens, so do I.
Somehow winter freeze was comforting
as nothing appeared to change,
so neither did I,
staying stolid and fixed.
But now the fixed is flexing,
steaming in its labor,
and so must I,
giving ground
and birth
to blooms.

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Irreducible Clarity

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If that’s what he means,’ says the student to the poetry teacher, ‘why doesn’t he just say it?’
‘If God is real,’ says the parishioner to the preacher, ‘why doesn’t he simply storm into our lives and convince us?’
The questions are vastly different in scale and relative importance,
but their answers are similar.
A poem, if it’s a real one, in some fundamental sense
means no more and no less than the moment of its singular music and lightning insight;
it is its own code to its own absolute and irreducible clarity.
A god, if it’s a living one, is not outside of reality but in it, of it,
though in ways it takes patience and imagination to perceive.
Thus the uses and necessities of metaphor,
which can flash us past our plodding resistance and habits into strange new truths.
Thus the very practical effects of music, myth, and image,
which tease us not out of reality, but deeper and more completely into it.
~Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

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The Mystery Bones

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I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.
~Andrew Wyeth, artist

How endlessly beautiful is woodland in winter!  Today there is a thin mist; just enough to make a background of tender blue mystery three hundred yards away, and to show any defect in the grouping of the near trees.
~ Gertrude Jekyll, British horticulturalist

There is a stumbling reluctance transitioning from a month of advent expectancy to three months of winter dormancy.  Inevitably there is let-down: the watching and waiting is not over after all.  There is profound loneliness in knowing the story continues, hidden from view.

We have been stripped naked as the bare trees right now; our bones, like the trees of the landscape, raising up broken branches and healed fractures of previous winter windstorms.  We no longer have anything to hide behind or among,  our defects are plain to see,  our whole story a mystery as yet untold but impossible to conceal.

Here I am, abundantly flawed with pocks and scars, yet renewed once again.  There are hints of new growth to come when the frost abates and the sap thaws.   I am  prepared to wait an eternity if necessary, for the rest of the story.

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