Each morning as I rise to let the horses out to graze for the day, I’m once again that teenage girl who awoke early to climb on horseback to greet the summer dawn, mist in my hair and dew on my boots, picking ripe blackberries and blueberries as we rode past.
The angled light always drew sharper shadow lines as the sun rose until I knew it was time to turn around, each hoof step taking us closer to home to clean barn, do chores, hang laundry, weed the garden until sunset.
It is sunlight that creates and then erases all in me that is shadow. Eventually, only the real me remains.
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Today is one of those excellent January partly cloudies in which light chooses an unexpected part of the landscape to trick out in gilt, and then the shadow sweeps it away.
You know you’re alive. You take huge steps, trying to feel the planet’s roundness arc between your feet. ~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
It was like a church to me. I entered it on soft foot, Breath held like a cap in the hand. It was quiet. What God there was made himself felt, Not listened to, in clean colours That brought a moistening of the eye, In a movement of the wind over grass.
There were no prayers said. But stillness Of the heart’s passions – that was praise Enough; and the mind’s cession Of its kingdom. I walked on, Simple and poor, while the air crumbled And broke on me generously as bread. ~R.S. Thomas “The Moor”
There are January days when I am surrounded by mist and fog and partly cloudies- a brief gift of blue sky and gilt light.
God is felt on days like this, neither seen or heard, His stilling presence overtaking me with each breath I draw, following the path of each glistening tear, becoming the arcing ground reaching to meet my foot with each bold step I take.
In the season leaves should love, since it gives them leave to move through the wind, towards the ground they were watching while they hung, legend says there is a seam stitching darkness like a name.
Now when dying grasses veil earth from the sky in one last pale wave, as autumn dies to bring winter back, and then the spring, we who die ourselves can peel back another kind of veil
that hangs among us like thick smoke. Tonight at last I feel it shake. I feel the nights stretching away thousands long behind the days till they reach the darkness where all of me is ancestor. ~Annie Finch, from “Samhain” from Eve
There is no denying I am composed of all of the hundreds (thousands?) of my ancestors, carrying their DNA in every cell of my body. Their traits and characteristics pulse continuously in my blood even when at times I wish they didn’t.
On the eve of All Hallow’s, we remember those from whom we come — all those spirited ghosts within our cells who shake and rattle a bit louder this time of year in the foggy darkness.
I wave at them warily from my perch in the 21st century.
I come from somber folk. That explains a lot.
I don’t mind all the peasant farmers I descend from though I wish I could turn off the genes that lead me to eat too much, and worry too much and my tendency toward the melancholy rather than the jocular. Somehow I have suppressed the tendency to drink too much and curse too much. I do come from a long line of believers in ghosts, so these days of Samhain and All Hallows’ tend to open those creaky doors of shivers and chills, so I avoid anything even remotely scary. It only encourages those strands of my DNA.
I am indeed made up of all-ancestor bits and pieces, and can’t deny it. There is some comfort in realizing there is nothing really brand new about me, so I try not to make a fool of myself on behalf of the hundreds of others sitting tidily wrapped up in my nuclei. There is additional comfort knowing a small part of me will continue in my descendants, who will ponder their family tree wondering which great-great-great-great grandparent passed down which annoying characteristic. I wave hopefully from the 21st century to those generations to come, to remind them not to forget those of us who came before. If there are spirits that come to visit on Samhain, I promise to be a friendly ghost.
I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October. The sunshine is peculiarly genial; and in sheltered places, as on the side of a bank, or of a barn or house, one becomes acquainted and friendly with the sunshine. It seems to be of a kindly and homely nature. And the green grass strewn with a few withered leaves looks the more green and beautiful for them. ~Nathaniel Hawthornefrom The American Notebooks
After the keen still days of September, the October sun filled the world with mellow warmth… The maple tree in front of the doorstep burned like a gigantic red torch. The oaks along the roadway glowed yellow and bronze. The fields stretched like a carpet of jewels, emerald and topaz and garnet. Everywhere she walked the color shouted and sang around her… In October any wonderful unexpected thing might be possible. ~Elizabeth George Speare from The Witch of Blackbird Pond
If I were a month, I would choose to be October: bathed by a genial and friendly sun, within a kindly and homely nature, slowly withering, yet still crisp, with mild temperature and modest temperament despite a rain and wind storm or two, only once in a while foggy.
Most of all, I would cherish my flashes of burnt umber as I reluctantly relinquish the light.
I save my love for what is close, for the dog’s eyes, the depths of brown when I take a wet cloth to them to wash his face. I save my love for the smell of coffee at The Mill, the roasted near-burn of it, especially the remnant that stays later in the fibers of my coat. I save my love for what stays. The white puff my breath makes when I stand at night on my doorstep. That mist doesn’t last, evaporates like your car turning the corner, you at the wheel, waving. Your hand a quick tremble in a brief illumination. Palm and fingers. Your face toward me. You had turned on the over-head light so I would see you for an instant, see you waving, see you gone. ~Marjorie Saiser “I Save My Love,” from Learning to Swim
Mist is ephemeral~ evaporates as the light comes out, unable to bear the heat.
Not so you.
I am grateful you have been beside me all these months of stay-at-home, never wavering nor wishing to be somewhere else.
So we now have confirmation: love that lasts stays close when all else dissipates.
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 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
What is melancholy
at first glance
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.
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”
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.
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.