The moon drops one or two feathers into the field. The dark wheat listens. Be still. Now. There they are, the moon’s young, trying Their wings.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe Or move. I listen. The wheat leans back toward its own darkness, And I lean toward mine. ~James Wright from “Beginning”
Wherever it was I was supposed to be this morning— whatever it was I said I would be doing— I was standing at the edge of the field— I was hurrying through my own soul, opening its dark doors— I was leaning out; I was listening. — Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems, Volume 2
I am leaning back further into darkness.
Sun rays through the window blinds no longer rouse me awake. The farm animals are eager for their evening tucking in rather than lingering long in the fields. The leaves blink away their green.
I ready myself for bed early, glad for respite and stillness.
Summer isn’t over yet but its fatigue is evident. We’re leaning back, eyes closed, ready for rest.
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
1 John 3: 18-20
And some time make the time to drive out west Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore, In September or October, when the wind And the light are working off each other So that the ocean on one side is wild With foam and glitter, and inland among stones The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans, Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white, Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads Tucked or cresting or busy underwater. Useless to think you’ll park and capture it More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there, A hurry through which known and strange things pass As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
~Seamus Heaney “Postscript” from The Spirit Level
…they can hardly contain their happiness That we have come. They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
Suddenly I realize That if I stepped out of my body I would break Into blossom. ~James Wright from “The Blessing”
‘Tis strange that death should sing. I am the cygnet to this pale faint swan, Who chants a doleful hymn to his own death, And from the organ-pipe of frailty sings His soul and body to their lasting rest.
~William Shakespeare from “King John”
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread. ~William Butler Yeats from “The Wild Swans at Coole”
Working outside before the sun was up on a recent rainy morning, I heard overhead the swishing hush of wings in flight and the trumpeter swan doleful hymn called out as dozens passed above me in a long meandering line against the early dawn grayness.
The swan flocks predictably arrive here in late autumn to eat their fill, feasting in the harvested cornfields surrounding our farm, their bright white plumage a stark contrast to the dulling muddy soil. In mild winters, they tend to stick around awhile, but soon they will lift their long graceful necks and fan out their wings to be picked up the wind, leaving us behind and beneath, moving on to their next feeding and breeding grounds.
These incredible creatures bring such joy with their annual arrival and brief stay, their leave-taking a metaphor for this dying time of year, reminding me once again nothing on earth can last, that God is greater than our earthly hearts.
“‘Tis strange that death should sing…” but in fact, ’tis strange that death should fly in and out on silken wings.
I give myself over to their beauty, and walk with lighter tread, singing a new song:
I am grateful my sore heart still soars beyond this soil.
During this Lenten season, I will be drawing inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn
It is so still now, I hear the horse
Clear his nostrils.
He has crept out of the green places behind me.
Patient and affectionate, he reads over my shoulder
These words I have written.
He has lived a long time, and he loves to pretend
No one can see him.
Last night I paused at the edge of darkness,
And slept with green dew, alone.
I have come a long way, to surrender my shadow
To the shadow of a horse.
~James Wright from “Sitting in a small screenhouse on a summer morning”