The moon drops one or two feathers into the field.
The dark wheat listens.
There they are, the moon’s young, trying
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.
~James Wright, from “Beginning” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose.
And the light shone in darkness and Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled About the centre of the silent Word. ~T.S. Eliot from “Ash Wednesday”
In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls… I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope. ~T.S. Eliot from “East Coker”
As we spend time with our young grandchildren, learning what it means to be a grandparent, we watch them discover the many joys and unending sorrows of this world. We must remember to remind them: there is light beyond the darkness, there is peace amid the chaos, there is a smile behind the tears, there is stillness within the noisiness, there is grace and mercy as old gives way to new.
…the golden hour of the clock of the year. Everything that can run to fruit has already done so: round apples, oval plums, bottom-heavy pears, black walnuts and hickory nuts annealed in their shells, the woodchuck with his overcoat of fat. Flowers that were once bright as a box of crayons are now seed heads and thistle down. All the feathery grasses shine in the slanted light. It’s time to bring in the lawn chairs and wind chimes, time to draw the drapes against the wind, time to hunker down. Summer’s fruits are preserved in syrup, but nothing can stopper time. No way to seal it in wax or amber; it slides though our hands like a rope of silk. At night, the moon’s restless searchlight sweeps across the sky. ~Barbara Crooker “And Now it’s October” from Small Rain.
…but I do try to stopper time. I try every day not to suspend it or render it frozen, but like summer flower and fruit that withers, to preserve any sweet moment for sampling through stored words or pictures in the midst of my days of winter. I roll it around on my tongue, its heady fragrance becoming today’s lyrical shared moment, unstoppered, perpetual and always intoxicating.
Holes in the shape of stars punched in gray tin, dented, cheap, beaten by each of her children with a wooden spoon.
Noodle catcher, spaghetti stopper, pouring cloudy rain into the sink, swirling counter clockwise down the drain, starch slime on the backside, caught in the piercings.
Scrubbed for sixty years, packed and unpacked, the baby’s helmet during the cold war, a sinking ship in the bathtub, little boat of holes.
Dirt scooped in with a plastic shovel, sifted to make cakes and castles. Wrestled from each other’s hands, its tin feet bent and re-bent.
Bowl daylight fell through onto freckled faces, noon stars on the pavement, the universe we circled aiming jagged stones, rung bells it caught and held. ~Dorianne Laux “My Mother’s Colander”fromOnly As the Day is Long: New and Selected Poems.
Many of my mother’s kitchen things, some over seventy years old, are still packed away in boxes that I haven’t had the time or the emotional wherewithal to open. They sit waiting for me to sort and purge and save and weep.
But this kitchen item, her old dented metal colander, she gave to me when I moved into my first apartment some 40 years ago – she had purchased a bright green plastic colander at a Tupperware party so the old metal one seemed somehow outdated, overworked and plain. It had held hundreds of pounds of rinsed garden vegetables during my childhood, had drained umpteen pasta noodles, had served as a sifter in our sandbox, and a helmet for many a pretend rocket launch to infinity and beyond.
It still works fine, thank you very much, for all intended and some unintended purposes. It does make me wonder what other treasures may surprise me when I finally decide to open up my mother’s boxes. She died ten years ago, but her things remain, as if in suspended animation, to be rediscovered when I’m ready. They wait patiently to be useful to someone again, touched lovingly and with distinct purpose as they once were, and be remembered for the part they played in one woman’s long and faith-filled life.
Maybe, just maybe, it will feel like I’ve unpacked Mom once again as well.
On the day when The weight deadens On your shoulders And you stumble, May the clay dance To balance you.
And when your eyes Freeze behind The grey window And the ghost of loss Gets into you, May a flock of colours, Indigo, red, green And azure blue, Come to awaken in you A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays In the currach of thought And a stain of ocean Blackens beneath you, May there come across the waters A path of yellow moonlight To bring you safely home. ~John O’Donohue from “Beannacht”
I figure I was born unbalanced in one way or another. I was the kid who couldn’t manage roller skating out of fear of falling, clinging to the rail rather than risk being ground-bound yet again. My one and only cross country skiing experience was actually cross-country sitting more than gliding. I still freeze in place when trying to walk over an icy surface or down a steep incline — my brain just can’t help my body navigate anything other than a straight flat pathway.
It isn’t just physical balance that is a challenge for me. As a child, and still at times in my later years, my feelings can be intense and immobilizing too, every disappointment becoming tragedy and every happy moment so joyous I cling to it fiercely, fearing it could fade.
A blessing of balance is ideal: ground that dances to steady me when I stumble, a palette of rainbow colors to overwhelm gray emotions when I’m struggling, a lighted pathway if the going gets dark.
I’ve given up the idea of skating or skiing, but just maybe I can ride and glide through the waves of life without getting seasick.
Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to.
You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see
and my self is the earth’s shadow
that keeps me from seeing all the moon.
The crescent is very beautiful
and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see;
but what I am afraid of, dear God,
is that my self shadow will grow so large
that it blocks the whole moon,
and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.
I do not know You God
because I am in the way.
Please help me to push myself aside.
~Flannery O’Connor from her journals
I get in the way all the time — like a photobomb of a shadow casting darkness on all that is light and beauty. With my human “blinders” on, I can’t see beyond where I stand, where I move, what I feel, what I fear, what I see and hear.
And I certainly get in the way of my knowing God. I think this is all about me.
He’s there, though partially hidden in my need to be front and center.
He’s there, His glory and truth manifest behind me, if only I would turn to see.
He’s there, gently instructing me to get out of my own way.
He’s there, fully radiant, once I step back in awe.
Have you ever seen anything in your life more wonderful
than the way the sun, every evening, relaxed and easy, floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills, or the rumpled sea, and is gone– and how it slides again
out of the blackness, every morning, on the other side of the world, like a red flower
streaming upward on its heavenly oils, say, on a morning in early summer, at its perfect imperial distance– and have you ever felt for anything such wild love– do you think there is anywhere, in any language, a word billowing enough for the pleasure
that fills you, as the sun reaches out, as it warms you
as you stand there, empty-handed– or have you too turned from this world–
or have you too gone crazy for power, for things? ~Mary Oliver, The Sun
On this day of transition
we stand together, wavering,
on the cusp of light and shadow~
this knowledge of a now diminishing sun
rests heavy in my bones as I struggle
with letting this glorious light
slip through my fingers~
I stand empty-handed
as I attend to less important things.
As darkness begins to claim our days again,
I seek to rise like a full moon
illuminating the long night,
burnishing my readiness for eternity.