These Melancholy Days

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The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year,
Of wailing winds, and naked woods, and meadows brown and sear.
Heaped in the hollows of the grove, the autumn leaves lie dead;
They rustle to the eddying gust, and to the rabbit’s tread.
The robin and the wren are flown, and from the shrubs the jay,
And from the wood-top calls the crow through all the gloomy day.

Where are the flowers, the fair young flowers, that lately sprang and stood
In brighter light, and softer airs, a beauteous sisterhood?
Alas! they all are in their graves, the gentle race, of flowers
Are lying in their lowly beds, with the fair and good of ours.
The rain is falling where they lie, but the cold November rain
Calls not from out the gloomy earth the lovely ones again.
~William Cullen Bryant from “The Death of the Flowers”

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These dark and sodden days are scarcely recalled while basking in the lightness of June when the sun shines 19 hours a day.  There is no way to cope with such overwhelming darkness except by adding in a few minutes more a day over six months, otherwise the shock of leaving behind the light would be too great.  The howling wind knocks and batters, the rain beats mercilessly at the window panes, the puddles stand deeper than they appear, the mud sucks off boots, the leaves thoroughly shaken from embarrassed branches.

We have no remnant of summer civility and frivolity left; we must adapt or cry trying, only adding to a pervasive sogginess.

Nevertheless, these melancholy days have their usefulness — there are times of joyful respite from frenetic activity while reading, snuggled deep under quilts, safe and warm.  Without such stark contrast, the light and bright time of year would become merely routine, yet just another sunny day.

That never happens here in the north.

We can now celebrate the emerging light with real thanksgiving and acknowledging this darkness makes gratitude more genuine.

We are privileged to live within a paradox:  there is, after all, a gladness in our sadness.

 

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Yet One Rich Smile

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Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
One mellow smile through the soft vapory air,
Ere, o’er the frozen earth, the loud winds run,
Or snows are sifted o’er the meadows bare.
One smile on the brown hills and naked trees,
And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast,
And the blue gentian flower, that, in the breeze,
Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee
Shall murmur by the hedge that skirts the way,
The cricket chirp upon the russet lea,
And man delight to linger in thy ray.
Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.
~William Cullen Bryant “November”

 

The window of richness is brief these November mornings,
enough time to feed and water animals,
watch the geese fly overhead,
capture the light and fog in soft vapory air
before it dissipates back to
just another ordinary day.
This blessing of light is
beyond my understanding,
beyond my ability to preserve,
beyond any gratitude I can offer.
It is freely given with a smile
and I delight to linger…

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Vapoury Air

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Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
    One mellow smile through the soft vapoury air,
Ere, o’er the frozen earth, the loud winds run,
    Or snows are sifted o’er the meadows bare.
One smile on the brown hills and naked trees,
   
Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.
~William Cullen Bryant “A Sonnet –November”

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The Stream of Life

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Oh Stream of Life! the violet springs
But once beside thy bed;
But one brief summer, on thy path,
The dews of heaven are shed.
Thy parent fountains shrink away,
And close their crystal veins,
And where thy glittering current flowed
The dust alone remains.
~from William Cullen Bryant’s last poem “The Stream of Life”

 

A seed may land in lush green
or a narrow crack of the pavement.
Only a dewy touch from above
will yield blooms from dry rock.
May my dusty soul be bathed
and blossom.

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Melancholy Days

photo by Josh Scholten

The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year,
Of wailing winds and naked wood, and meadows brown and sear.
William Cullen Bryant

These are the dark and sodden days we can scarcely recall while basking in the lightness of June when sun graces us 19 hours a day.  There is no way but to ease into this a few minutes at a time, otherwise the shock would be too great.  The howling wind continually knocks and batters, the rain beats mercilessly at the window panes, the puddles stand deeper than they appear, the leaves now thoroughly shaken from embarrassed branches.  There is no remnant of summer civility and frivolity left; we must adapt or cry trying, only adding to the pervasive sogginess.

Nevertheless, melancholy days have their usefulness and there are times they can be a source of joy when snuggled deep under quilts, safe, dry and warm.  Without the stark contrast, the light time of year would become routine and under-appreciated, only another sunny day.

That never happens here.

We celebrate the light with real thanksgiving and in turn can acknowledge the darkness makes our gratitude more genuine.

We are privileged to live the paradox:  there is gladness in our sadness.

Companions in Adversity

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

When shrieked
The bleak November winds, and smote the woods,
And the brown fields were herbless, and the shades
That met above the merry rivulets
Were spoiled, I sought, I loved them still; they seemed
Like old companions in adversity.
~William Cullen Bryant  in A Winter Piece

When the winds start to howl
and leaves are flying through the air
like birds on the wing heading south,
when branches snap
and trunks bend to the point of breaking
when the ground is hopelessly barren
and the hills are nothing
but continuing shades of gray
descending from the sky
when the sun disappears for days
and the rains are continuous

I love it all still;

knowing we are in this together
when the times are tough and
the mud is thick
and obstacles fall in our way
even to the end of time
as we travel this road
like old companions
broken, withered, splintered
but sharing the journey
wherever it blows us.

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten