The moon was new at 3:42 am here, adding to the darkness of these days that shorten with the approach to the Solstice, just over a week away. A yoga friend posts bravely to Facebook, imagining the possibility of her own mortality and how it will affect her children. Vital conversations with another yoga friend affirm the inseparability of loss and new life, of sorrow and joy, and dark and light. We feel the contrasts sharply at this stillpoint. On the one hand, we numb ourselves with busyness, on the other, we huddle with each other around carefully tended flames during these seasonal celebrations of light.
My partner in these conversations also intuits the loss of community and relationship I feel at the end of the semester. I’m not just busy with the minutiae of ending a semester well from the administrative point of view, grading and such. I am mourning the fact that “we will never pass this way again.” I shall most certainly see some of my students next semester, formally and informally, but we will again never be constituted as a group, developing a distinctive class culture, considering the same topics, in the same historical context.
Apart from our practices, which in their fullest expression embody these contrasts, only poetry avails. Imagine my delight in hearing this poem on the Writer’s Almanac this morning, and my sadness in its implications (poem at 2:50).
Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness
by Mary Oliver
Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
who would cry out
to the petals on the ground
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married
to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do
if the love one claims to have for the world
So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,
though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.
“Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness” by Mary Oliver, from A Thousand Mornings. © The Penguin Press, 2012.
This would all sound like resignation to me, if love for the world were not at the center of the poem, and if what is passing were not so “married” to what is becoming. May we savor equally this loss and new life, this sorrow and this joy, this darkness and light.
- ‘A Thousand Mornings’ With Poet Mary Oliver (npr.org)
- Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me by Mary Oliver (scarboroughfairflorals.wordpress.com)
- Mary Oliver (inkytwig.wordpress.com)
- Mary Oliver (limestonegrove.org)
- White-Eyes, Poem by Mary Oliver (silverbirchpress.wordpress.com)
- Poem of the Week: LANDSCAPE by Mary Oliver (bookbrio.com)