Saturday, December 4, 2010

Dying light

I tossed some metal into the Atlantic surf for about an hour today. The sun has settled low in the south. Gashes of December light broke through the wintry gray clouds. Even the midday shadows are long now.

The chilly brine bathed my feet as I cast. It may be time for boots.

The sun sets at 4:29 PM today, as early as it will for the year. The shortest day arrives in a couple of weeks.

I pulled the last tomato off the vine today, tinged pink on dull green. It froze last night, and had the consistency of pumpkin pulp. I spit most of it out, and tossed the rest back in the garden.

We're down to kale and Brussels sprouts now, then we are done.


I pray the sun comes back.

But just in case it doesn't, the prayer is one of thanks, for what was.
I am seeing Galway Kinnell again in just a few days.

Last time I saw him, he was the age I am now. He wrote of love, and loss, and timelessness.
Now he is three decades older, as I am, and he still writes of love, and loss, and timelessness.

He reminds those of us getting through life that there is no "through." Talking to his young daughter Maud, he talks to all of us:

as you stand
at this end of the bridge which arcs,
from love, you think, into enduring love,
learn to reach deeper
into the sorrows
to come – to touch
the almost imaginary bones
under the face, to hear under the laughter
the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss
the mouth
which tells you, here,
here is the world
. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones.

The still undanced cadence of vanishing.
If I keep thinking of cycles and orbits and tides and the spin of electrons in invisible particles, if I keep chanting about redox equations and hydrolysis and the Gibbs free energy in the classroom, I miss what is herenow.

I tried to capture a December rose in the fading light with a camera, to share. But I can no more share this than share time itself.

Galway reminds me of this every time I read or hear his words.

He knows, he knows, and yet he writes of what we cannot believe.

We all make the same mistake, we all "commit...the error of thinking, one day all this will only be a memory."


Leslie worries that I might someday wander around barefoot too long on the beach, in the snow. She's right to worry, of course. I can get distracted outdoors long enough for incipient ice crystals to tear open my cells with their intricate patterns.

I don't need to worry yet. The water temperature is still in the high 40's--my feet feel warm when washed by the sea when the air is as chilly as it is today.

Back inside, I worry about what might have been. When I am outside, there is no "what might have been." Just sound and light and smell and touch.

I'm not sure ""Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight" would have made much sense to me the last time I saw Galway Kinnell read, decades ago, shortly before I held my own child in my arms, before the filament of life passed from me and Leslie to two lovely people who, should our prayers be answered, breathe long after we're dead.

It makes sense now.

The lines by Galway Kinnell come from "Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight," from The Book of Nightmares.

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