Thursday, December 23, 2010

what the Sun gives and how we receive it. . .

Winter Solstice, ’10

the year is slowing down,
the trees have cast off their leaves,
and the sap sleeps within the roots,

much of the woods is black-and-white, like in an old movie,
rhododendron leaves hang limp as if in homage to the cold,
a light snow hovers on the holly one morning
and reminds the forest floor and us that it’s a good time to sleep,
the light hides away behind clouds often this time of year
and drifts more and more to the south,

the cold has come early and icy snow lingers longer and longer,
particularly high up on the slopes
and in the little worlds blocked from the diminished Sun,

we hike, we explore, and we notice what we can:
how the magnificence of great trunks of tulip poplar and buckeye

reveal themselves more easily than when we’re near them in high summer,
ferns, laurel, rhododendron, and pine keep true to the green,
while beds of galax are almost royal in their purple,

the last full day of Fall is even-handed, like a parent with two kids,
and gives equal time to either side of freezing,
the Winter Solstice is not till the next day,
at least in the preciously precise rendering of astronomers
who figure just when the Sun stops in its retreat to the south,
and then begins its climb
that will fill us in the north
with leafing, flowering, fruiting, seeding,
and with sweat and air-conditioning,
clouds and rain should come in the next day
so I respect the universe as to what it will give
and how much I need adjust myself to the other,

the last late afternoon of Fall
I drive high up where the Earth around here gets closest to the sky,
and I search out a good view of the setting Sun and the rising near full Moon,

just my luck, each align themselves with the spine of the mountains
so peak and leafless tree block clarity of revelation,

till I return to the valley
and watch the great round Moon climb over the ridges,

in the night clouds and fog roll in
and hide the eclipse of the Moon I had hoped to see,
morning doesn’t break: it just slowly lightens with a cool drizzle,
the rhododendron have more hope in their droop:
looking up as if from under half-lidded eyes,
four wild turkeys scrape among the leaves for a morning snack,

all day of the Solstice I feel myself driven in,
driven into my house,
driven into my self,
all by gloomy dark drizzle,

I turn up the thermostat and retreat into my book,
two naps, some cooking, more eating,
night comes on slowly as if a great dimmer
were slowly, slowly turned towards “off,”

I want the season’s change to be sharp, clear,
a switch turned off or on,
the Sun to rise and set with bold strokes,
a dramatic exit or entrance,
the night to be of stars,
a canvas upon which the fullness of the Moon paints itself,

this year inherent order and rightness within the cosmos,
expressed in the heavens,
speaks softly,
yet still carries the stick,
the stick of our dependence on what the Sun gives,
and how we receive it will still drive us,

we ignore the power contained within the simplicity of seasonal change
at the peril of our playing a game in which we don’t know the rules,
and within which we’re still winner or loser, based on our play.

by Henry Walker
December 21, ’10

1 comment:

Bill said...

Why are you posting at 2:49 AM? Lovely photos with this poem.