Here’s one of the poems I enjoy dragging out of the back of my head when autumn has firmly taken hold. Last year’s cord of wood has seasoned well through the generous summer we had on Vashon, so I’ll probably make the year’s first fire in the fireplace tomorrow night.
I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.
The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.
The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new beautiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go, not one lasts.
The Atrophy of Private LIfe
In the heavy fashion magazines strewn here and there around the house the photos of objects and people mouth the word “money,” but you, assuming no one wants you anymore, mishear the message as “meaning.” Arousal follows. The lives of the rich are so fabulous! The destruction of the poetical lies heavily on their hands, as on their swollen notion that we are always watching. There is nothing behind the mask. Nothing suffocating under its pressure, no human essence trying to get out.
Awareness, always awareness. Don’t you see how these elaborate masks are turning you into a zombie? The private life is not for the eye but for the endless interior. It is trying to push all this crap aside and find the missing line. Nobody, least of all the future, cares about the outcome of this quest.
It is easy to lose, through meddling or neglect, an entire aspect of existence. And sometimes, to cultivate a single new thought, you need not only silence but an entirely new life.
“Understanding evolves in the same way as natural systems do. Each new level, whether of being or of knowledge, encompasses all the previous levels and manifests the inauguration of the dominion of a still more powerful — at the same time more concentrated and more comprehensive — unifying principle. It is as if, as the reach of its organizing power encompasses more and more diversity, the unifying principle itself goes deeper and deeper, approaching closer and closer to the center and unifying principle of the Whole.”
“This evolutionary process is not continuous but proceeds, when a system reaches a state far from equilibrium, by sudden leaps, as if by inspiration or revelation. The moment of the leap, from atom to molecule, from molecule to cell, from cell to organism, resembles those moments when, after long and anguished searching, there leaps into the mind of the scientist (from he knows not where) a theory that brings into order a vast realm of formerly unrelated data; or into the awareness of the poet the presentiment of a poem — the almost physical sensation that there is now something inside him that will give him no rest until he succeeds in bringing it to birth and precise articulation, and within whose form all the contradictory experiences of his life up to this time will take their places in harmonious relationship so that, at last, their meaning will be revealed to him.”
– Martha Heyneman from The Breathing Cathedral
Photograph The Boy and the Lion by Elizabeth Sarah.
“I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason – Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge. This pursued through Volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates every other consideration.”
– John Keats‘ letter to his brother dated Sunday, 21 December 1817.
One of my favorite Van Morrison songs is called Fire in the Belly. A song that celebrates a new love and lease on life. Van enthuses: “Stoke up my engine, bring me my driving wheel/Once I get started you’ll see just how I feel.” But then, as if from a forgotten footnote, a warning arises in the chorus: First, we have to “get through January”, and then “get through February.” Oh, right. Spring is a couple of months away. Now what?
That chorus acknowledges slogging. What this time of year can feel like for some of us. The Winter Solstice, with its promise of increased light, has come (and gone). Christmas has peaked; and that quiet, prolonged communal ‘time out’ within December is spent. While the excitement and promise of a New Year has — admit it — started to wane.
So where are we exactly?
T.S. Eliot wrote about this lull and called it ‘midwinter spring.’ As if this period were its own customary time of the year. From the section titled Little Gidding in his Four Quartets, he describes this seasonally ambiguous zone:
What a mysterious notion: “This is spring time but not in time’s covenant.” Time has been rearranged. Taken out of phase. And this is what the Sun’s passage through Aquarius and Pisces mirrors within our private and communal experience. We’re in time but also not in time. Here. But not here. Haven’t you noticed this lately? You start something but then feel the urge to take a nap moments later — and forget about the whole project. Or you find yourself focused and channeling your muse at the oddest moments of the evening. Forget going back to bed. Time feels one step removed.
If you need an image: Picture a bear deep in hibernation. Asleep, but so much mysteriously at work in the dream and nature realm. Midwinter spring redefines corporeal time; and fosters our ability to imagine and cull insight from what the Buddhists call Great Time, or the Eternal Now. The experience of time as singular; a one-pointed dynamism — free from the divisions of past, present and future. It is Great Time that Eliot explores through myriad poetic permutations in Four Quartets. The most cryptic of which appear in Little Gidding.
The two signs of the Zodiac that mirror the reality of Great Time are Aquarius and Pisces. And as the Sun nudges out of Capricorn today (the pennacle of Saturn-defined time), heading into Aquarius, we are ‘entering’ midwinter spring. Are you prepared? Not sure, well, observe your Aquarius or Pisces friends. You’ll recognize this unique relationship to time, when you consider their approach to life. Both signs live as if they were exempt from the laws and concepts that structure quotidian existence for the rest of us. They follow, often unconsciously, their own unique time rhythms. Read more