Tag Archives: New Year’s Day

Lifting your eyes, you realize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 JANUARY 1965

The Wise Men will unlearn your name.
Above your head no star will flame.
One weary sound will be the same—
the hoarse roar of the gale.
The shadows fall from your tired eyes
as your lone bedside candle dies,
for here the calendar breeds nights
till stores of candles fail.

What prompts this melancholy key?
A long familiar melody.
It sounds again. So let it be.
Let it sound from this night.
Let it sound in my hour of  death—
as gratefulness of eyes and lips
for that which sometimes makes us lift
our gaze to the far sky.

You glare in silence at the wall.
Your stocking gapes: no gifts at all.
It’s clear that you are now too old
to trust in good Saint Nick;
that it’s too late for miracles.
—But suddenly, lifting your eyes
to heaven’s light, you realize:
your life is a sheer gift.

From Nativity Poems by Joseph Brodsky, translated by George L. Kline

More time, more time.

YEAR’S END

Now winter downs the dying of the year,
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin
And still allows some stirring down within.

I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell
And held in ice as dancers in a spell
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,
They seemed their own most perfect monument.

There was perfection in the death of ferns
Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone
A million years. Great mammoths overthrown
Composedly have made their long sojourns,
Like palaces of patience, in the gray
And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii

The little dog lay curled and did not rise
But slept the deeper as the ashes rose
And found the people incomplete, and froze
The random hands, the loose unready eyes
Of men expecting yet another sun
To do the shapely thing they had not done.

These sudden ends of time must give us pause.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.

-Richard Wilbur

fern fossil

100 degrees, oldest to youngest.

In Wisconsin, where I spent the holiday with my oldest daughter Pearl, we had a freezing Christmas, with unexpected light snow. I’d never experienced subzero temperatures before; when I came out of church on Christmas Day my cheeks seemed to stiffen within a minute.

The view from the big breakfast room windows was soothingly white and still, until we let Dog Jack run out to exult in the snow by rolling in it and barking the announcement of joy to the neighborhood.

I was slated to travel from Pearl’s to visit my youngest daughter Kate, and a couple of days before that journey my son-in-law noticed on the weather page that it was 100 degrees hotter at my destination than at their house at that moment. So warm… because Kate lives and works with her husband Tom in India — and now here I am in India, too!

It’s not a country that I ever had any desire to visit, and even after I bought my plane ticket, it was only the thought of seeing my dear daughter that overcame my aversion to the dehumanizing strain of traveling to the other side of the globe.

From Chicago I flew to Toronto, and then on to Mumbai, or Bombay, spending 15 hours on that last leg of my journey. Some of you have heard me tell of my anxiety about that long long flight, but I have to admit that it wasn’t really bad! As soon as I joined the group of people waiting to board Air Canada’s Boeing 777, nearly all Indian folk, I felt that I was part of a congenial and helpful community. I had a good seat on the aisle, the perfect seatmate, and they fed us three comforting Indian meals.

Daughter Pippin had given me a splendid neck pillow designed for air travel, and it worked so well, I slept three times during that period that was like a time out of time, crossing about ten time zones and being carried into the future, and into another world.

I’ll be here several weeks, where winter temperatures range from approximately 60-90 degrees. I’m really happy to miss out on the dark days of a more northern January this year, though Bombay’s air quality is so bad — 195 on the index my first day — that the light is blocked out somewhat.

I have been busy these first three days of my stay with Kate and Tom, with just a minimum of minutes in which to scribble a few notes on things I don’t want to forget. I hope I can write here about some of the thousand things that have impressed me so far, and the experiences I have yet to encounter in this vibrant land.

But for now, I just wanted to check in,
and also to wish you a blessed new year of 2018!

 

[To continue reading posts about India, scroll down a little to the link “Bombay Baby” with its arrow pointing to the right, and click on that. Continue in that way at the bottom of each post. There is only one in the string of 23 posts over seven weeks that is not specifically about India.]

What honesty reveals of mystery…

I read a list “of the best poems for New Year,” and Christina Rossetti’s “Old and New Year Ditties” was among them. The second stanza reads:

New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God.

This reminded me of a prayer that we pray at every Divine Liturgy, “All things good and profitable for our souls, let us ask of the Lord.” When we realize that as the poet says, whatever comes our way has the potential to “help me on my…rugged way to heaven,” even what is “ill” is transformed.

That isn’t to deny the “honest face” we need to have in ourselves, and which some part of us longs for from everything and everyone we encounter in life. Fr. Alexander Schmemann said, “If there are two heretical words in the Christian vocabulary, they would be ‘optimism’ and ‘pessimism.’ These two things are utterly anti-biblical and anti-Christian.” What we need is reality, the reality that “Our faith is not based on anything except on these two fundamental revelations: God so loved the world, and: The fallen world has been secretly, mysteriously redeemed.”(From the lecture “Between Utopia and Escape.”)

As we face the gifts of the new year 2017, may God’s grace flow through each one. My love goes out to you all!

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