ON LOOKING UP BY CHANCE AT THE CONSTELLATIONS
You’ll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other, nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves,
But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drouth will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn’t reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last tonight.
Robert Frost, West-Running Brook, 1928
I read Frost’s poem on this blog: First Known When Lost, where it was posted this week along with a couple of others that may be seen as following a theme. Stephen Pentz leads off his article with the reminder that “… the feeling that the world is going to Hell in a hand-basket is a timeless feature of human nature.”
Then he leads the reader to make a distinction between the world and the World. I have been thinking lately about Mary Oliver’s poem “Messenger,” which is about this, and I’d say “Landscape” as well.
The details of our given “work assignments” are unique to each of us; we need to look to God for light and strength to do the essential spiritual work, which will help us to be ready for any more public tasks that come our way. Pentz’s last line sums it up pretty well:
“Life is ever a matter of attention and gratitude, don’t you think?”
This poem surprised me by not having any mention of green leaves or grass. It describes a morning moment so succinctly, I think I might remember it, especially if I were watching the moon at dawn… Otherwise, maybe not! Because it may never happen that I have the opportunity to know this scene as more than a poem, I thought it best not to wait to share it.
The dawn was apple-green,
The sky was green wine held up in the sun,
The moon was a golden petal between.
She opened her eyes, and green
They shone, clear like flowers undone
For the first time, now for the first time seen.
The sky hangs up its starry pictures: a swan,
a crab, a horse. And even though you’re
three hundred miles away, I know you see
them, too. Right now, my side
of the bed is empty, a clear blue lake
of flannel. The distance yawns and stretches.
It’s hard to remember we swim in an ocean
of great love, so easy to fall into bickering
like little birds at the feeder fighting over proso
and millet, unaware of how large the bag of grain is,
a river of golden seeds, that the harvest was plentiful,
the corn is in the barn, and whenever we’re hungry,
a dipperful of just what we need will be spilled . . .
Those who aren’t severely affected by wildfires to the point of being evacuated temporarily or permanently from their homes, and who continue to go about their usual work, might still be vaguely or acutely affected by smoke. Some of my family in northern California and southern Oregon have had weeks of smoke that keeps them indoors, makes the sky dark and the air muggy. Even here, my eyes are scratchy. It all has a distracting and depressing effect, though one is not always fully conscious of it.
But this morning my daughter Pippin exclaimed, “Today, the sky is blue!” and sent a photo to prove it. I had recently joined in one blog draft a photo she took in England and a poem, which I’m publishing in celebration of blue skies. They are currently a welcome background for sheep or clouds or what have you.
When I came forth this morn I saw
Quite twenty cloudlets in the air;
And then I saw a flock of sheep,
Which told me how these clouds came there.
That flock of sheep, on that green grass,
Well might it lie so still and proud!
Its likeness had been drawn in heaven,
On a blue sky, in silvery cloud.
I gazed me up, I gazed me down,
And swore, though good the likeness was,
‘Twas a long way from justice done
To such white wool, such sparkling grass.
-William Henry Davies
Pippin Pic of Yorkshire Dales