Tag Archives: winter

He never says you should have.

This poem by John Donne I believe did not start out as a poem. Someone posted it as follows, in poetic lines, but I found the same lines as prose on Bartleby.com, in the middle of a passage in “Sermons Preached on Christmas Day.” Donne evidently did not give the title “In Heaven it is Always Autumn” to anything, but more than one person has more recently used his line to title a poem, as I found in my searching.

Donne uses several vivid words to describe the winter we can experience in our soul at any time of year, showing that he is familiar with that inner dark and coldness. We know that he did suffer terrible grief when his wife died, and it was doubtless not the only occasion when he felt desperate need of God’s presence and mercy.

The first time I posted these words it was autumn, but now I am trying for closer to Christmas, in the spirit of their preacher.

In heaven it is always autumn,
His mercies are ever in their maturity.
We ask our daily bread
And God never says
You should have come yesterday,
He never says
You must again tomorrow,
But today if you will hear His voice,
Today He will hear you.
He brought light out of darkness,
Not out of a lesser light;
He can bring thy summer out of winter
Tho’ thou have no spring,
Though in the ways of fortune or understanding or conscience
Thou have been benighted til now,
Wintered and frozen, clouded and eclipsed,
Damped and benumbed, smothered and stupefied til now,
Now God comes to thee,
Not as in the dawning of the day,
Not as in the bud of the spring
But as the sun at noon,
As the sheaves in harvest.

– John Donne, 1624

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the archives – 2014

He paints in fairy lines.

JACK FROST

The door was shut, as doors should be,
Before you went to bed last night;
Yet Jack Frost has got in, you see,
And left your window silver white.

He must have waited till you slept;
And not a single word he spoke,
But penciled o’er the panes and crept
Away again before you woke.

And now you cannot see the hills
Nor fields that stretch beyond the lane;
But there are fairer things than these
His fingers traced on every pane.

Rocks and castles towering high;
Hills and dales, and streams and fields;
And knights in armor riding by,
With nodding plumes and shining shields.

And here are little boats, and there
Big ships with sails spread to the breeze;
And yonder, palm trees waving fair
On islands set in silver seas,

And butterflies with gauzy wings;
And herds of cows and flocks of sheep;
And fruit and flowers and all the things
You see when you are sound asleep.

For, creeping softly underneath
The door when all the lights are out,
Jack Frost takes every breath you breathe,
And knows the things you think about.

He paints them on the window-pane
In fairy lines with frozen steam;
And when you wake you see again
The lovely things you saw in dream.

~ Gabriel Setoun (1861-1930)

Firelight and that happy grace.

The phrase I took for the title of this post describes what my housemate and I soaked up this evening as we sat by the stove, where she had been tending a wood fire since she got home from work. When I came downstairs from a nap, it was already brightening up the whole house, and our dispositions as well. The modern world doesn’t let us feel comfortable about the slowing-down and love of staying home that are natural during these cold and short days, but Kenneth Grahame does:

“The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little village as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall of powdery snow. Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements into the dark world without. Most of the low latticed windows were innocent of blinds, and to the lookers-in from outside, the inmates, gathered round the tea-table, absorbed in handiwork, or talking with laughter and gesture, had each that happy grace which is the last thing the skilled actor shall capture–the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of observation.

“Moving at will from one theatre to another, the two spectators, so far from home themselves, had something of wistfulness in their eyes as they watched a cat being stroked, a sleepy child picked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man stretch and knock out his pipe on the end of a smouldering log.”

― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

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.]