There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –
None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –
When it comes, the Landscape listens –~Emily Dickinson
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –
I don’t remember when I first encountered this poem–in high school, perhaps, or maybe even middle school. Certainly it was in a textbook, offered up as an example of the work of a famous American poet. Regardless, it’s always rung deeply true for me. There is something about the light on a winter afternoon that’s oppressive, that reminds me of endings and the oncoming rush of darkness.
We’re nearing the darkest day of the year. A week from this Saturday is the winter solstice. After that, the balance will tip back towards light. But for now, darkness gathers its force. For now, winter afternoon sunbeams are a reminder of what has passed, what we have lost, what we will lose. For now, the light is a rare and precious thing, but not without barbs.
GOOD night! which put the candle out?
A jealous zephyr, not a doubt.
Ah! friend, you little knew
How long at that celestial wick
The angels labored diligent;
Extinguished, now, for you!
It might have been the lighthouse spark ~Emily Dickinson
Some sailor, rowing in the dark,
Had importuned to see!
It might have been the waning lamp
That lit the drummer from the camp
To purer reveille!
Happy National Novel Writing Month! Confession: I haven’t started yet. But. In honor of NaNoWriMo, today’s post is a prompt inspired by this poem for everyone out there NaNo-ing.
What is your character’s “lighthouse spark”? What is their compass, their north star, the thing that orients them? What if you take that thing away?
LIKE mighty footlights burned the red
At bases of the trees,—
The far theatricals of day
Exhibiting to these.
’T was universe that did applaud ~Emily Dickinson
While, Chiefest of the crowd,
Enabled by his royal dress,
Myself distinguished God.
Ah, that autumn light. It’s different this time of year. Sunsets are sharper somehow, the clear blue line of the Alleghenies hard and crisp against the watercolor sky. The light is different all day. As I write this, it’s still pitch place outside. A month or so ago, the sun would have risen by now. Now, we wait in darkness for the sunrise, rise and begin the day without light.
The afternoon sun is different, too. It feels more golden, more precious, the light pouring down as if to make up for the fact that it will be leaving us sooner.
And then, the sunsets. They creep up on us. It seems that much color in the sky should make a sound, but you can miss it completely in its silence if you’re not paying attention. The red of the sunset is like footlights summoning us to a show that is the lights themselves. It’s noiseless and over quickly.
These days, the light hoards itself. We begin to light candles, fires, make our own tiny suns in the cold dark.
WILL there really be a morning?
Is there such a thing as day?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?
Has it feet like water-lilies?
Has it feathers like a bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?
Oh, some scholar! Oh, some sailor!
Oh, some wise man from the skies!
Please to tell a little pilgrim
Where the place called morning lies!
Of course there will be a morning. We know this, logically. Sometimes, though, the heart needs the reminder. So here it is. Yes, there will really be a morning. Light will come again. The darkness is not forever.
AN altered look about the hills; ~Emily Dickinson
A Tyrian light the village fills;
A wider sunrise in the dawn;
A deeper twilight on the lawn;
A print of a vermilion foot;
A purple finger on the slope;
A flippant fly upon the pane;
A spider at his trade again;
An added strut in chanticleer;
A flower expected everywhere;
An axe shrill singing in the woods;
Fern-odors on untravelled roads,—
All this, and more I cannot tell,
A furtive look you know as well,
And Nicodemus’ mystery
Receives its annual reply.
April is here at last, bearing with it all the telltale signs. The light looks different in spring, as if the whole world is breathing in deeply yet quietly. The redbud trees are beginning to flush with a faint haze of purple. Flies are making their way in, somehow. Spiders have been plying the corners all year long, of course, but now that the flies are back, there’s cause for much celebratory and anticipatory web-construction. My chanticleer definitely has an added strut, though here we call him Louis XIV, and he does his best to live up to the name, loudly greeting the sun well before it appears and shepherding the hens around the yard, fussing them to safety when a red-tailed hawk soars by overhead. Around here, there aren’t so many axes ringing out–the sharp echoes here are from distant neighbors testing the sights on shotguns, preparing to scare crows and groundhogs away from spring plantings. The smell of spring is lush, wet, mineral. It smells at once like rain, pollen, and groundwater, like sunshine and sap and hope. It’s difficult to adequately describe–it’s a sight glimpsed briefly, a faint scent, a fleeting sound.
What does spring look, smell, taste, sound, feel like in your corner of the world?