Today’s poem is by Gwyneth Lewis. She is a Welsh poet who writes in both Welsh and English. I discovered her in Malcolm Guite’s The Word in the Wilderness: A Poem a Day for Lent and Easter where he shared her wonderful poem “Homecoming”. But I will save that one for a later blog.
For today, her poem “Midwinter Marriage” seems appropriate. It is found in her book Parables & Faxes published by Bloodaxe Books. I hope you will read it slowly, twice.
After autumn’s fever and its vivid trees,
infected with colour as the light died back,
we’ve settled into greyness: fields behind gauze,
hedges feint in tracing-paper mists,
the sun diminished to a midday moon
and daylight degraded to the monochrome
of puritan weather. This healing cold
holds us to pared-down simplicities.
Now is the worse-case solstice time,
acutest angle of the shortest day,
a time to condemn the frippery of leaves
and know that trees stand deltas to the sky
producing nothing. A time to take your ease
in not knowing, in blankness, in vacuity.
This is the season that has married me.
You may find in the poem some wonderful metaphors worthy of your meditation. If so, don’t allow my meandering to cause you to forget to take time with those images that have attracted you.
However, what attracted me were the last three lines. “[Winter is] a time to take your ease / in not knowing, in blankness, in vacuity. / This is the season that has married me.” One of the most influential books of Christian mysticism or spirituality is a little anonymous book from the 14th century entitled The Cloud of Unknowing. The author stresses that our understanding can never penetrate the cloud of unknowing that separates us from God who is incomprehensible. Only love alone can reach God.
Winter time is appropriate as a time to remember how little we can fathom of God’s nature–though what we can fathom is beautiful, full of spring time life and glory. Each season carries within it metaphor and symbol to draw us toward the divine. Even dark winter.
It is easy for me to be married to winter, as Lewis imagines herself to be. Perhaps it is my melancholy nature. Whatever the case, winter can help me experience God. It is is a pathway, perhaps dark, but a true pathway, none the less.
When I read this poem last year, it inspired the following haiku:
monochrome unknowing time
As always you may share this blog with others and encourage them to follow. And I would love to hear your thoughts on winter!