photo credit: Anna Kostenko

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape - the loneliness of it - the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it - the whole story doesn't show." Andrew Wyeth

Unlike my husband, who spent much of his life in the Bahamas, I grew up in Pennsylvania, and so learned to appreciate the starkness of the winterscape. Seeing the trees bereft of leaves was a grounding experience for me, and those evening sunsets silhouetting the black lacy branches were as lovely as anything spring could offer.

Several years ago, a friend mentioned that often our inner work mirrors the landscape or season we find ourselves in. During the winters of our lives we find ourselves being stripped bare; the outer trappings fall away, leaving only an inner core, the "bone structure" of who we are. As familiar roles are taken from us, or change requires us to investigate new pathways, we shiver, exposed and uncertain.

But though we may feel diminished, the self remains. Apart from the busyness of life, apart from our productivity, and even our clarity, we exist; in the stillness, our breath reminds us that we are alive. And if we are willing to embrace the "absolute patience" of winter's handiwork, we may find ourselves experiencing the happiness of pure being.

The Breathing
  Denise Levertov

"An absolute
Trees stand
up to their knees in
fog. The fog
slowly flows
cobwebs, the grass 
leaning where deer
have looked for apples.
The woods
from brook to where
the top of the hill looks
over the fog, send up
not one bird.
So absolute, it is
no other than
happiness itself, a breathing
too quiet to hear."

For more of Kostenko's photography, click here.
1/15/2012 08:27:16 pm

Thanks for this poem, Sue, which I didn't know about. One of my favorite Levertov poems (which I blog about at www.betterlivingthroughbeowulf.com/?p=3948) is the following:


Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla

“From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea–”

But we have only begun
To love the earth.

We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
– so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?
– we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision

how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.

Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet–
there is too much broken
that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

1/15/2012 09:52:04 pm

Thanks for the reminder of this poem, Robin. I went back to your blog to read the comments. There is a power in saying, "not yet, not now, we're finally starting to get it." Though often those moments of clarity come at the end of a tragedy, think King Lear, I hope that they instead are part of a comedy, perhaps Taming of the Shrew, where with this awakening is the opportunity to begin something new.


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