Winter at the End of Winter
Winter at the end of winter is a thing unto itself. We're a little weary of winter now (which in Edmonton can go on right into spring) but it's still worthy of praise.
In winter we are more compassionate. Maybe we are kinder.
by Stephen Dunn
In Manhattan, I learned a public kindness
was a triumph
over the push of money, the constrictions
of fear. If it occurred it came
from some deep
primal memory, almost entirely lost—
Here, let me help you, then you me,
otherwise we’ll die.
Which is why I love the weather
in Minnesota, every winter kindness
to obvious self-interest,
thus so many kindnesses
when you need them;
praise blizzards, praise the cold.
There is still so much to love about winter and its unpredictable weather. For those of us who have lived here all our lives we know the richest that Thomas Merton calls, 'sameness' in this next passage below:
"One has to be in the same place every day, watch the dawn from the same house, hear the same birds wake each morning to realize how inexhaustibly rich and different is 'sameness.' This is the blessing of stability, and I think it is not evident until you enjoy it alone in a hermitage. The common life distracts you from life in its fullness. But one must be able to share this fullness, and I am not for a complete and absolute solitude without communication (except temporarily)."
- Thomas Merton, in A year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations form His Journals
And let's head back to Rumi:
The mystery does not get clearer by repeating the question,
nor is it bought with going to amazing places.
Until you've kept your eyes
and your wanting still for fifty years,
you don't begin to cross over from confusion.
At then end of winter we need more grace. At the end of winter we find out who we are.
And at the end of winter, we come to love who we are, as we are reminded in the poem by Mark Strand.
Lines for Winter
by Mark Strand
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.
- from Selected Poems by Mark Strand
I'm not done with Rumi yet. In the Coleman Barks translation which I have lived within for so many years, he has a chapter titled, "Recognizing Elegance." Barks says that elegance is "the sudden opening of one's eyes to the elaborate, extravagant beauty around us." He also notes that "the intricacy of the present moment" is "all the wealth we need."
By the end of winter our seeing is so pared down. Where other might only see expanses of white, we winter dwellers see all the shades of blue and purple. The tiniest bits of colour are like wild sparks. The brown skeletons of the trees tell myriad stories with their ancient script.
Because I love this, I am never bored.
Beauty constantly wells up, a noise of spring water
in my ear and in my inner being.
Maybe it is in winter we feel the energy of 'now' most profoundly.
The poem goes on:
Leaf sounds talk together like poets
making fresh metaphors. The green felt cover slips,
and we get a flash of the mirror underneath.
Think how it will be when the whole thing
is pulled away! I tell only one one-thousandth
of what I see, because there's so much doubt everywhere.
The conventional opinion of this poetry is,
it shows great optimism for the future.
But Father Reason says,
No need to announce the future!
This is it. This. Your deepest need and desire
is satisfied by the moment's energy
here in your hand.