The Magical Light

be the light

Tomorrow will be the shortest day in our northern hemisphere – the winter solstice. It will also be the day when shortly after sunset, if we do not have heavy cloud cover, we should see the Grand Jupiter Saturn Conjunction. Although I have to say that cloud cover can be a fairly constant feature of an Irish December. So we shall see. On Christmas Eve, it is forecast to be dry and clear, so maybe we will glimpse the Bethlehem Star on that night.

Counterintuitively, I tend to wake early, before dawn in the winter months. (And lie abed in summer; go figure!) And when I do wake early, I write in the darkness, though I draw open the curtains to see the slow curling of twilight dissolve into a pinking sunrise around 9am.

I woke early this morning and did not turn over to drowse on. I took out my pen and notebook after reading a quotation of Audre Lorde in a Brain Pickings blog post. It spurred a fairly formal effort, though I know of no name for it – a regular rhyme scheme with a capping couplet. Perhaps it is a longtail sonnet?! It is what it is, I guess. Here is the quotation:

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realised.

Audre Lorde

She goes on to speak of poetry, but I stopped there and decided to take up writing a poem.

We Pursue Our Magic

We pursue our magic and make it so -
shake, rattle the kaleidoscopic light-
marvelling at patterns and the colours.
Sometimes incantations make the world glow
on days of this perpetual twilight,
which plunge us, forcing us to discover
the content of our character on show
(only to our most private self). Less bright,
perhaps, than we might like. Even dimmer
than this midnight of the heart and soul.

Delicate beauty may come to light,
nuanced, that peripherally hovers,
that uncovers truth by way of shadow,
overcoming the blinded, dazzled bright
of favoured, mythic, eternal summer.
We pursue our magic by our own light.
And make it so with all the words we write.
 
 Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved. 

This will be a holiday season like none we have known in our lifetime. Collectively, we are pausing in the dark of the year. Stay well, my friends. It may be a lonely time for many, but pause. Read some poetry. Poetry is our magical connection.

There may be another poem on Tuesday. Or, depending on how my baking and other preparations are going, I may post closer to Christmas.

Stay well. Stay connected. Good Yule. The light is returning.

Enter Winter

It has been a week where rain has been turning into sleet. We have had hoar frost for a couple mornings this week and a distinctly unbalmy -1C at dawn today. Which is blooming cold for Ireland! The Light in the Window: 21 Days Journey through December’s Dark Days e-course started winging into email inboxes last Tuesday. We have our first Zoom fireside chat in a couple hours.

And yet, what I want to report on is the amazing play of light and cloud at both dawn and sunset this week. Also, fog banks hovering on the horizon. As I tap out this blog outdoors is a white mist. We have an orange alert fog warning tonight. But it is also very beautiful. I am wont to say we live in Tir na nÓg, and weeks like this tend to prove my supposition.

Most days I have been running around with a camera to capture some of the gorgeousness on display. I like winter since moving to Ireland. Or maybe it comes from living out in the country. Either way I have been seriously excited about it many days this week.

At dawn I was looking out at the frost and fog and felt some tanka coming on. So you get a bonus weekly poem.

8:30 AM, St. Nicholas Day, -1C

Each twig is outlined
Trace tree's bare bones with the frost
Backlit by pale sun
Fog freezeframes this whitened world
The blackbird looks in at me.
10AM, St. Nicholas Day, -1C

Gold light glimmering
Frost crystals shiver teardrops
Eyewatering cold
A good day to be alive
If you have a place inside

Which leads into a segue regarding this Christmas. Spare some cash for whatever local charities who are supporting the homeless. This is what one organisation is doing to provide support with Virtual Santa Boxes during this time of Covid19. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2770392549878979. The pandemic has done one good thing. It has really made people think creatively and laterally to achieve what is needed. I hope we keep it up once the virus is under control by spring.

Point of Contact

In the Republic of Ireland we have been released from our 5km exercise zone after six weeks of Lockdown 2. Now this household won’t be racing out to the shops, having carefully curated our personal safety zone over the past eight months – local Dowra Spar and post office, Manorhamilton Supervalu, Belcoo pharmacy and Spar, and Clancy’s of Glenfarne for post office and takeaways. We are basically staying within a self-imposed twenty mile radius from home for essentials. But we took the lifting of restrictions as an opportunity to go and ‘stare at lakes’ over a cup of tea and biscuit and take the dog for a walk in the Glenfarne Demesne. There is a Sculpture trail through the woods. And it is good to get an eyeful of some varied scenery. Of which we have in abundance in the West Cavan and North Leitrim border area.

Today’s blog takes its title from one of the sculptures, one funded in some of the original EU funded Peace and Reconciliation projects back in 2000 (known locally as Peace 1; we are on Peace 5 now. USA, please note that it takes 30 years to undo 30 years trauma.)

Glenfarne, Leitrim Sculpture Trail. This sculpture created by Derek Whitecasein, August 2000.

The sun was bathing country Fermanagh on the opposite shore of Lough MacNean in sunshine. And we were also getting a splendid light and shadow on our shores, too.

It’s 1st December and we are heading towards the shortest of days in our hemisphere, but the light playing with the shade and shadow was extraordinary today. And, thinking of last Thursday’s blog title on resilience, I spotted two spruce trees growing out of a rock surrounded by water. These two baby Christmas trees may never be papermill fodder, but they do speak of what can grow in even the most inhospitable conditions. Even nature is wanting to get the Christmas decor out early in 2020.

They are kind of like Charlie Brown Christmas Trees but even rocks will grow you one.

Today is the beginning of my email e-course 21 Days Journey through December’s Dark Days. Nature certainly showed us how we can have the most astonishing shots of light at this dark time of year. I kept asking my husband to stop the car so I could snap some photos of the rose gold light playing with the mountain and the light. And then, much to my joy, I spotted that hardy upland flowering shrub, gorse. It smells like a mixture of vanilla and coconut to me and it brightens our winter landscape here in Ireland.

At some point I probably will write a poem called “Point of Contact”, but for this week’s poem I have an attempt at a sonnet. My Zoom group was toiling at these this past weekend. And Ruth Padel is right. “Good pattern is hard work.” Maybe once I have written fifty of them I will finally have the hang of it.

The Earth's Heart

Listen...the earth is pulsing every
twenty-six seconds, a slow signal's beat.
A pause. A patient moment. Then. Breathe.
Less hurried than Morse code's dash dot repeats.
Desperation's staccato urgency
is counterpoint to the earth's slow
pulse. And pause. And pause on silent repeat...
its heartbeat a tap through air waves, radio
silence for a further twenty-six beats,
the space between...Can that silence echo?
Is that what I hear in my eardrum's beat,
the thrumming as I speed toward contingency?
Earth is slow. And patient. A lung and drum.
It needs just a tone, content to just hum.

May your dark December days be shot full of astonishing light.

September Light Falls

Ireland is a country of many seasons. Many, as the joke goes, all in a single day. But there are two months out of each year that are hard to beat whether the rain falls or it is dry. May is a close runner up, but for me, September is the month you cannot beat. It may partly be that I took up residence in Ireland in 2001 just at the autumn equinox. While Spring is fun, it can also feel a bit frantic. Autumn has a much more ‘Hey, man!’ vibe to it. The sunflowers still nod, but they don’t have to put any more energy into growth. They are tall enough. While it may not be relaxing for people herding children back to school, or workers returning from a late summer vacance, the earth energy is mellow. I saw my first puffball a few days ago. The only growth now is fungi. They are incredibly discreet about it. But what slays me most is the slant of light at this time of year. So that is what the Poetry Daily offers you on Day 361 of the 365 poem a day.

The Way the Light Falls

Like no other time of year...
This.
When dark clouds joust
with javellins of light
searing September sky.

Happy tears fall in sunshine
before brooding, petrol clouds.
See!
It's Cathy calling Heathcliff
or Tristan to Isolde.

Then
the meeting on the bridge.
Rainbows grow double
Come quick and look!
What's your dearest wish?

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved