Behind mist awaits hope

April 3, 2008


A leaf flew into the window last night during a storm of 170 kilometres per hour winds. It plastered itself onto the glass and is still there now stuck like glue offering an image to the brief frailty of all life. Everywhere I turn and look there is branch debris, the wind is still strong, the waves tumultuous and the light foreboding. Inside the cocoon of my house and warming fire I ponder the words of Mary Oliver who writes in Winter Hours near the end of the book (and winter):

Now the winter, the winter I am writing about, begins to ease. And what if anything has been determined, selected, nailed down? This is the lesson of age—events pass, things change, trauma fades. Good fortune rises, fades, and rises again but different. Whereas what happens when one is twenty, as I remember it, happens forever. I have not been twenty for a long time! The sun rolls toward the north and I feel gratefully, its brightness flaming up once more. Somewhere in the world the misery we can do nothing about yet goes on. Somewhere the words I will write down next year, and the next, are drifting into the wind, out of the ornate pods of the weeds of the Provincelands.

Once I went into the woods to find and almost unfindable bird, a blue grosbeak. And I found it: a rough deep blue, almost black, with a heavy beak; it was plucking one by one the humped, pale green caterpillars from the leaves of a thick green tree. Then it vanished into the shadows of the leaves and, in the same moment, from the crown of the tree flew a western bluebird—little aqua thrush of the mountain, hundreds of miles from its home. It is a moment hard to top—but I can. Once I came upon two angels, they were standing quietly, keeping guard beside a car. Light streamed from them, and a splash of flames lay quietly under their feet. What is one to do with such moments, but cherish them? Who knows what is beyond the known? And if you think that any day the secret of light might come, would you not keep the house of your mind ready? Would you not cleanse your study of all that is cheap and trivial? Would you not live in continual hope, and pleasure, and excitement.

Mary Oliver

With Zimbabwe and Tibet in the global news and Tasmania’s pulp mill given more federal approval, it is hard to live in continual hope, and pleasure, and excitement. But not impossible. The hill is still there behind the fog. The unfindable is findable. The secret of light will reveal it yet again. Perhaps tomorrow.


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