Reading poetry is one of the ways some of us nourish our faith, a way we set or reset our inner compass and stay focused on the big picture, on the spiritual journey. I know that is true for me. ‘Setting the Inner Compass’, is a column where I share poems that I find meaningful and hope others do as well.
Early winter is, for me, a hard season. The days are short and in my corner of the world it is often gray and wet. The baseball season is over. Christmas brings its light and joy but then we move into the heart of the long winter waiting for resurrection. Waiting and longing for hints of green, buds to form on the trees, birds to return and the sound of ‘play ball’ to echo in ballparks. I like the light and life of spring, summer, and fall. Winter is my hardest season. I know it may not be that way for others.
On those long, often dreary winter days, I need to be intentional about doing things that bring energy and happiness as I do my best to love the world. It takes work but maintaining spiritual disciplines like writing in a journal, reading a poem a day, meditation or morning walks can nourish the soul in dark seasons. I work at it. I’d love to hear what spiritual disciplines keep you focused on the light during seasons of darkness.
The two poems in this column are about saying yes! The first poem, “Midlife”, is about being present to the moment, while being unable to see what is up around the bend. It’s about yes in the midst of the unknowing. Julie Cadwallader Staub is a wonderful poet living in Vermont. Her poem, “Blackbirds”, is one of my favorites, as is this one.
My poem, “Thanksgiving”, is about grief and acknowledging that we never get over grief. It becomes part of us, and we learn to live with it saying yes to the possibilities embedded in that new sunrise. When I wrote this poem, which came to me when I woke one morning, three musicians that I was close to were on my heart and in my mind.
“Midlife” by Julie Cadwallader Staub
This is as far as the light
of my understanding
has carried me:
an October morning
a canoe built by hand
a quiet current
above me the trees arc
green and golden
against a cloudy sky
below me the river responds
with perfect reflection
a hundred feet deep
a hundred feet high.
To take a cup of this river
to drink its purple and gray
its golden and green
a bend in the river up ahead
“Thanksgiving” by Dave Brown
It seems to happen a lot these days.
I wake up and read that another
fellow traveler has left this world.
It comes with being a certain age, I guess.
You would think I’d get used to it
but I never do, I never do.
Parting is not a sweet sorrow.
The sweetness of memory sustains
but never erases the pain.
The phone calls stop
you miss his voice, the B-3 stilled,
her bass no longer finds a groove.
We say goodbye again and again
never to be the same. Grateful yes, thankful,
to be sure, yet the weight of grief remains.
It happens more often these days,
to those of us of a certain age.
We say goodbye, tears fall.
We wipe our eyes,
remember in silence
and are thankful
that when the sun
rises in the morning
we get to see it.
For Chad, Buck and Lissa
“Midlife” is from Wing Over Wing by Julie Cadwallader Staub. Copyright 2019 by Julie Cadwallader Staub. Used with permission of Paraclete Press.
“Thanksgiving” © Dave Brown is used with the poet’s permission and has been previously published on the ECHOES of PANHALA poetry Facebook page.
Rev. Dave Brown is a poet, writer, and the creator/host of Blues Vespers. The Washington Blues Society recognized him with the 2022 Keeping the Blues Alive award. The former pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Tacoma WA he serves on the PCUSA Education Roundtable and is on the national Self Development of People Committee. Dave does programs around interfaith relationships. His most recent poetry collection is, I Don’t Usually but…( [email protected]).