As It Gets Cold And Gray

Mark Strand (1934 – 1914)

“We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.”

Mark Strand: Keeping Things Whole

Lines for Winter

by Mark Strand

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
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
tell yourself
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,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.”

The End

by Mark Strand

Not everyone knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,
When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not everyone knows what he’ll discover instead.
When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus
And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,
Not everyone knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.

from Rattle #17, Summer 2002
Tribute to Pulitzer Prize Winners


The Coming of Light

Happy Hannukkah

Blessings for Chanukah

by Jessie E. Sampter

Blessed art thou, O God our Lord,
Who made us holy with his word,
And told us on this feast of light
To light one candle more each night.

(Because when foes about us pressed
To crush us all with death or shame,
The Lord his priests with courage blest
To strike and give his people rest
And in the House that he loved best
Relight our everlasting flame.)

Blest art Thou, the whole world’s King,
Who did so wonderful a thing
For our own fathers true and bold
At this same time in days of old!

If it feels like things are speeding up this year, it may be because holidays on the lunar calendar, like Hanukkah, are especially early. Hanukkah, which means dedication in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev, which is November 28, and continues to the second day of Tevet in the Hebrew calendar or  Monday Dec 6th this year.  Hanukkah a tradition of remembrance, associated with the gift of light is celebrated with the menorah, a candelabrum with holders for 8 candles, one for each day of the celebration, plus a ninth, the shammash used to light the other candles. One candle is lit on the first night, two on the second, three on the third, through to the eighth night when all are lit.   

In my house growing up we lit advent candles during the month leading up to Christmas Eve.  There were four candles in a ring, with a fifth in the middle, lit on Christmas Eve.  There were five in our family, so each got to light one candle and read the prayer associated with that day.   As I was the youngest, I got to light the first candle the first Sunday in Advent and kick off the season.  The lighting of the first advent candle also coincided with the creation of a paper chain that my Mother would make with us children with the number of paper loops corresponding for the number of days leading up to Christmas.  The paper chain hung in the hallway leading to our bedrooms, and consisted of three colors, one for each child, so we knew which night it was our turn to take down a link.   The shortening chain helped build the excitement for the holiday.

Though I don’t celebrate with a paper chain or advent wreath anymore, I recognize the wisdom of my Mother’s gentle way of helping us children prepare for the holidays.   These traditions slowed time down in ways that made sure we finished the preparations on the gifts we were making and helped silently guide us mentally towards our family and church celebrations.  I think it might be time in this dark December, to light some candles in preparation for this year’s holidays.   I am considering a hybrid between the two traditions, but useful for all the same reasons.  Do you have holiday traditions involving candles that you have implemented with your family that are a carryover from your childhood?


The Coming of Light

by Mark Strand

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.