Friday, March 15, 2013


"Spring on the Hudson", watercolor and gouache,
by Gretchen Kelly
“Thou art lightning and love, I found it, a winter and warm.”
        -- Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Wreck of the Deutschland”

   The 19th century British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins always wrote with a distinctive oddness, but some of his lines leap up to me, like this one this morning, making me think, once more, about the seemingly self-contradictory aspects of life. There is, indeed, a lot of lightning in any experience of love -- a lot of flashing and flare-ups and apparent possibilities of destruction. In fact, there are flashes of possible danger in the distance of any enjoyable experience. There’s always tails on the opposite side of heads, always bitterness in the last residue of a choice cup of coffee, always darkness after the best of days. This, though, is not discouraging to me, for it simply shows the mystery and bottomlessness of genuine pleasure. While delighting in a gentle day in March, for instance, I must also see the blessings in subsequent cold spells. When walking with high spirits with my wife, I must, in the back of my mind, be ready to praise those possible future days when walking will be less like sauntering and more like tottering. There’s something special and precious in every experience, if I can only keep my eyes searching for the secret flawlessness. Even on a dusky and frozen day in February, I can, as Hopkins says, find “a winter and warm”.

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