Halcyon Days

Instead of halcyon days – the seven storm-free days – said to occur on either side of solstice, we had storm days alternating with days of peace. Windy, rainy days followed clear wintry days with calm sea, when welcome light lingered in the afternoon sky.

I begin to long to be outdoors beyond our morning walk on non-downpour days, but the garden isn’t inviting. I stand at the kitchen window and picture myself cutting back the slimed crocosmia, but manage only to quickly clean the overflowing birdbaths.

When we walk these winter mornings at Fort Worden, high tides often keep us off the beach. The other day we began to explore a narrow strip of sand, but waves crashed and stopped us around the first headland. Those days we re-route up the hill under shelter of big trees.

I’ve been wanting to talk about the poet Stanley Kunitz before the year ends. A few years ago, a friend sent me a wonderful book compiled by Genine Lentine with Kunitz, subtitled “A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden.” That’s right, a century – written, compiled in his 100th year. It’s about his two great loves: poetry and gardening. I had in mind these lines: “In the woods, one loses the sense of time. It’s quite a different experience from walking in the streets. The streets are human creations. In the woods what one finds are cosmic creations.” Houses, too, are human creations – and I’ve been much inside ours.

But then I found this, perhaps partial answer to my burning question these days about the blog. Kunitz writes: “When you look back on a lifetime and think of what has been given to the world by your presence, your fugitive presence, inevitably you think of your art, whatever it may be, as the gift you have made to the world in acknowledgment of the gift you have been given, which is the life itself. And I think the world tends to forget that this is the ultimate significance of the body of work each artist produces. That work is not an expression of the desire for praise, or recognition, or prizes, but the deepest manifestation of your gratitude for the gift of life.”

In a holiday phone call with my brother I found myself telling him that I feel more like our mother all the time. I could never see why she was so cheerful in the years she lived here (though she was always an optimistic person), but she was so old, how could she be so light-hearted and happy about her ordinary day? I get it now, and Kunitz articulates it.

She was grateful. As our younger son would have said when he was little: “so me too.”

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