Wednesday Words 12.16.15


December 14, 1969

From “Snow-bound: A Winter Idyl” by John Greenleaf Whittier

What matter how the night behaved?
What matter how the north-wind raved?
Blow high, blow low, not all its snow
Could quench our hearth-fire’s ruddy glow.
O Time and Change!—with hair as gray
As was my sire’s that winter day,
How strange it seems, with so much gone
Of life and love, to still live on!
Ah, brother! only I and thou
Are left of all that circle now,—
The dear home faces whereupon
That fitful firelight paled and shone.
Henceforward, listen as we will,
The voices of that hearth are still;
Look where we may, the wide earth o’er,
Those lighted faces smile no more.
We tread the paths their feet have worn,
      We sit beneath their orchard trees,
      We hear, like them, the hum of bees
And rustle of the bladed corn;
We turn the pages that they read,
      Their written words we linger o’er,
But in the sun they cast no shade,
No voice is heard, no sign is made,
      No step is on the conscious floor!
Yet Love will dream, and Faith will trust,
(Since He who knows our need is just,)
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must.
Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress-trees!
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marbles play!
Who hath not learned, in hours of faith,
      The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That Life is ever lord of Death,
      And Love can never lose its own!

14 thoughts on “Wednesday Words 12.16.15

  1. Kathy says:

    Whoa. Well, that made me cry.

    ” We sit beneath their orchard trees
    We hear, like them, the hum of bees”

    My daughter is expecting a baby in April. It’s a glorious, wonderful time. We still have a twelve and sixteen year old at home But it also leaves me with feelings of, oh, the future is here – there will be new little ones sitting beneath my orchard trees – sometimes with me – but for much longer without me.

    • Rita says:

      Feels like a changing of the guard, doesn’t it? I am continually surprised to realize that I’m now my grandparents’ ages. I thought they were so old when I was young, but I look at photos now (like the one at the top of this post) and I see that they weren’t really that old at all.

  2. Marian says:

    Thank you for this, Rita. It — coincidentally — is precisely what I’ve been pondering for the past while. About 6 weeks ago, I learned that the friend of a friend had been given a month to live. Roughly my age, she had just passed her 5 year breast cancer survival mark, only to be told she had cancer in her lungs, pancreas and liver. Even though I had only met her once, and briefly at that, this woman has been a nearly constant presence in my thoughts as I’ve gone about my day-to-day activities. What, I’ve wondered, do you choose to do with your time when you’ve been given this prognosis? And more importantly, how do you tell your children? She passed away last week, and when I hugged my friend, she said, “Now the healing can begin, and now, life goes on.”
    Marian recently posted…Knitting Over-analyzedMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      That’s a situation I can’t really imagine. I think I wouldn’t do much of anything different. Well, I’d let my house get dirty, probably. Sometimes, when things are getting to me, I ask myself how I would feel and what I would do if I knew I had only weeks or months left. It sounds maudlin, but it tends to put things in perspective for me. I hope the healing has begun.

  3. Kate says:

    This time of year is so bittersweet. It’s wonderful and filled with family and kids and noise and lights and so many good things (which is why I haven’t been blogging and I’ve deactivated my Facebook account) but it’s also a time when I deeply feel the loss of Gram and my Grandpa (who passed away 18 years ago this week). I am very fortunate to have a set of grandparents still living and even more fortunate still to have had close relationships with both sides of grandparents, but I miss my mom’s folks so, so very much. Especially when I’m trying to recreate my Gram’s spritz cookies because they never, ever, ever turn out just right like hers or we all head to Christmas Mass because I know just how proud my Grandpa would be to see us there.

    • Rita says:

      I can’t get my grandma’s spaghetti quite right, either. I miss my grandparents very much at this time of year, too. I look at the photo at the top of this post, surrounded by grandparents and great-grandmothers, and I know the pangs are because I was once (literally) surrounded by so much protective love. So, I was lucky. Yes, bittersweet is exactly what it is. I hope you’re having a good season. I miss your blog posts (and was beginning to worry, knowing that you’d been having some house woes), but am glad to know it’s because your days are filled with light.

      • Kate says:

        Yes! That’s exactly it. How special it is to be loved so, so much by parents and grandparents – and as a child capable of taking that for granted. And then becoming an adult and realizing that it really is a precious and wonderful thing. And now it’s my turn to be the grown up loving so fiercely with children who can take it for granted. It’s both wonderful and disconcerting.
        Kate recently posted…Ten Things I LoveMy Profile

    • Marian says:

      We (my kids and I) make my husband’s grandmother’s “signature” Christmas cookies every year (horseshoes: a shortbread almond cookie which is shaped like a horseshoe and then rolled in sugar after baking). I had gone over to her apartment one day, just after my husband and I got married, and she taught me how to make the cookies, but I was never able to make them as well as she did, probably largely due to the fact that she weighed her ingredients. (Because I didn’t have a kitchen scale, I wrote down what the volume measurements were that teaching day, and used that form of measuring when I made them from then on). Then, one year, deciding I wanted these cookies to REALLY turn out (you know, MELTY, like good shortbread is!), I found ANOTHER shortbread recipe, added the same amount of crushed almonds, and voilà: really excellent cookies! My kids don’t know that I changed the recipe…all they know is that they’re making “Omi’s horseshoe cookies” and as we make them, they feel that they’re part of a tradition (even though it’s mainly me that thinks of Omi, because their memories of her would be hazy (or even non-existent)). I guess my point is twofold: the important thing is the MAKING of the thing, because that’s one way to keep the person’s memory alive, and perhaps, even though YOU can taste the difference between your Gram’s spritz cookies and yours, your kids probably CAN’T! But I also think it’s ok to change up the recipe a bit, if it’s really not working, because even if the recipe has been tweeked, you’re STILL thinking of the person, which is really mainly the whole point, isn’t it?

      And I too, am glad to see you here, Kate — like Rita, I was beginning to get a bit worried. I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying the season 🙂 .
      Marian recently posted…Knitting Over-analyzedMy Profile

      • Kate says:

        I DO need to remember that it’s the making that’s what it is important because perfectionist me gets so cranky when things don’t turn out as I expect. Ultimately, even if the recipe is exactly right, I doubt they’ll ever taste exactly like my Gram’s because they aren’t HERS.

        And yes, I’ve been checking into see if you ladies have been blogging, but just can’t seem to manage to type anything else out myself.
        Kate recently posted…Ten Things I LoveMy Profile

  4. Lisa says:

    Just yesterday I was thinking that death is lurking around every corner lately. Between my own kid’s health scares and a friend’s 48 year old wife unexpectedly passing away of a heart attack on Friday, it has been on my mind. Who is it that you are thinking of?
    Lisa recently posted…Sufficient unto the dayMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I’ve been thinking of my grandparents and the family I had growing up. This time of year was a favorite when I was a kid. Who wouldn’t like their birthday and Christmas all rolled up into one twinkly month? Now, it’s often challenging for me. I waver between determination to 1) appreciate all that I still have and 2) not let the overconsumption of the season get to me and sinking into a good, deep funk because I 1) really miss those who aren’t here any more and 2) can’t seem to escape all the nuttiness of the season, no matter how I try to take control of it. I liked the hopeful ending of this section of the poem, though. Love really does win, and it keeps those who are gone still here, in at least a small way.

  5. May says:

    This moved me to tears. The combination of the photo which is exactly like so many I have of my own loved ones from precisely that same time paired with the sentiment of the poem at this point in time resonates with my heart. Thank you for sharing.
    Hope your gathering this year was the type that forms such sweet memories.
    May recently posted…TToT:Christmas EditionMy Profile

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