and exacting joys.
To bear new life or learn to live is an exacting joy.
— Anne Ridler from “Christmas and the Common Birth”
Friends, I promised you a poem. Here it is.
Despite the title, “Summertide Rhythms” has a lot to do with winter. “Life becomes” in summer: joy springs, birds sing, and boughs wake, but they only do so from what was once “the formless dust” and wintry crust; and from the ashes of trials. In my own challenges I tend to look for a quick ticket out, neglecting the fact seasons of wintering can themselves produce growth, and are even necessary for it. A walk on the brink of physical summer and personal winter reminded me of this truth, and so I share this poem on the brink of physical winter to encourage personal summering; or at very least the expectation of it, which can be its own kind of healing.
I’ll spend a brief moment on the poetic structure here. The golden shovel is a form which interacts with another work, often a phrase or a line from another poem which can be read down the right-hand side of the new poem. Do so here and you’ll find Anne Ridler’s quote above adding its own connotations to “Summertide Rhythms.” Learning to live is certainly “an exacting joy.” “The whole self must waken,” she goes on to say: it demands something from us, requires we put skin in the game to anticipate and work toward “summertide rhythms” even if winter is our current lot. As we head into another beautiful Christmastide, be reminded of the “summer glowing in winter’s breast” and waiting, waiting for the ground to thaw. There is life in you, even now.
Originally published in The Habit Portfolio.
I took the long, the thoughtful way to the corner, and the park there. Hearts bear those things too heavy for hands; but new rhythms wait: they are found things, and to be sought. Life becomes, blooming from the formless dust or greening, grinning from woken boughs to learn again — for so we must — to know afresh: the summer glows in winter’s breast. A live and living thing, throbbing with expectancy is she. — On the long way to the park I see an answer-expectant, breath-holding, love-exacting, springing-from-the-ashes joy.