Monday, October 28, 2013

a measure of splendour


by Elizabeth Reninger

Go out after midnight
with the sky trembling
in snowy light -
each star holding its filament
of desire. Merge

your mind with the spiraling
galaxies - with a movement so
large only Your
heart can encompass it.

Drop your prayer into the ear
of God. Write a poem to help
her hear it.

Notice the moon grow
more distant and
diffuse - Reappear
as your Beloved

looking out through eyes
vast as a Winter


We had a skiff of snow on Sunday morning, though it won't last. Still, it's nearly time for snow to arrive, properly. Already, my vision becomes wintered, pared down. Maybe it's in winter that we see most clearly.

below is an excerpt from 'Twigs' by Taha Muhammad Ali  which I found on Crashingly Beautiful, and post here with thanks:

Neither music,
fame, nor wealth,
not even poetry itself,
could provide consolation
for life’s brevity,
or the fact that King Lear
is a mere eighty pages long and comes to an end…

And so
it has taken me
all of sixty years
to understand
that water is the finest drink,
and bread the most delicious food,
and that art is worthless
unless it plants
a measure of splendor in people’s hearts.

I have to tell you that the words above have stopped me in my tracks this morning. Ever since I saw the video I mentioned a few posts ago of the artist Marina Abramovic, I've been thinking about how amazing it is to drink a glass of water. And maybe it was last winter that I was a little obsessed with photographing bread, and I'd been thinking about that as well. And meanwhile I've also been thinking about this blog - my usual bimonthly crisis of faith in its worth, in the worth of all the photographs I take. What I usually come around and back to is the thought that maybe the worth of it is in the whole rather than its parts. I'm never really satisfied with any one photograph, which is maybe why I post many at a time. Trying to convey a mood. Letting the weather or the objects or the light speak for me. 

If this blog has implanted a measure of splendour in anyone's heart it's because of the poetry, not mine, that is shared here. And I'm grateful that I've got this odd little space, for it sends me off seeking poems that I wouldn't otherwise find, or know of, and which I read in the early mornings, often in the dark, often when Rob is in his studio, and Chloe is still asleep. 

Maybe it's normal to feel this overwhelming and ridiculous dissatisfaction with one's work, with certain parts of one's life, when the season is changing. Not quite fall, not quite winter. I'm impatient, dissatisfied, certainly not calm these days. 

What I do like about winter is the silence, which is really the silence that one is able to cultivate in one's own being, in spite of the exterior noise, the noise of the world in general. This is how it is for me, anyway. 

Winter is a calmer season. One embraces the indoors, and one's house more closely resembles a hermitage when the snow piles up around it. It will soon be time to bring out favourite winter books, Bachelard's The Poetics of Space, poems by Tsvetaeva, by Rilke, and it will be time to read through diaries of artists, writers - May Sarton, Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Merton.

"One has to be in the same place every day, watch the dawn from the same house, hear the same birds wake each morning to realize how inexhaustibly rich and different is 'sameness.' This is the blessing of stability, and I think it is not evident until you enjoy it alone in a hermitage. The common life distracts you from life in its fullness. But one must be able to share this fullness, and I am not for a complete and absolute solitude without communication (except temporarily)."  

- Thomas Merton, in A year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations form His Journals

And so, to echo the poem by Jane Kenyon from a previous post, 

let winter come. 

Let winter come to the leftover roses in the garden. 

Let winter come to every flower.

Let winter come to every leaf.

Let winter come to my garden.

Let winter kiss the unpicked apples.

And let winter to come the leaves, the fallen ones, we never did get around to raking.....


  1. I think I am in love with your blog, pretty sure. Your photos are so tender, the poetry interspersed like a trail of bread crumbs... thank you.

    1. Thanks, Laura! Going to check out your blog, too :)

  2. Shawna, this is a reassuring post. This business of doubt in the worth of ones work, well, having it named, as you have, has come as a kind of release. Self-doubt always snipes at my heels, at times threatening to overwhelm. Calm Things always brings a great measure of splendor to my heart, and now your openness has brought some self-kindness. Thank you. (Curiously, I just purchased a copy of 'Poetics of Space.')

    1. Thank you Stephen - self-doubt has a way of sniping doesn't it? I think you'll like the Bachelard.

  3. Such beautiful poetry and images here... it all feeds my soul. We have not had any frosts or snow here but beautiful sunny fall days with my Japanese maples blazing in reds, yellows and oranges.

    1. Sounds spectacular! The snow will mostly melt away today, I imagine here, but many of the leaves have fallen.

  4. I think i'm in love with your blog too. such a gentle presence.

  5. I'm so glad I'm staying up late tonight. I would have never come back to read some of the posts which I have missed ... of course I never get to them all.
    I must tell you that your blog HAS "implanted a measure of splendour in" my heart. Sure, I do enjoy some of the poetry you share but it's your words, thoughts, and way of thinking, not to mention the lovely photographs that draws me here (even when I should be snuggled in bed).

  6. Diane's words above are exactly what I was going to say . . . It's the whole of your devotion and energy to this blog, and all that it brings us, which implants the measure of splendour. It's you.


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