Thursday, August 21, 2014

to sip wine while studying the light

Against Whatever It Is That's Encroaching

by Charles Simic

Best of all is to be idle,
And especially on a Thursday,
And to sip wine while studying the light:
The way it ages, yellows, turns ashen
And then hesitates forever
On the threshold of the night
That could be bringing the first frost.

It's good to have a woman around just then,
And two is even better.
Let them whisper to each other
And eye you with a smirk.
Let them roll up their sleeves and unbutton their
shirts a bit.
As this fine old twilight deserves,

And the small schoolboy
Who has come home to a room almost dark
And now watches wide-eyed
The grownups raise their glasses to him,
The giddy-headed, red-haired woman
With eyes tightly shut,
As if she were about to cry or sing.

Ah, Charles Simic, you know the way to my heart. And since it's Thursday, and maybe it was last Thursday that I took these photographs, the poem seems appropriate. "The fine old twilight." What a wonderful line. With some luck, depending how my day and the weather goes, I plan on being outside sipping a glass of wine when the sun starts to sink down. So much earlier now. I don't know why but in the middle of summer when it stays light so late, knowing better, I think it will be like that forever. So the later August light is always a surprise, every year, every year.

A while back, I read an essay by Mark Nepo called "Hearing the Cries of the World." It can be read in its entirety on the Parabola site, here. A short excerpt:

"Each of us must make our peace with suffering and especially unnecessary suffering, which doesn't mean our resignation to a violent world. For the fully engaged heart is the antibody for the infection of violence. As our heart breaks with compassion, it strengthens itself and all of humanity. Can I prove this? No. Am I certain of it? Yes. We are still here. Immediately, someone says, “Barely.” But we are still here: more alive than dead, more vulnerable than callous, more kind than cruel— though we each carry the lot of it. 
That we go numb along the way is to be expected. Even the bravest among us, who give their lives to care for others, go numb with fatigue, when the heart can take in no more, when we need time to digest all we meet. Overloaded and overwhelmed, we start to pull back from the world, so we can internalize what the world keeps giving us. Perhaps the noblest private act is the unheralded effort to return: to open our hearts once they've closed, to open our souls once they've shied away, to soften our minds once they've been hardened by the storms of our day."

I keep coming back to the lines at the end of the above excerpt. "The noblest private act is the unheralded effort to return." That it be unheralded, unremarked upon. That we go on trying to open our hearts that have involuntarily and sometimes even unbeknownst to us closed up.

It's no wonder we go numb from time to time.

How to keep our hearts open to the cries of the world? I don't know, exactly.

But that it helps to make time also to study the light.


  1. Thanks for this Shawna. Really liked the Nepo quote.

    1. Me, too! I hadn't realized he was connected to Oprah. I'd never heard of him before this, but seems quite well known :)

  2. I needed to read this, thank you! I'm going to open a bottle of wine, pour myself a glass and come back here to drink in the light!


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