every hour of the light and dark is a miracle

What better way to start the year than with Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and his breathless lines so full of hope? Happy 2012, friends.

picture of Walt Whitman

“Miracles”

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of
the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with
the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—
the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

How shall the heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?

For my 100th blog post and the last one of 2010, I thought I would revisit the first poem I shared on this site and the inspiration for its name. “The Layers” by Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006) speaks to a lifetime of turning points and the complicated emotions that accompany them. It is a poem to grow with, to help your heart reconcile to its feast of losses and to urge you to keep turning, keep growing.

And what a powerful directive from that nimbus-clouded voice: live in the layers. To me, it’s a two-fold reminder. The first: to live deeply and in the details rather than on the surface. The second: to remember that we, too, are composed of layers–of milestones and memory, of wreckage and tribes scattered. And grief-lined as those layers may be, they are each, like the stones the narrator of this poem finds along the road, precious to our transformations.

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written,
I am not done with my changes.