The First Despair
It was after the winter
Of my contented resignation;
After the time of white wind rattled sashes
Hoar and blue and brittle;
Of tepid light as level as the drafts
That wafted silence through
My frozen soul, content to sit
In passing winter days, alone and cloistered.
One day as I passed the garden on my errand
I saw that the snow drops had bloomed.
No joy came with them however.
In this quiet and despairing state, this frozen stasis
Springs annual thrill no longer rang in me,
For each passing hour seemed one less
Of a numbered few. The harbinger of Spring
Being also the herald of a passing year.
"How many more?" "not many!"
The joy of coming signed only for the coming doom.
A cold despair drove me from the world.
2007 was a particularly beautiful year, and I had started doing landscape photographs. I was walking, some days long distances, with my camera. I was immersing myself in the beauty of nature. This work was my prayer, my hymn of praise, but still I had no smiles. I felt my smiles had been stolen from me along with my house and my identity; I had survived that horrible year of being imprisoned, both literally and in that mistaken identity and while I came out of it all with some sort of honor, and some sort of health the answer "not many" in those stanzas above were a consolation rather than a threat.
I had started a year of very arduous treatment in December of 2007 and by March of 2008 was completely debilitated. Somehow, somewhere, during February I started to fight. I just had to get back out into the world. The sun was changing and I was desperate to see it, to see the plants breaking the ground. Here I was, in this really awful state and yet managed to decide that since I wasn't dead yet I might as well live. I tried to find my smiles. I tried to give up despair, last year, in the very early spring. For Lent.
Sometime later I added a new despair, to replace the old one. You see, like so many things we don't use for a while I found I had misplaced my despair, and when I tried to find it after Easter I kept finding babies giggling in the playground, and dogs chasing frisbees, and people giving me seats on the subway, and smiling- here in Boston, I'm not kidding. When I found my despair again it was very different. Early last summer I was walking down a street looking at the leaves, and actually started crying, thinking how few more times I'd see them fresh again, thinking how really wonderful our world and our lives are; how hard it will be to leave.
The New Despair
But I still pass the years here,
Much to my surprise, and have
Faced them each since that blue and lonely winter.
Each has had it's spring and summer,
And I have watched the sky at equinox and solstice.
I see it joyfully again, and again I have planted
Zinnias and dahlias as my mother did,
And I sing the hymn of nature's beauty.
And yet, this evening, as the sun was nestling
Gently behind a cloud on it's journey
To the Western horizon, my heart
Yearned for it's beauty as it beaconed me.
Straining with love, as the soft warm air
Wafts around me I think:
"How many more?" "not many!"
A warm despair of yearning for soft light
Drives me to the world.