Saturday, December 13, 2008

Moonlight Musings

Sometimes when it comes time to write, I'm in more of a contemplative mode, yearning to listen instead of speak. Today is one of those times. So I hope you can follow me on a bit of journey through some of the poetry and music that's speaking to me today.

I'm still thinking about darkness and light, as all kinds of seasons are shifting around us. Here are some words from James Baldwin that continue that journey.

One discovers the light in darkness. That is what darkness is for. But everything in our lives depends on how we bear the light. It is necessary, while in darkness, to know that there is a light somewhere, to know that in oneself, waiting to be found there is a light. What the light reveals is danger, and what it demands is faith...I know we often lose...and how often one feels that one cannot start again. And yet, on pain of death, one can never remain where one is. The light. The light. One will perish without the light...For nothing is fixed, forever, and forever, and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have...The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. And the moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.


This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.


Baldwin's words about faith reminded me of a David Whyte poem that speaks to the tenuous nature of our faith in the darkness.

I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,

faithful even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
sliver of light before the final darkness.

But I have no faith myself
I refuse it even the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.




There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.


Today I had a spiritual experience listening to Debussy's "Claire de Lune." Little did I know that the song is based on a poem with the same title by Paul Verlaine. Translated from French by Norman R. Shapiro, here's "Moonlight."

Your soul is like a landscape fantasy,
Where masks and Bergamasks, in charming wise,
Strum lutes and dance, just a bit sad to be
Hidden beneath their fanciful disguise.

Singing in minor mode of life's largesse
And all-victorious love, they yet seem quite
Reluctant to believe their happiness,
And their song mingles with the pale moonlight,

The calm, pale moonlight, whose sad beauty, beaming,
Sets the birds softly dreaming in the trees,
And makes the marbled fountains, gushing, streaming--
Slender jet-fountains--sob their ecstasies.


I hope you'll take a few minutes and listen to the musical version. It speaks to places words can't go. As a special treat, I'm posting a version played by Lydia Kavina on the theremin. But if you prefer something more traditional, check it out on piano or violin.

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