Thursday, December 5, 2013

Winter Eden

It’s early December, and Christmas looms large on the horizon. The weather is cold and brisk as it should be, and snow is predicted by week’s end.

One can imagine nineteenth-century poet and preacher Ralph Waldo Emerson heading to his New England home in Concord, just about 70 miles north of here, in the lines of “The Snow-Storm”:

“Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, / Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields, / Seems nowhere to alight:  the whited air / Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven, / And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.”

Emerson served nearby in New Bedford as interim minister of Unitarian Memorial Church. Yet he would resign from ministry just six years after his ordination.

“I have sometimes thought that in order to be a good minister it was necessary to leave the ministry,” he wrote in his journal.

Following Emerson’s lead in “Nature” – “To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society” – I, too, yearn for open natural spaces on this gray, overcast day, finding refuge on this deserted beach near our summer house.

Today, the usual pulsing Sakonnet is pond-like, bearing ripples instead of waves. Along the shoreline, the sea grass is an unappealing brown color, withered by wind and frost.

Other than a few seagulls roosting on boat ramp pilings, I am alone on this horseshoe-shaped stretch of coarse sand, seaweed and surf-driven rocks.

I strain to listen to wind or wave, but my footfalls are the only sound.

For the moment I forget about the long list of home and work obligations, as well as Christmas things to do. Instead, I downshift and take stock, tapping into the Source of the panorama before me.   

Suddenly, the sun comes out and the grayish sky and sea turn blue, highlighting the Creator’s handiwork.

Then I hear the beat of Emerson’s verses in “Terminus”:

“As the bird trims her to the gale, / I trim myself to the storm of time, / I man the rudder, reef the sail, / Obey the voice at eve obeyed at prime: / ‘Lowly faithful, banish fear, / Right onward drive, unharmed; / The port, well worth the cruise, is near, / And every wave is charmed.” 

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