January 2020

SONG (3) by Wendell Berry (1982)

I stood and heard the steps of the city
and dreamed a lighter stepping than I heard,
the tread of my people dancing in a ring.
I knew that circle broken, the steps awry,
stone and iron humming in the air.

But I thought even there, among the straying
steps, of the dance that circles life around,
its shadow moving on the ground, in rhyme
of flesh with flesh, time with time, our bliss,
the earthly song that heavenly is.

Wendell Berry is a poet and novelist who has chronicled, celebrated, and championed the natural world and rural life for most of his eighty-five years. This “Song,” with its circle dance, feels to me like a poem for the new year. Once more we complete the round, once more we return to the top. Some of the dancers have left the ring; others have joined.

The city, where the circle is broken and the steps are awry, calls to mind human inventions and interventions of all kinds. One of those is inventions is the calendar. Civilization has long imposed the artificiality of its human calendars on the natural calendar of planetary cycles. But at this time of year we do experience an alignment of the two. The New Year begins just a few days past the winter solstice, a pivotal day in the calendar of the planet, a turning towards renewal.

Humankind has sullied the natural world with our inventions and interventions, with “stone and iron humming in the air.” Not to mention silicon and plastic, and excessive amounts of carbon dioxide. And yet we are, still, part of the dance of life on earth, still encircled by it, its rhythm and rhyme, its music, its poetry, all that makes it heavenly and sublime.

Last year at this time I reported that I had started a gratitude practice. There is scant record of how well I maintained it, if at all.  Nevertheless – I am grateful. Quite possibly increasingly grateful with each step of the dance, and each return to the circle’s top. Grateful for family and friends, grateful for the work we have been given to do together and for the gifts that make it possible for us to do it. I am grateful for the earthly song that heavenly is, and grateful for all of you.

May the circle we walk together in the year ahead bring hope, renewal, and joy.Janets signature