Textual Arachne

A weaver of threads.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What we are given; What we give

Samhain sometimes strikes me as pre-emptive melancholy. The sky is still blue, the leaves are glorious bundles of flame, there's no frost yet, why are we talking and thinking about death? Why are we not still harvesting and laughing, tossing pumpkin guts at each other and preparing pies by the dozen? Why do we celebrate this now, and not at Midwinter?

Because the holidays are heralds, not immersions.

At Midwinter there is still much winter left; we need to know that the return of light is heralded. At Lammas we're not harvesting just yet, there's more to be brought in. At Beltane, spring has only barely begun (especially in the Northeast, where we might have adventurous daffodils, but the last frost might come that night).

The month of dying isn't October, it's November, whose cold grey skies will preside over the disappearance of green and gold. And Samhain heralds this.

Every holiday brings a gift, and every holiday calls a gift from us. In Samhain we are given death.

Not our immediate, physical deaths, but our limitation and finite nature; the knowledge that we will die, that all things will die, that all things decay. That we are incomplete, and our works are incomplete, and will not last. We don't want it--not in the pale form of 'knowledge of death', and certainly not the actual fact of dying. But it is a gift as surely as life itself. Samhain brings this gift to us, the awareness of our mortality, of the loss of those we've loved, of the tomb of all our hopes, and thus it heralds the dying of the year.

But we also have a gift in return. Out of that very finitude, out of that same impermanent life, we give our refusal to be content with limitations. We give our striving and yearning for something beyond death back to Samhain. In our memories and calls to those who have passed on, in our ghouls and ghosts carrying Skittles and Tootsie Pops from house to house, in our stubborn building and rebuilding of works that will decay, in constantly aiming for the things that will last beyond the moment, we make this gift, and give it to the turning year.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Autumn sestina

The keen blue wind heralds the start of fall
and I blow words to try and find a story,
a worthy frame, an offering of faith.
My Lady's patronage requires this price
to justify a blessing on my studies
and so I write, to pray, to settle fear.

It binds my chest like bandages, this fear
of missed potential, lost in the trickling fall
of sand within the glass. Outside my study
life laughs at being taken for mere story.
Does not each ignored moment bear a price?
How can I speak--or not speak--of my faith?

And She who is the home of all my faith
sends no false comfort: "Life is made of fear,
anxiety for future, regretting action's price."
In every choice, a misstep. And from the falling
grains of time, a half-seen bit of story--
a mandala? Or trash heap. This, I study.

Again: can there be shape, divorced from study?
No form can be discerned without the faith
that something's present--someone tells this story.
I oscillate between these polar fears:
absence of sense in the events that fall,
or wrong sense, carrying an equal price.

So miserly. I cringe at every price--
dithered seconds could be spent in study--
She stops me; and she thus transforms my fall
Into a step. Fall, catch. I walk by faith;
how is unknown. It's not for lack of fear
but through it, that I can form this story

and no other. I have to live my story,
to leave the cliff, prepared to pay the price:
both kneeling to, and yet rejecting, fear.
Accept that only questions come from study,
but every wisdom glorifies Her faith.
To withdraw--not to wither--is the work of fall.

Lady of fall, help me to pay the given price
of taking stories as my course of study,
to walk, faith catching at my stumbling fear.