Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Changes in Latitudes

It is hard to believe that this time last week I was walking bare footed in warm beach sand. The sun is still not quite up this morning and the temperature is barely out of single digits. Yesterday I had to use a hammer to break up the ice on the outside water trough. Snow is predicted for tonight, but last night's sky was clear and star-filled. It is the time of the new moon, leaving the stars as the only light outside not made by man. By 10:30 p.m. when I walked the dog for the last time, the ground was already frozen, bits of frost on the grass scattering light from the house, winking back in echoes of the stars overhead. The tropical sunrise was a thing of wonder, but there is beauty here too in the colder latitudes. Stars above, frost glinting below. Night's lantern/ Pointed with pierced lights, and breaks of rays/ Discover'd everywhere. Or so says Gerard Manley Hopkins in a fragment preserved in his collected works. Despite, or perhaps because of, the cold air, the stars were particularly bright. Perhaps the fragment from Hopkins was a warm-up for this great shout at the night sky:

Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves'-eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!
Wind-beat whitebeam! air abeles set on a flare!
Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!--
Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize.

The sun is up now, and time for morning chores. The sunrise here does not have an ocean view, but the light and shadow on the mountains have their own beauties; a little comfort in the cold.