Monday, July 17, 2017

#SOL17: Middles

Alps (M.A. Reilly, 7.17.17, Hipstamatic App on iPhone)

                                  " ...You’re searching, Joe,
For things that don’t exist; I mean beginnings.
Ends and beginnings—there are no such things.        190
There are only middles.”

- Robert Frost, in "The Home Stretch, "1920. Mountain Intervals


The wife in Frost's "The Home Stretch," understands that life happens in the continuous middle of things. Beginnings and endings are temporary matters that we label as such. The past, present, and future are not absolutes. Einstein taught us that.  Beginnings and endings are not absolutes, even when we most want to believe them as such.So where do we stand?  What sense might we make of this?

David Whyte in Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words explains that to come to ground "... is to find a home in circumstances and in the very physical body we inhabit in the midst of those circumstances and above all to face the truth, no matter how difficult that truth may step into difficulty and by taking that first step, begin the movement through all difficulties..."

I have been thinking about Whyte's definitions of ground tonight after watching the sky gradually darken over Lake Como. It's an apt place to think about ground--what with the Alps rising so mightily--almost within touch.  I watched as the Alps so spectacularly striking at early dusk began to lose their definition as the blue light lifted and spread. What had been foregrounded and backgrounded become less discernible until the rise of night made it impossible to differentiate mountain from sky.  The mountains seemed to disappear. It was then that the first star appeared and I thought about the length of time it might have taken for that light to reach here and how strange it feels to know that when I look at the stars I am looking into the past.


Since Rob died I have wondered about heaven. I have wondered what happens after death. Before he died he told me to search for him among the stars.


Early tomorrow, while the sky is still dark I will rise and watch the waning crescent moon and if lucky I may also see the red star, Aldebaran (Taurus the bull's eye). The light I see from the moon will take about 1.3 seconds to arrive. In contrast, the light I see from Aldebaran will have travelled 65-million light years. When that light first started, dinosaurs roamed the earth. And tomorrow at pre-dawn, I will stand 4,000 miles from my home on a deck that overlooks one of the deepest lakes in Europe, formed ten thousand years ago by retreating Alpine glaciers, knowing that the light I see from that great red star is a moment from its past--65 million years ago. Is it any wonder that we so often feel off-kilter? That my wonders about heaven and distant stars and life after death feel so contemporary, so urgent?  Is it any wonder that we seek to give definition by naming and renaming and not always understanding that we exist in the middle?


           in the middle of things,
there is wonder,
       and the scatter of sunlight,
and a tangled sense of the past.

Does the same light that reaches me tonight,
reach you too?


  1. We do not look into the past; the past comes to us in its own way and time.

    1. Well the past does show up,in lots of memories triggered often by a present moment. What I like about the science though is how the starlight, even moonlight we see is from the past. I find this mystical.

  2. Mary Ann, this is beautiful. Yes, I see the same light in the same middle of so many awe-inspiring and tangled pasts, middles and presents. I love the deep thoughts you share here. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Denise for such lovely comments. I'm not sure what I was after here. I just know that the wonder of it all is dazzling at times.

  3. Such a wondrous, melancholy post. I, too, find the depth and size and age of the universe to be very awe-inspiring, and that inevitably leads to thinking about the cycle of life and death. I hope you found some comfort in those stars. I'm sure Rob was among them.

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