Ann Rennie Reflects

Phillip Larkin asked Where can we live but days? and so, I look out at the pearl grey morning and the sulky clouds, while the misty breath of winter hugs my bones.  Collectively, we button up and bunker down.  In summer, we are a people on public display, wrapped up in sunshine and good times.  Now, we huddle and hunker, bending into ourselves a bit, recognising a different breathing space shaped by shorter hours and the toddler tantrums of sudden squally showers.  Our waking hours are coloured differently as a pastel sunshine hovers frailly above us.  The air is sullen, and a whiplash wind begins to prowl the city streets. 

The days pass as they always do.  We fill them with the things we must do; the duties, the routines, the rosters, the turning up reliably, the lurching out of the doona snug of warmth into the morning dark to catch the early train; the weekend pilgrimage to the footy and the bruised and ragged hymn of hard-won victory on the way home; the burrowing into a book we’ve been meaning to read for months.  This is the time for thinking and planning, not doing much, but keeping warm and well-wrapped up.  It is a time for writing, letting the words weave new thoughts and thread new ideas.  It is a time for sifting and sorting, in preparation for the spring clean that comes later.  Here we get rid of some of the detritus in our lives; the old clothes, the books that will not be read again, the old electric fan that has finally whirred itself out of existence.

Birds still sing in trees, but their song is less constant and chirrupy; their chirp has become a little more classical, no longer the heavy rock of summer, but songs with spaces and silences in them.  Long blue notes suggest unrequited love, a wistful nostalgia for other days or the small rub of regret.  The suburbs become soggy as snow broods in the distance.  Noses are pink and glistening and a wet blazer fug lingers in trams as it disgorges students along Whitehorse Road. 

This is winter’s tale.  It is also the tale of special consolations, of an interiority that gives us a bit more inside time, time to pause and reflect and ponder, time to enjoy the small reveries we do not have with the more public pulse of summer.  It is a tale of resilience and regeneration, of subtle subterranean growth, of battening down, of Mother Earth resting.  It is a time for gathering in, hibernating and conserving, waiting patiently for the soft swoon of Spring.  It is a time for bingeing on Netflix and watching Miss Marple solve crimes as she untangles mysteries while knitting in her cottage at St. Mary Mead.  It is a time for squares of dark chocolate and the comfort food of apple and rhubarb crumble.  It is a time for the slow joys of poetry.  It is a time for enduring these days, knowing that the warmth will come again and we will stretch our legs and dance again on summer sand.  And sometimes this prolonged period of enduring is hard and grey and dismal, a winter wasteland where we have to rely on our inner fortitude to keep going, to persevere in the face of the inclement weather and our own gloom.  We have to find the grit and grace that makes each day separate and remarkable, even if it is dull and cheerless. 

In the end is the beginning.

Winter is a time to count the blessings of scarves and soup and good thick socks and appreciating the hug of homecoming at the end of the day.  It is a time to thank God for the unexpected shape and colour and surprise of these, the days we live in.  As we get through these days of cold comfort, we know that Spring heralds the lissom and long-limbed and lingering, days emptying into the honeyed warmth of night.  We are looking ahead. 

Brendan Kennelly’s poem reminds us of the promise of the new beginning, just as we are reminded of each new God-given day which we shape with our intentional attitude and effort.

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of the light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

We have endured this long cold season, our winter of discontent, and know that brighter days beckon.  We have not given in.  We have found purpose and consolation in these days of our lives, where we forever begin.

By Ann Rennie


Faith Reflections


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