“In a Dark Time”
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood–
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
A man goes far to find out what he is–
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.
I’ve written (HERE and HERE) before about the power and importance of poetry in my life. I read poetry daily; my choice of poems, or poets, changes to adapt to my life circumstances.
This poem by Theodore Roethke, “In a Dark Time,” is one I return to often during times of doubt, despair, and despondency. I love the imagery of the natural world, it is one that I relate to easily. In my life these dark transitions, or thresholds, provide the time and space for deep shadow work. It sounds paradoxical, but I feel I must go deeper and deeper, to emerge out of the abyss I’ve stumbled into. And emerge, I always do. Thankfully, and transformed by my experience. And like the Great Blue Heron, I find that I am at my most liberated when I realize that all I have to do is spread my wings and fly. The ability to be free and at peace is always there, quietly beckoning to me. I must remember that, but remembrance only comes after the deep work and the dark time.
Then, if I am paying attention, I am greeted by a still small voice : Welcome home, friend. You, too, are within the One.
To read more about Theodore Roethke and his poetry visit poetryfoundation.org.
*Photos and video mine, 2016