Woeful Joyful Gifts

Posted by on Dec 11, 2015 in Journal | No Comments


The broken concrete mounded before me. Clumps of grass already seemed to be taking root in the soft, brown sand. The city was dismantling an unused strip of grey pavement to replace it with green. It felt like a gift, one I always wanted offered—peacefully repurposed land, freed from asphalt and breathing again. But if it was an act of love, it was asking for a return. So I remembered an incomplete task and completed it that morning for the park.

Gifts bring me back to the Wendell Berry, 1998 Sabbath. The poem is about a “costly year” with the loss of companions and flooded cropland:

But won’t you be ashamed
To count the passing year
At its mere cost, your debt
Inevitably paid?

For every year is costly,
As you know well. Nothing
Is given that is not
Taken, and nothing taken
That was not first a gift.

The gift is balanced by
Its total loss, and yet,
And yet the light breaks in,
Heaven seizing its moments
That are at once its own
And yours.

What does this mean when we give of ourselves? Of our time and spirit? When the gift of life itself will inevitably be lost? We can return to Blake, Auguries of Innocence,

It is right it should be so 
Man was made for Joy & Woe 
And when this we rightly know 
Thro the World we safely go 
Joy & Woe are woven fine 
A Clothing for the soul divine 
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine 

Here it manifests, Joy and Woe are woven fine, Moments that are at once its own and yours. Joy is woven with woe, and woe with joy. Each gift is a loss, but together, the Berry poem concludes with a revelation of life,

The day ends
And is unending where
The summer tanager,
Warbler, and vireo
Sing as they move among
Illuminated leaves.

Everything converges with the unending day in the Illuminated leaves.

When I see my imprint on the world around me, I sense that a gift is being offered back to me. I think the subsequent feeling of joy and woe is to experience life, for a moment, in eternality.




In record mail this week, Roco Jet, 33 rpm single Open Door/Oracle