Winter holds a certain mystic appeal for me. I enjoy winter not for winter itself but because the coldness foreshadows an inevitable change. Winter becomes spring and spring becomes summer. It is romantic to watch the snow melt into rain in March, and the rain brings out the greenness of the grass and buds in April – but this greening happens slowly. I anticipate this slow verdance with a patience that I do not have in any other areas of life.
Merely observing the change is pleasurable.
Which reminds me of a poem called “For They have Escaped the Weight of Darkness”. Read it, then I will explain it and introduce you to Olafur Arnalds. This poem was also placed on The Curator. By the way, the reason I publish poems on This Blinding Light that have already been published on the Curator is because I don’t have room there to write my thought on the poem, but here I do.
For They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness
They are sweeping it away now:
The tiny specks of stones
The skin broken from the asphalt
And all the dust that fell from
The sky for months now.
I saw a grandmother
This morning, sweeping,
and two boys,
That old man by the High School;
the one holding the stop sign and the traffic:
He too will likely lay those down
Trading them for a broom and a dust pan.
The gristles scrape at the cement.
Goodbye, the people say, Speaking and extending
through the gristles and their gritted teeth.
they grunt in exertion drawing away the anamnesis:
the eternity of the small days,
the deja-vu of black branches,
the fingerprints of the icicles,
The claw marks left by the plows,
And all of the unutterable words.
To these, they say goodbye.
And thus, we too, must sweep away the remembrance:
the dispassionate agonies,
leave dormancy behind,
And the inscape of inclement brittle spirits,
We too must cleave from our insufficient prayers,
That rose and returned
again and again
as the last snow melts in April.
For they have escaped the weight of darkness.
In Pennsylvania the winter is fickle when deciding to end. People look at their weather apps and predict that the snow that fell the week prior was the final snow, but then another storm brings another inch and the snow plows leave their sheds once again to scrape it away. There is no sound iconic like that of a snow plow screaming and rumbling down a street throwing thick streams of snow, dirt, and pebbles onto the sidewalks. And really, the sound of the snow plows is a terrifying and impatient sound especially in April. This coldness should have ended by now.
Winter is done only when the snow banks melt away completely. All that remains after the melting are small heaps of pebbles and dust that clutter the sidewalks and edges of the roads. The snow plows threw them here. These heaps must be cleaned away. They remind us of winter, and winter is dead now. They remind us of the dark months, but those are behind us.
Go into the small towns in Pennsylvania during early April and you will see people sweeping up the last remains of winter. Perhaps, another snow storm could fall because Winter is fickle. But maybe not. Not this late in April.
Part 1 of the poem speaks on the people sweeping away the dirt and pebbles as if to sweep away the memories of a winter that lasted too long. I remember that winter, the winter I wrote this poem. In my memories, the winter overstayed. I was relieved to finally see some people with some hope, some faith that winter was finally done.
Part 2 and 3 applies the idea of sweeping as a metaphor to my personal life. That winter was harder for me. There were transitions, and changes that were uncomfortable. Part of the darkness of that winter was failure on my part to be the best human I could be. In the same way that these people swept away the winter, I desired to sweep my winter away. And I could. I could sweep it away; I could escape that weight of darkness.
This applies to all of us, because we all go through difficult periods and at the end of those, what do we do? At the end of our darknesses there always remains sign or a consequence. Little heaps of pebble that remind us of what has just occurred in our life.
And I say, sweep them up.
Did those prayers not work for you this winter? Sweep them away and come back with a new request. Did boredom haunt you? Were the skies too grey? Were your desires mishandled and crushed? Was rest evasive? Did silence overwhelm you? Then find a delightful noise and rest in your sweeping. The Winter is done now, and you have escaped the weight of darkness.
PS. The title is not my own. It comes from an album of the venerable Olafur Arnalds. Do you not know who Olafur Arnalds is? Well let me introduce you to his music. All of his music is fantastic! My recent favorite of his would be his latest album “Re:member“, but I would recommend all of his music to you. Ease yourself into him start with the wonderful and simple sounds of “Living Room Songs” then work towards “The Chopin Project” or For “Now I am Winter”. The album I return to time and time again is “…And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness”. There is a similarity of tone that the album has to this poem.