Sunday, December 11, 2011

A great ring of pure and endless light

Seattle in the fog is beautiful, the possibility of mystery around every bush and tree.  Some days the foggy world seems magical, like around any corner I might meet a pixie or wander onto a tropical beach.  Some days the fog is ominous, and mail boxes become demons stalking you through the mist. Today the fog is dark.

My friend has lost her child, her baby, her joy.  He was to come into the world a Thanksgiving baby, beautiful and brave, but instead died without taking in one breath of air.

This is my friend's story to tell, a private story and a private grief, but in this moment, I don't understand how the entire world isn't mourning her loss of this perfect soul.

I'm reminded of the last stanza of "Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone" by W.H. Auden:

The stars are not wanted now: put every one out;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

When I was a younger, I read "A Ring of Endless Light" by Madeleine L'Engle about 100 times.  I loved the idea of swimming with and talking to dolphins, and for many years I wanted to become a marine biologist until I learned I'd have to dissect sea creatures and not just bask in their presence.  I've learned a lot from Madeleine over the years: how to appreciate poetry and literature, and a deep awe of science and the mysteries of the universe.  As an adult, I see she was also teaching me about loss and death and the ability to re-emerge, somewhat battered, into the light.

The death of anyone, the old, the young, the sick, is tragic and heartbreaking to those left behind, and we must find a way to blunder through the tears and darkness.  We find solace in the words and warm embrace of others until we can again walk with the living world.

The earth will never be the same again. 
Rock, water, tree, iron, share this grief
As distant stars participate in pain.
A candle snuffed, a falling star or leaf,
A dolphin death, O this particular loss
Is Heaven-mourned; for if no angel cried, 
If This small one was tossed away as dross,
The very galaxies then would have lied.
How shall we sing our love's song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry,
And nothing loved is ever lost or perished.
                                                  - Madeleine L'Engle

A great ring of pure & endless light
Dazzles the darkness in my heart
And breaks apart the dusky clouds of night.
The end of all is hinted in the start.

When we are born we bear the seeds of blight;
Around us life & death are torn apart,
Yet a great ring of pure & endless light
Dazzles the darkness in my heart.

It lights the world to my delight.
Infinity is present in each part.
A loving smile contains all art.
The motes of starlight spark & dart.
A grain of sand holds power & might.
Infinity is present in each part,
And a great ring of pure & endless light
Dazzles the darkness in my heart.
                                     - Madeleine L'Engle


  1. I'm so sorry for your friend's loss. This is heartbreaking.

  2. I lost a friend around the time you posted this so, I could barely get my composure when reading this. What a beautiful post. I just want you to know that I had/have you all in my thoughts and prayers.

  3. Oh Danielle, I'm so sorry. It's been a horribly difficult time for so many this holiday season. I hope the new year brings renewal and a return of the light!