Posts Tagged ‘souls’


Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l’heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure

Et je m’en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m’emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.

Paul Verlaine

(For an English translation, see TRANSLATING VERLAINE I.)

Commentary: I’ve been thinking about my goddaughter, Sage, who is teaching herself French and plays the violin. I think this poem would be easy enough for her to translate if she wanted to. In it, Paul Verlaine expresses sadness about the past… and things that are lost… and the ways that our souls can become like dry leaves dying on a tree. I’m thankful that the fall, which is actually a beautiful season, is only one of four. Seasons change.

This past fall, on November 7th, Sage’s mother, Jennifer, wrote on the same theme as Verlaine does in this chanson. She wrote: “This is a time of good-byes, a time of loss and change. The trees and the flowers and the insects go inward, the toads retreat into the earth. Some things cannot survive until spring. But truly there has never been a good-bye that was not a hello to something else. It is impossible.” Yes, Jennifer wrote on the same theme, but she stepped forward in her thinking toward what comes after the fall … toward the light that awakens sleeping seeds.

My heart finds comfort in this.

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When we stumbled on the abandoned mine
it was far better than coming on silver or gold.
Mica, glittering like small mirrors
sewn into cloth from India or stacked
in thick decks protruding from the cliffs,
or strewn among the lumps of littered quartz,
iridescent as fish. We took as much
as we could carry down the mountain
and spread now on the kitchen table
is a vast treasure of shine. We sit
over coffee catching up with friends.
What new events have pressed our old
strata down. We peel layers away
absentmindedly. Imagine a rock that bends,
that slides away from itself, that’s
transparent as glass. The mica
takes up half the table, but we
do not pack it away. It is one thing
changing into another: flakes of moonlight
into scales upon the lake we have just left,
summer silver into the brittleness of fall.
This is a time of transition. We may
actually stabilize, become dull. But all
winter the mica will gleam, becoming,
possibly, the first snowfall.

Judith W. Steinbergh
A Living Anytime {Troubadour Press, 1988}

Commentary: When I was an undergraduate student, I took geology for my gen ed science requirement. I went to rock lab every week, and when I was there, I loved to work with mica. It was beautiful to me.

Sometimes, mica is known as “false gold.” This is so unfair – to compare mica to gold and call it false. Miners from my home state of California were looking for gold in 1849, and mica in the rivers was just a frustration to them. They wanted to be rich.

But there are many kinds of riches.

Steinbergh sees a wealth of beauty in mica: its potential for being a symbol of the layers of our souls … a sign of hope in winter … glittering like a snowfall. It’s especially like the first snowfall, which is important: by the time we’ve seen several snowfalls in winter, we’re tired of snow and longing for spring. But in the first fall, there is a great sense of wonder … when the landscape is transformed and everything is suddenly white and shining.

This poem makes me think of one friend, a geologist of the soul … but there is a newspaper clipping in the book where I found it that makes me think of another friend, my best friend, Jennifer. The clipping is a little perspectives piece by Jamie Stiehm that appeared on Friday, December 1, 1989 in the San Jose Mercury News. She writes:

“As I grow older, I find I rely on my best friend more, not less. As we add layers to our lives, it becomes even more important to have that one person who knows all the pieces to the puzzle, of how your past and present fit together.”

There are layers to mica … to our souls … and to our friendships. Since my best friend recently died, I know how true this is. As Steinbergh herself says,”This is a time of transition … but all winter the mica will gleam.”

let us gleam,
let her soul and mine
let the Spirit-geologist dig in our bodies
and find our mica hearts


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