In my part of the world, we have reached the days of earliest sunset. Night falls at 4:11pm. Tomorrow will be the same. But Friday, the sun will hover on the horizon for one more minute in the evening. The days will still be growing shorter for a couple more weeks, but that trend of more light into the evening hours will continue.
I love the winter. I love the darkness and the cold. I love snow. I even love ice though only if I don’t have to be out in it. But I also feel more lively when the days are lengthening. November depresses me with the ever-encroaching night that falls on the day like lead. The shadows are long here by 2pm. It’s noticeably dark by 3 o’clock. Add in the cloud cover and my greenhouse is sort of Stygian most of the afternoon; it’s downright scary long before closing time. I don’t mind the long nights, but I’m not at all fond of the increasingly short days.
I found years ago that if I pay attention, if I record these little details about day length and sunsets, I am less perturbed by the gloom. It doesn’t feel as forever. Just a few days of sunset at 4:11 in the afternoon and then it swings back the other way. Just a few weeks of short days and the sun’s rolling path will bring an earlier sunrise as well as a later sunset. Knowing that this happens is not the same as noticing. Knowing is abstract. Noting is both experienced and internalized. I can feel the changes and trends. I have sensual wisdom that is increased every time I make time to notice and record these things.
So I do that. I record the local weather and night skies. I watch for firsts and lasts — blossoms, frost, swallows, constellations. I also try to pay attention to things beyond my patch of the globe, especially the big things. But this gets harder every day. Big things is a broad category of events these days. What might have made the weather notebook as something extraordinary just five years ago now is unremarkable. Or I suppose remarkable only in that it happens all the time now, whereas just five years ago it was an historic event. I don’t have notebook space for all the big events these days, never mind the capacity to notice and internalize it all. It brushes over my skin, leaving behind a vague feeling of contamination but not a visceral feeling of the wrongness. I just can’t feel all of the world’s defilement.
Maybe that is for the best. I see such despair in people who are trying to feel everything, who are trying to note all the destruction in a continual stream of jagged memento mori for ourselves, for our cultures, and for the world we are mutilating. I understand the urge. We have made this mess; we should feel the guilt and the pain. We should note it. But I feel that we are trying to feel more than we are capable of feeling. Or bearing. There is such hopelessness in simply trying to notice all the wrongs never mind right them. And hopelessness breeds apathy eventually, even in the most ardent campaigners.
So I have chosen the small. I have drawn lines around what I am capable of feeling and, to a lesser extent, what I am capable of affecting. I have chosen the small in many ways. I believe in small things. Humans are small. We are ephemeral. Even all this waste we are wreaking on the world will be a small drop in earth time, barely noticeable in the geological record. That is both humbling and reassuring. I don’t matter very much. Humanity doesn’t matter very much. But at the same time, if we all focus on the small ephemera of our daily lives, if we noticed what we do and noticed how we fit into our places, we can effect change in beneficial ways. We have short reach, but in that circle of arms we can do mighty things. Grow a garden. Plant a woodland. Make the soil viable and vibrant. Care for all those around us. Feel our places.
I don’t think we ever do well when we overreach. We can’t feel the world. And maybe we should not. We don’t know the trees and soil and stars in every place. We don’t know when the sun sets and when the spring will return. We don’t understand the language and customs and rhythms of all places. Just our own places. And we don’t do things well when we don’t know what we’re doing. So choose small. We are very good at taking care of things within our reach, at caring for things close at hand, at noticing our experienced places. And if we all choose small, then the entire world is within our care.
For the time being, it is dark at 4 in the afternoon. There’s not anything I can do about that. But I notice. And I understand. And I feel the shift to expansion coming. And by cultivating this habit of noting patterns and conditions, I notice many other things as well. Some of which I can affect. Some of which I can change at least within my small reach. And if my neighbor does the same and his neighbor as well and so on and on and on, then the whole world comes within our grasp. One hand, one understanding, one heart at a time. One small circle of care from each, and the world is become our home.
for 8 December 2021
You can respond in the comments below or make a Twitter post to the Wednesday Word. Either way, begin your response with #kith. Your response can be anything made from words. I love poetry, but anything can be poetic and you needn’t even be limited to poetics. An observation, a story, a thought. Might even be an image — however, I am not a visual person, so it has to work harder to convey meaning. In the spirit of word prompts, it’s best if you use the word; but I’m not even a stickler about that. Especially if you can convey the meaning without ever touching the word.
If responding in Twitter, you are limited to the forms of Twitter. I would prefer that there be no threads because that is difficult. So if you have something long, post it in the comments below. That said, please don’t go too long. Keep it under 2000 words. I’m not going to count, but I’m also not promising to read a novel. Unless it’s really good!
If I receive something particularly impressive, I’ll post it next week. If not, well, that’s fine too. I know you all are busy. But if you’ve read this far, then I’ve made you think about… kith.
i see you
i see you, little sister, cold in the snow shivering under immeasurable stars i see you and know your days i feel your fragile dreaming, little sister, sweet sparkling life flowing inexorably into dark earth i feel you and know your brilliant being i know you, little sister, kin and kith to my core heartwood for my home i know you and hear your coruscating song yes, i see you, little sister, benighted though may i be i see you and i will always see you
©Elizabeth Anker 2021