The past few days I’ve been, well, ornery. Adjusting to retirement isn’t always as easy as I thought it would be. Some choices I’ve made have interfered with my attempts to reach out as much as I want to people I feel will benefit from exposure to the poems of Emily Dickinson.

Dickinson’s “There’s a certain Slant of light,” accompanies my awareness that alternating despair and anger recently permeate everyday goings on.

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the Seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

Just when I thought things were humming along nicely, I began to feel the ugly face of self-doubt. These “Winter Afternoons” deplete the optimism I thought I could rely on. Try as I might to resist it, today’s sun on the impervious blanket of snow everywhere  “oppresses, like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes — ”.

There are no real obstacles (aside from the persistent pain in the arm I broke on Thanksgiving. ggrrrrrr…. ) from people or circumstances, “None may teach it — Any”.  So, I feel boxed in by this “Seal Despair” overriding every logical fact in my life, compelled to bow beneath “an imperial affliction / Sent us of the Air — ”.  I see now that following through on my plans for this wonderful time of my life does not prevent my susceptibility to those proverbial two steps backward. 

The final verse suggests I suspend judgment, take a deep breath, as it were, and try to understand. “When it comes, the Landscape listens / Shadows” may not be failure but only a temporary absence of confidence. The question is, “When it goes,” will I find my affairs are strong enough to withstand real trouble that may come later on. Does my present mood reveal real death of the new tack I’m taking or will it be only “like the Distance / On the look of Death — ”?

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

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