There is a period just after dawn and again just before sunset that photographers and painters refer to as sweet light. It is a time when the light from the sun has been refracted into a smooth golden or reddish glow. It flatters life forms and landscapes as well. For me, there is also a sweet light of the mind, and it happens just before dawn when the world is quiet. It also happens as we grow old and lose ourselves in the sweet light of reflection.
There are writers who can with their words bend the bleakness of pen and paper and turn words into sweet light. It seems to me that poets especially have this gift. One of those was Emily Dickinson who wrote of her fears and loneliness with words that drew the reader into her room. I think some of the saddest words I’ll ever read were, “This is my letter to the world that never wrote to me.”
It seems to me that unimaginable pain and sorrow molds the poet’s heart like a blacksmith pounding his anvil with his ball-peen hammer, forging a piece of steel. He strikes it again and again as sparks fly, sweat rolling down his muscled arms and furrowed brow until after a while the steel begins to bend until it no longer bears any resemblance to what it once was. I think life does that to people. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes not, the difference being in what we have learned from the pounding.
Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” starts with the beautiful images of children playing by the sea and ends with the poet lying by his love in her tomb by the sounding sea.
John Greenleaf Whittier in his poem “In School-days” reminisces about a time when a young girl won a spelling bee over him and now as an old man he remembers those days and sees the forever childlike face of the girl that long ago had died, the young girl who had run up to him saying she was sorry she had spelled the word because “you see, I love you,” and then Whittier wrote the poem.
I have never felt in step with the world. While friends of mine from high school were making their mark achieving the “most likely to achieve” status, I found it difficult to even achieve at not achieving, always falling some place between greatness and absolute failure, a kind of wasteland of what most people call a life of accomplishment. But all of that is based on the yardstick that society has placed on life, not mine. My touchstone says I have made some wonderful friends and I have been loved and it was good.