There is a narrow outdoor porch on the second floor of my Victorian home that overlooks the street, where I love to sit and watch the world go by. Sometimes when it is hot in the summer, I will spend the night on the porch and fall asleep to the sound of the crickets. When the sun rises before 5 AM in May, I like to go and sit out there in the cool early morning air filled with bird song and meditate. It’s one of my very favorite spots in my home, and it’s entirely seasonal. It cannot be enjoyed year around.
Joy and excitement fill my heart in the Springtime when its finally warm enough to resurrect the space, to uncover the furniture, to set out the cushions and tablecloths and rehang the lanterns and pictures. And in the fall I always feel a deep melancholy when I must pack all of it up again and put it away for the winter, even though I know that I will enjoy it once again in the Spring. The life cycle of the porch is circular, it follows the seasons and always repeats.
Other changes are more linear and uni-directional. My children are all now young adults and do not live at home with me anymore. They will not be babies or young children again. Hopefully one day they will have babies. And I am growing older each year and am increasingly aware of the limits of time and mortality.
I recently was introduced to a poem about death that I thought was so beautiful and comforting, that I wanted to share it with my readers. It feels appropriate at this season of the year in New England, as the leaves fall from the trees, the light wanes and the veils between the worlds are the thinnest. The poem is by Joshua L Leibman, a Boston rabbi, who wrote a book entitled Peace of Mind in 1946, which was a best seller and one of the first self help books ever published. When I learned that Liebman died at age of 41 of a heart attack, it made this poem especially poignant.
Death is not the Enemy
I often feel that death is not the enemy of life, but its friend; for it is the
knowledge that our years are limited which makes them so precious. It
is the truth that time is but lent to us which makes us, at our best, look
upon our years as a trust handed into our temporary keeping.
We are like children privileged to spend a day in a great park, a park
filled with many gardens and playgrounds, and azure-tinted lakes and
boats sailing upon tranquil waves.
True, the day allotted to each of us is not the same in length, in light, in
beauty. Some children of the earth are privileged to spend a long and sunlit
day in the garden of the earth. For others, the day is shorter, cloudier,
and dusk descends more quickly as in a winter’s tale.
But whether our life is a long summery day or a shorter wintry
afternoon, we know that inevitably there are storms and squalls which
overcast even the bluest heaven and there are sunlit rays which pierce
the darkest autumn sky. The day we are privileged to spend in the great
park of life is not the same for all human beings; but there is enough
beauty and joy and gaiety in the hours, if we but treasure them.
Then for each of us the moment comes when the great nurse, death,
takes us by the hand and quietly says, “It is time to go home. Night is
coming. It is your bedtime, child of the earth. Come, you are tired. Lie
down at last in the quiet nursery of nature and sleep. Sleep well. The
day is gone. Stars shine in the canopy of eternity. ”