Everything, depending on our circumstance, takes on different meaning. Winter, to a person well-fed, sitting by a fire with loved ones in good health, means only beauty and wonder; for them it is a time to rest, reflect, celebrate and enjoy. Yet, a person who has lost someone they loved, and has been shaken by the tenuousness of life, might look at that same winter scene as something harsh, ominous, and unmerciful.
The way I see winter and the way Emily sees it in the poem below are so different, and yet, I know that part of this human experience is to go through all the seasons, each in their time. As Emily experienced whatever loss of hope she did here, we will have our season of experiencing the same thing: an oppressive heft, heavenly hurt, scars you feel, but can’t see. See how internal difference almost forms the word indifference where she looks for Meaning with a capital “M”? She warns that nothing can prepare us for this type of hurt and we won’t be able to find meaning in it.
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 —
I’ve never experienced anything quite like this, close, but not the same. I know people who have: two friends, one who lost a son to suicide and the other a husband. I imagine they would know exactly what Emily is writing about in these lines.
I feel lucky today that I can look out on the winter landscape and largely miss the shadows. To me, it’s still magical and full of wonder. Even the fog, it seems like the wrapping around a present that the sun will tear off to reveal more amazing things. How blessed am I? Today. How blessed are all of us who are enjoying winter. Today.