On the Edge of Winter

by Christine Sine

by April Yamasaki

Every year as the days grow shorter, and the air grows sharper, the green of the trees gets lighter and thinner, until finally green gives way to yellow, orange, brown, and red. As if in protest to the cooler, darker days of fall, the trees kindle a fire of their own.

Their protest is spectacular, but short-lived. All too soon, their proud colours fade and fall away. After a night of rain, fallen leaves are cold and wet, clinging limply to the shoes of passers-by. On dry afternoons, their once brilliant flames crunch and crumple underfoot. The world is on the edge of winter.

On that thin edge between two seasons, the Jesuit priest and poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, wrote a poem addressed to a young girl named Margaret. He called it Spring and Fall https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44400/spring-and-fall, perhaps to contrast Margaret’s spring-like youth with the later maturity of fall.

I can almost see Margaret standing under half-bare trees, leaves above her head and under her feet and drifting down around her each time the wind heaves another sigh. Margaret is crying.

In response to Margaret’s tears, and like any good poet, Hopkins asks the question why. Why Margaret, are you grieving? Do you care for the leaves that are falling from the trees around you? Do you somehow sense the passing of time, the aging and death that await you and all God’s creatures? Unaware of the poet’s question, and perhaps unaware of the reasons behind her tears, Margaret continues to weep.

Yet says Hopkins, as a grown-up Margaret, “you will weep and know why.” As adults, we know the shortness and fragility of life. We sense the dread of death stalking us. We weep for those who have passed from this earth. We weep for our own mortality.

But like young Margaret with her tears, and like the trees in autumn, we can mount our own protest. We bundle up against the cold and wind. We decorate in bright Christmas red and green. We meet doubt with faith. Violence with peace. Despair with hope.

God is our great Creator, the one who gives us life and breath, who holds the present, past and future, who rules the passage of time. God is our great Saviour, the one who triumphs over sin and death, who welcomes us to live a new life together with all God’s people. God is our great Comforter, the one who stands and weeps with us, who brings on fall and winter, and promises spring and summer to come. This is God’s good news for all the grieving Margarets among us. 

Spring and Fall
Gerard Manley Hopkins
to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Whether you are praying the stations of the day, in need of resources for rest, hoping to spark joy and find wonder, or simply want to enjoy beautiful prayers, poetry, and art – our digital downloads section has many options! Christine Sine’s book Rest in the Momentis designed to help you find those pauses throughout the day. Praying through the hours or watches, you may find inspiration in our prayer cards set Prayers for the Day or Pause for the Day. You may find your curiosity piqued in the free poetry and art download Haiku Book of Hours. All this and more can be found in our shop!

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