07 December 2009

Finding Poetry on the Roof at Dawn



The weather this week has been very cold and clear. The Pacific Northwest is not known for its sunny winter climate. I have been sitting in the light for a few minutes each day and giving thanks for this small blessing, sun in a season that usually brings abundant rain.

Advent is the season of waiting before Christmas for many Christian denominations that follow a liturgical calendar. The period before Christmas cuts across the bustle and noise of the holidays with its silence and quiet anticipation. I have been rediscovering the canticles or prayers at the beginning of the book of Luke. I haven’t picked up a bible in over a decade and am now struck at how beautiful some of the language can be.

The “Canticle of Zechariah” (Luke 1:68-79) is a prayer spoken aloud by John the Baptist’s father. The lines, “In the tender compassion of our Lord / The dawn from on high shall break upon us, / to shine on those who dwell in darkness” have stayed with me for days. In my head the words have mixed up and condense themselves into the beautiful image: “The dawn shall break upon us with tenderness and compassion.”

When I woke up this morning the sun had just begun to touch the neighbor’s roof. Inside that brushstroke of light more than twenty starlings gathered to catch the warmth. Their black feathers took on a myriad of tones, each reflecting the sun. Dawn had broken upon them with tenderness and compassion. The roof line, the sun and the birds were all a canticle to morning.

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