The New Domesticity: February Twilight
When my children were young, I regularly encouraged the memorization of seasonal poems. We’d delight in the rich autumn days as we envisioned Helen Hunt Jackson’s lines, “From dewy lanes at morning / The grapes’ sweet odors rise,” or we’d soar into spring with the immortal lines of Wordsworth: “I wandered lonely as a cloud / That floats on high o’er vales and hills.”
The February poems always seemed to be limited to two obvious themes: Valentine’s Day and snow. Yet a poem by Sara Teasdale, whispered into our home many years ago, speaks of a February gem we might unearth if we dig a bit. Yes, it features the characteristic snowfall, but it goes deeper than that, too. Take a moment to slowly read through “February Twilight,” letting the scene and its implications settle quietly:
I stood beside a hill
Smooth with new-laid snow,
A single star looked out
From the cold evening glow.
There was no other creature
That saw what I could see —
I stood and watched the evening star
As long as it watched me.
If you have the time, read it again. Do you see it? Do you hear it? Teasdale draws us into a scene that is rare: a scene devoted to solitude, to reverence, to quiet. The snow is smooth . . . the star is solitary . . . the evening glows . . . and—wonder of wonders—there is time to simply stand . . . and watch!
We lead busy lives. We push for more, we reach for the next thing, we anticipate that which is around the bend. Sometimes this foresight and ambition can be helpful, even necessary. Other times, it takes away from the moment at hand—a moment that will never come again.