Proposal – A Day without Light (but one)

In this season of disturbed day and night, I’ve found necessary reading, stories whose thin lines keep reaching toward the world I want to live in, the one I do, even as the news and those who make it try to wipe that world away. The stories are the poems of Kate Barnes, and I have come to them through recommendation from the Gulf of Maine, our local bookstore, itself a kind of kin to the fish that keep swimming upstream to spawn. “Try this,” the owner, a poet himself, said one day, and handed over Crossing the Field. I looked at its handsome woodcut cover, weighed its thinness, and thought, I might even finish this.

For some weeks it sat where most new books do – on my desk in a stratigraphy of enthusiasms. One recent morning, as I sought my coffee-reading to prepare my mind for the day’s words, I saw its blue cover peeking out of the pile, and I unearthed it, carried it to table. I noted, as I always do, its birthdate – 1992 – and turned to page one:

Coming Back

Coming back to my own countryside, I find
the farm again. It is night. Under this wallpaper
of willow leaves and birds, I know there is
an old one with loops of small roses…

No pyrotechnics; rather, a quiet insistence on what return allows, how knowing is layered, and that we live there too, below its surface. Barnes, the daughter of poet Elizabeth Coatsworth and writer Henry Beston, isn’t after easy narratives in her poems; she is 60 when they are published and worn by life’s abrasions, not the least of which is her father, who, fittingly, it seems, renamed himself Beston, by the stone, when made fun of for being “a mick.” But reading her poems is akin to coming on a clearest stream in woods you thought you knew, and then, looking up and seeing with washed vision.

All of this is prelude to a proposal: recent poems I’ve read have been lit – in this corner or that – by fireflies. Yes, they are out of season, but winking light, easily construed as hope, is not. So here, in a spirit of rising light that Kate Barnes and Henry Thoreau might approve, is my proposal:

On January 20th, 2017, when we pass into a new government that I see aligned with darkness, let’s turn off all the lights but one in all of our houses and workspaces. A Day without Light (but one) would recognize and protest a president who seems without spirit and compassion, and it would leave burning resolve and hope to see and then work through this period to a different day. It would be quiet, real, and yes, if enough of us did it, effective.

I don’t know Barnes as well as I know Thoreau, but I think each, both, would nod, yes, and go about that day as a single light.

Added note: I don’t do this, but I’d like to see if this seed-idea can grow, so please share widely if you too would like to see that. Each one of us can be that single light too.

"There is more day to dawn." Thoreau, Walden

“There is more day to dawn.” Thoreau, Walden

“There is more day to dawn.” Thoreau, Walden


Filed under Arts, Environment, General, Henry David Thoreau, Literature, Living Deliberately, Nature, News and Events, The Roost, Thoreau Quote

2 Responses to Proposal – A Day without Light (but one)

  1. I’d rather see people come together in peace and solidarity in each and every community on this day, than to have individuals hunkered down in their own spaces with only single candles to illuminate them. Together we stand, divided we fall. Another en masse March on Washington wouldn’t be out of the question, either.

    • Sandy Stott

      Thanks, Corinne…but I think I’ll go with individual resolve on that day, starting with the only place change can root, in the self. It’s the “I” at the heart of Walden that finally must see there’s more day to dawn.