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Harrowing Grace

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As imperceptibly as grief
 The summer lapsed away,
 Too imperceptible at last
 To feel like perfidy.

The dusk drew earlier in,
 The morning foreign shone,
 A courteous yet harrowing grace
 As guest that would be gone.

Receiving grace is not always an easy or calming process.

Emily Dickinson described a “harrowing grace” in one of her poems about the change of seasons which Dickinson wrote not long after the paralysis of her mother and the death of her father, a close friend, and the baby of a neighbor.  It is in the breaking up of rigid soil that sunnier days dried out that fertile ground is found for new plantings.  The grace we find in the harvest is not intended to answer the “why” of the trauma, the grief, or the challenge, but it can answer the “what next.”  My grandmother used the term “harrowing grace” to describe her chemotherapy treatments to treat her ovarian cancer twice.  I love oxymorons or anything that evokes irony, ambivalence and complexity below the surface.  There is something overwhelming about how I’ve heard Grace described in the past and that means even what is wonderful can have the tinge of threatening to it.

Mima had just finished a class on Dickinson (neuropathy affects may effect her nerves but never her neurons!)  and sent me the full text of the poem.  Here it is:

As imperceptibly as grief
 The summer lapsed away,
 Too imperceptible at last
 To feel like perfidy.

 A quietness distilled,
 As twilight long begun,
 Or Nature spending with herself
 Sequestered afternoon.

 The dusk drew earlier in,
 The morning foreign shone,
 A courteous yet harrowing grace
 As guest that would be gone.

 And thus without a wing
 Or service of a keel
 Our summer made her light escape
 Into the Beautiful.

* *************************************

Into the Beautiful… Have you been at the brink of this?  When? What does this mean for you?

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