Saturday, February 05, 2011

When you stop by the lovely, dark and deep woods, really stop.

It is most appropriate, sitting here on my couch next to the wood-burning stove, looking out of the window on a snowy evening in late January, the snowflakes slanting at an angle blown by a strong wind, to take another look at a poem by Robert Frost (1874-1963), Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound's the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Sitting here, it is easy to be lulled into the peace of mind while reading this poem. Frost is a master poet. Look at his internal rhyming that is a perfect blend of sound and sense, almost hypnotically lulling your senses.

The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

Here is the internal rhyme of sound and downy and sweep and easy, and the rhyming of flake with shake and mistake. As far as the over-all rhyme scheme, in the first stanza, we have know, though,snow, and here is picked up in the next stanza, queer, near, year, and then lake, in the third, shake, mistake, and flake, and finally, sweep, is picked up in the fourth, deep, keep, sleep and sleep.

In addition, with all this going on, Frost casts the poem in iambic tetrameter, meaning each line has four sets of iambs, a slack STRESS cadence.

The ON ly OTH er SOUND'S the SWEEP

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, thinking about this post, and I tried to go back to sleep focusing on my breathing, and then I got real excited because I discovered that our breathing is iambic! That is, breathe in, breathe out:

in OUT/ in OUT/ in OUT/ in OUT/ in OUT/

No wonder Frost lulls us into an easy state of mind with his masterful blend of rhythm and rhyming, sound and sense.

Now, to contrast my peaceful state of mind with the mind of the narrator, I want to point out that in the last stanza, he will not permit himself to stop and sit there, idly, peacefully. It is as if he is hearing his parents say to him, as they probably did when he was a child, “Don’t just sit there, do something!” Rather than saying to himself, “Don’t just do something, sit here,” he forces himself to move on, tempted by his thoughts, his promises that he must keep. Frost does not elaborate on these, but we can imagine his sense of obligations to family, and friends, and his job; his goals and aspirations and his worldly responsibilities. His life is ahead of him. He has too far to go, too many miles to travel before he sleeps, too much to do before he dies.

But, in truth, we know that there is only this moment, there is only now. What is pushing him along on his journey can only be his thoughts. In today’s Lesson in A Course in Miracles, Lesson 34, I could see peace instead of this, Jesus speaks directly to this fact that only our thoughts are the problem. Here is the sentence that captures exactly what I am doing right now, as my thoughts arise and fall, sitting here on the couch watching the snow flakes fall.

Note them all casually, repeating the idea for today slowly
(I could see peace instead of this) as you watch them arise in your mind, and let each one go, to be replaced by the next. W-p1.34.3:3

It is always a matter of becoming aware of your thoughts and then letting them go, releasing them, forgiving them, so that you can experience your natural, still, peace of mind. In the Lesson, a few sentences later, Jesus uses the word temptation, referring to your thoughts.

The purpose of these exercises is to protect yourself from temptation throughout the day. 5:2

My thoughts tempt me to turn from my peaceful state to face my troubled world that I have made up with my thought-images, and it is only by standing here in my certainty that I can see peace instead of this this thought, that temptation.

In fact, sitting here on my couch, I find myself rewriting the last stanza, with apologies to Frost.

The woods are filling with snow, deep.
I sit here, still, almost asleep.
I have no promises to keep,
I have no promises to keep.

In addition, I asked a young friend of mine, Veronica Mejia , to practice writing the last stanza as well. She is a young woman, 16, from Cali, Colombia, South America, who is transforming through A Course in Miracles, and I am tutoring her in literature in preparation for college.

Nature at peace calls me with ease.
I enter to find God waiting for me.

And in a Holy Instant I join Him,
And in a Holy Instant I join Him.


And now here is a passage from Jesus, Lesson 182, I will be still an instant and go home.

When you are still an instant, when the world
recedes from you, when valueless ideas
cease to have value in your restless mind,
then will you hear His Voice. So poignantly
He calls to you that you will not resist
Him longer. In that instant He will take
you to His home, and you will stay with Him
in perfect stillness, silent and at peace,
beyond all words, untouched by fear and doubt,
sublimely certain that you are at home.

And now, if you would like a respite from your worldly promises, I invite you to take a moment to listen to my friend, Doug, play the piano and sing his song inspired by Lesson 182, I will be still an instant and go home. Click here.