The poem I have chosen for December 14th in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word, is Autumn by the contemporary poet and theologian David Baird. You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. The image above is from Linda Richardson’s book of responses to Waiting on the Word.Linda writes:
Ten days before Christmas Eve and the pressure is upon us. Will we continue to find the time to read these poems, to contemplate and wait upon the Word? A few days ago I encouraged the reader, if they were responding in some way, not to dismiss the response if it didn’t resonate, because later reflection could reveal hidden meaning.
Last year, responding to this poem, I reached out for what was at hand. I found a leaf that I had pressed in a book and a piece of medical gauze, found in the bedroom where my Mother-in-law had nursed my Father-in-law until his death on the 12th December 2005, almost ten years before I made this work in December 2015. These seemingly poor objects became the grist for creating the response to David Baird’s Autumn.
The art work is by-the-way, but reflecting on it a year later, the media is of greater interest. As death drew near to my Father-in-law, these words became his reality: ‘then fallen nature driven to her knees flames russet, auburn, orange fierce from within, And bush burns brighter for the growing grey’.
George Richardson was a man of Faith who lived by and for the Word. There were times in his younger years when he was inclined to unmake the incarnation and turn the Word made flesh back into legal words again as Edwin Muir the Scottish poet writes, “King Calvin with his iron pen, And God three angry letters in a book’. But George was utterly intent upon his Lord Jesus and came to a fuller, richer more loving faith, so that by the end of his life he glowed ‘orange fierce from within’. He would greet each person he met with complete attention, speaking to them as if they were the most important person, and the meeting, the most happy of his week. Being met by George at this time of his life was an invitation into the vast emptiness of his loving heart.
I didn’t realise the significance of the leaf and the gauze until I came to write about it this year.
Was certainly not winter, scholars say,
When holy habitation broke the chill
Of hearth-felt separation, icy still,
The love of life in man that Christmas day.
Was autumn, rather, if seasons speak true;
When green retreats from sight’s still ling’ring gaze,
And creeping cold numbs sense in sundry ways,
While settling silence speaks of solitude.
Hope happens when conditions are as these;
Comes finally lock-armed with death and sin,
When deep’ning dark demands its full display.
Then fallen nature driven to her knees
Flames russet, auburn, orange fierce from within,
And bush burns brighter for the growing grey.