A few weeks ago I went on a 24 hour retreat. In one of the quiet times we were given D H Lawrence’s poem ‘Shadows’ as something we might want use for reflection or meditation.
Here it is in full …
Shadows by D H Lawrence
And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.
And if, as weeks go round, in the dark of the moon
my spirit darkens and goes out, and soft strange gloom
pervades my movements and my thoughts and words
then I shall know that I am walking still
with God, we are close together now the moon’s in shadow.
And if, as autumn deepens and darkens
I feel the pain of falling leaves, and stems that break in storms
and trouble and dissolution and distress
and then the softness of deep shadows folding,
folding around my soul and spirit, around my lips
so sweet, like a swoon, or more like the drowse of a low, sad song
singing darker than the nightingale, on, on to the solstice
and the silence of short days, the silence of the year, the shadow,
then I shall know that my life is moving still
with the dark earth, and drenched
with the deep oblivion of earth’s lapse and renewal.
And if, in the changing phases of man’s life
I fall in sickness and in misery
my wrists seem broken and my heart seems dead
and strength is gone, and my life
is only the leavings of a life:
and still, among it all, snatches of lovely oblivion, and snatches of renewal
odd, wintry flowers upon the withered stem, yet new, strange flowers
such as my life has not brought forth before, new blossoms of me
then I must know that still
I am in the hands of the unknown God,
he is breaking me down to his own oblivion
to send me forth on a new morning, a new man.
I decided to use it to reflect and to art journal anything that jumped out at me. At the time I only managed half of the poem so I’ve gone back and finished the reflection and journaling over the last few days.
I prepared the pages first with a used wet teabag (it makes a lovely background and is far less intimidating than a white sheet of paper!)
I then waited for phrases to jump out at me and then I wrote and drew. I finished with some water colour washes in various places to give a subtle colour.
The poem is about cycles and seasons, the ups and downs of life. It’s about the presence of God renewing and refreshing us despite the things that life throws at us. As a Christian I believe I was created anew when I accepted Jesus into my life. And I live my life in that constant renewal and re-creation. I love that phrase ‘I am dipped again in God.’ It is God who is the source of all that I am and who walks alongside me in my journey through life’s ups and downs.
I love the idea that even in times of Winter, when I might feel like a ‘withered stem’,
I still experience new growth – things I’ve not experienced before … ‘new blossoms of me’.
I am reminded of words from Lamentations that inspired a great hymn …
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
You may think it strange that I identify with the phrase ‘I am in the hands of the unknown God’, but the point is not that I don’t know who he is, but that I can never understand him fully until I am with him.
1 Corinthians 13:12 says …
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then shall I know fully, even as I am known.
I get great comfort from this verse. I don’t have to have all the answers, because I will never know it all in this life. But I can rest and find peace because ‘I am in the hands of the unknown God’, and I can rise every morning, a new person, a new creation.