Daily Miracles – Virginia Woolf and Robert Cording

Original dust jacket – To The Lighthouse – by Virginia Woolf

What is the meaning of life? That was all – a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with the years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.

Virginia Woolf from To the Lighthouse, Hogarth Press, 1927

To the Lighthouse was a revelation for me in my last year at university. The one book I had to read for a course and write an essay on that stayed with me for years. And when I came across this quote years later I leaned into it like a long long friend. The idea of a daily miracles. Matches struck unexpectedly in the dark. Sometimes matches hard to see. Maybe only out of the corner of an eye. Then gone. Something I need to remember again and again!

This quote ties in well to my previous blog post on American poet Robert Cording and his expression: accidental loveliness. To read the previous post please click here.Beauty that flares up. Grab it before it vanishes. A daily miracle. How easily missed if we lose our capacity for wonder, for revelation. Cording’s narrative poem below captures this so poignantly. The last few lines: exquisite and painful.

Christmas Story

Sure, I’d had too much wine and not enough
of the Advent hope that candles are lit for;
and I’ll confess up front, I was without charity
for our guest who, glassed in behind those black,
small, rectangular frames, reminded me
of those poems that coldly arrange a puzzle
of non sequiturs to prove again how language
is defective and life leads to nothing more
than dead ends. So, after a night of wondering
if our never-more-than-hardly-surprised guest,
a young professor whose field of expertise
seemed to be ironic distance, would give
a moment’s thought, as he took apart everyone’s
unexamined stances, to how and why his own
might be constructed, I blurted out a story
over our Christmas dinner dessert, about
Aleksander Wat, how the Polish poet,
taken one day from his Soviet prison
to see a local magistrate, stood in the sun,
reveling in its warmth on his face and arms
and hands; as he took in the beauty
of a woman in a light green dress, he knew
he would soon be back in his prison cell.
He never forgot, he said, the irony of
his freedom, and yet he felt, standing there,
something like a revelation, the autumn day
surging in those silly puffiest white clouds,
and a hardly bearable blue sky, and the bell
of a bicycle ringing, and some people
laughing in a nearby café, and that woman,
her bare languid shoulders turning in the sun—
it was all thrilling, achingly alive, a feast
happening right there on the street between
the prison and a government office, nothing else
mattering, not even the moment he knew
was coming, and arrived, right on schedule,
when he stood woodenly before the magistrate.
And when I had finished, my face flushed,
my guest looked at me with astonishment,
unable to process where so much emotion
had come from, and then asked, calmly as ever,
what I meant when I’d used the word, revelation.

 Robert Cording from Only So Far, Cavan Kerry Press, 2015

To see the beauty surrounding us when we are distracted by worry, regret – you name it. That’s the challenge. For me today that moment was the smoke-red sun coming through a woodlot at the edge of our property. A vision we could only see because neighbours had cut down their part of the woodlot. Something difficult, seeing that part of the forest disappear, turned into something beautiful. Daily miracle.

One Comment

  1. Yvonne
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the reminder to not let our thoughts obscure what is !

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