Meditation: On Suffering

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This weekend is both a Getaway and a Nesting time for me: E. and I are up at Hall Farm, an artists' residency in Vermont.

Before coming, I'd been intimidated by the whole notion of an artists' residency, but it turns out to just be a lot of nice folks wandering around the beautifully restored farmhouse and barns, eating omelets, playing bocce ball, and occasionally drfting away to make some art. Or I should say, some more art, because the art of living is a real art too.

And on this perfect day, with every one of my needs met, I'm thinking of the folks on the Gulf Coast, where I lived for ten years, and the folks back in New York, where I've lived for another ten, and of the Auden poem that serves us so well in times of suffering:

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

-- W.H. Auden (1940)

(SGH)
Photo credit: Hall Farm