Friday, December 10


"There's a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons ..." (Emily Dickinson)

The name of my new Blog is taken from the New England poet Emily Dickinson's lyric poem, "There's a certain Slant of light," written in 1861. It is among her most popular and well-crafted works and is found in most anthologies of American poetry. Because, as Donald E. Thackrey observed, the poem is "unquestionably beautiful in its sound, and striking in its imagery, yet resists definition in terms of a logical, comprehensive statement ...," I purposefully selected it, so I could ascribe my own interpretation to it.

My Blog, of course, was created just days ago in the winter month of December (2004), although arguably here in southeast Texas a case can be made that the landscape remains in the firm grip of Fall, the leaves of the deciduous trees just now reaching their full color and beginning to spiral to the ground. So, too, was Emily Dickinson's inspiration for her lovely poem derived from the refracted afternoon light of a day in the New England winter -- a time of day in which one plainly sees the sunbeams themselves and not simply what the slant of light illuminates in the landscape. Donald Thackrey opined that this time of day, and the special qualities of the Sun's rays during those hours, symbolized for Emily Dickinson the "sublimity of nature" and "the ultimate realization of truth and beauty."

While most sense that the poet was in a depressed, sorrowful state of mind when she wrote "There's a certain Slant of light," I've revisited the poem at a time in my life when the doldrums of the winter months have been given the light of a Spring day by the birth of a new grandson (Austin Burgess) and the ongoing, ineluctable love I have for a second (James Matthew); and, to be sure, by a highly anticipated trip to visit both during the Christmas holidays.

For me, Dickinson's poem points to the special aspects of light falling on the landscape during the afternoon of any day of the year. The window of my Study has a western exposure and a lake view, and the light of day experiences dramatic changes through the waning afternoon hours, and on towards dusk; and that light, and all of its ephemeral qualities, play on the lake's surface like brushstrokes from an artist above, changing not only the colors of the water, but the moods of its inspired onlookers. Truly, it is a certain Slant of light that provides, as Paula Bennett wrote, "the lens through which the world is seen ... through which its 'meanings' are understood."

Accordingly, my Blog and the thoughts I memorialize in it, will mirror the prism -- the set of filters -- through which I see and comprehend those things precious and of infinite interest to me: my family, my country, my spirituality, and the politics and current events (and their historical antecedents) that shape, buttress, or threaten them.

As you read my posts in the days, weeks and months ahead, ask yourselves the question: "What certain slant of light is this?"

More often than not, you'll find that slant of light grounded in traditional values and a fundamental, unwavering conservatism. Emily may have been overcome by melancholy sitting by her window on a harsh New England afternoon, but I choose to think in terms of that sublime light that shines on the special blessings of a new birth, that brightens the optimism of a new day (regardless the season of the year), and that casts its lustrous glow on what Ronald Reagan described as "that shining City on a hill." It is in that "City" that I wish for my grandchildren to grow strong, to spread their wings, to seek truth, to know and to give love, and to find and fulfill their hearts' desire.