Welcome to day 2 of 28 Days of Have Heaven, a short month of posts about heaven, paradise, perfection and desire, perfect places, art, theology, gardens, and more, using the Enya song “China Roses” as a jumping off point. Each post will look at these elements in itself, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may only peripherally be related. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
Maybe because it’s winter here in New Hampshire,
necessitating gloves that mediate
all touch, and our bulky coats with hoods
thwarting sidelong glances,
because it’s winter and there is very little
bright colour in woods, in fields,
except here and there a dazzling splotch
of male cardinal, glinting flash
of diligent woodpecker, almost neutral
evergreen needles and leaves, the few remaining
red-orange fruits of crab apple, viburnum,
winterberry, bittersweet, ash,
and the pastels and dark bruised bleeds
of lichens, molds, fungi
when you can find them,
the astonishing blue, and yes,
indigo, of cold remote skies
(all right, there is some dazzling colour);
because I’m yearning sometimes now
for freedom of movement outside,
for long languid days among noisy vibrant
insects, flowers, fruits, birds,
for pleasing colour palettes and sensuous textures,
for floral and fungal scents —
because of winter so blindingly white
and this occasional yearning,
my thoughts turn to the heaven
of other seasons.
In the song, “China Roses,” which I’m taking as my text for this series (at least to begin with; it may lead elsewhere), Enya sings that “I know that if I have heaven, there is nothing to desire.” But I do, at times, desire a paradise quite different from my current experience, and though that dreamed paradise may exist right here, all coiled potential, waiting in soil, bud, trunk, and bulb, and in hatching and migratory patterns, for the seasonal signs, my experience of it is as something missing and inaccessible here in a New England February. Winter here may be Eden but it’s Eden under an ice cloche.
Sometimes though, in winter world, I am aware that I’m in heaven. All there is then is that moment, what’s here in the chill and ice, the satisfying crunch of snow, the soft silky undulations of white meringue giving way beneath my feet, the frugal bare trees both definite and ghostly, my breath a visible vapour mingling with air that connects us all across the entire planet. The deepest, darkest arctic magic, reverberating quiet and shimmering light.
In these moments when I have heaven, when I realise it’s here now, there is nothing to desire, no yearning. Except there is.
Even in the moment of perfection — no matter the season, the place, the creatures, the activity — there’s the almost imperceptible desire for that feeling to last forever, that sense of joy, utter well-being, awe. And there’s a yearning, a yearning that’s part having, a painful pleasurable heart constriction, a remembering and imagining and experiencing all at the same time and outside of time that feels both fragile and indestructible, that prompts me to listen for a yes that never ends, even when never ends.