Admitting Winter

I was struck, when reading the book, by this poem included in Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. It is a distillation of her abiding interest in Taoism, a worldview that informs her writing, where life is recognised as a mix of darkness and light, as is symbolised by the now ubiquitous taijitu, the ‘yin-yang’ symbol.  

Light is the left hand of darkness,
and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying
together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way. 

The poem reminds me, too, of a favourite song by the Scottish folk singer Alasdair Roberts, ‘Farewell Sorrow’, where, in the third verse, he sings:

And you can pray, pray and pray for Life
But know my friend, my dearest friend, please know this
That Life is but Death’s own right-hand man
In every piece of his own left-hand business

The song can be heard, and the lyrics followed, here.

There is wisdom in making space for both the light and the dark in life – it is fairly obvious that many people want things to be sunny side up, youth and summer, perpetually, and all kinds of issues therefore arise from such partiality. Yet, Nature just doesn’t operate like that. This is a theme I go back and back to, including in my songs with Gorwel, such as ‘Spring Always Comes’ and ‘Ten Thousand Things’, which can be heard here (just click on the songs). Taoism studies Nature and says: to best live, live in tune with the way things are. The dark can also be a womb, and winter is the right hand of summer.


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