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Now is Our Season

Shirl McPhillips

Now is our season
on the verge, a time
of endings and beginnings.

The seeds of autumn 
have fallen away, lost 
in a fault of memory,

yet in the dark of their 
winter chambers they
tremble in divine creation.

It is a gentle poetry.

Like seeds in winter we
know that now is our learning
time. In silence we burn 

with the fierce wisdom
of a heart seeking out 
its own salt.

We are taught in silence. 


My mother said she loved all seasons. But autumn, she said, though stunning in color and brisk of air, eventually gave her a sense of things dying away, of fading to dark. I think she approached winter with some trepidation. The closing in of days, the sparse and muted light. Time stretched out. The seemingly endless quest for spring again.

Eventually she settled in, nurtured and watched her precious cardinals at the feeders. Made her famous vegetable-beef soup from the gems of her summer garden. At first snow, she delighted children with the surprise of snowcream. Drew up around the fire at night reading inspiring passages or in quiet conversation with a friend. Breakfasted on the sunporch with her own Concord grape on wheat toast and black coffee. Pored over the seed catalogues, imagining, sketching the plans in her winter journal for the spring garden. And knitted yet another afghan.

In my own life, I have shared some of my mother's darker feelings about wintertime. I also realize that she lived through that season in very thoughtful ways. I'm coming to see this time as a chance to live more mindfully. A chance to pull in, to be more reflective. To quiet my distracted thinking. To find a peace that is available in each moment. 

Zen Master and poet, Thich Nhat Hanh, tells us that . . . silence is essential for deep transformation . . . Like still water that reflects things as they are, the calming silence helps us to see things more clearly, and therefore, to be in deeper contact with ourselves and those around us.

Now is our learning time. 


Shirl McPhillips

Shirl McPhillips has worked as a classroom teacher, literacy staff developer, institute leader and writing consultant. Her poems have found homes in journals such as The Edison Literary Review, Journal of New Jersey Poets, The Sewanee Review and online sites. She co-authored, with Nick Flynn, A Note Slipped Under the Door: Teaching from Poems We Love (Stenhouse). Her new book, Poem Central: Word Journeys with Readers and Writers, is available from Stenhouse Publishers. Shirl is the poet laureate for Choice Literacy.