February 2009


When Orpheus’ music persuaded the gods
to restore his beloved Eurydice to life
they imposed strict conditions on him
for her return to earth.  He was forbidden
to look at her or speak to her at all
as they made their journey upward
from Hades to the life-giving sunlight.

Alas, nobody told Eurydice.
And so as they made their way
back through the halls of the dead
and up from deep under ground
she wondered and questioned aloud
why Orpheus, if he really loved her,
would neither look at her nor speak.

Her questions and complaints
took an increasing toll on Orpheus
until finally, as they neared the surface,
he yielded both to her entreaties
and his own need for reassurance,
turned, and glanced at Eurydice.
It was his last sight of his beloved.

Eurydice was immediately cast back
into the realms of Hades and the dead,
there to remain forever.  And Orpheus
flung himself on the ground in despair,
cursing his weakness for having disobeyed.
the gods’ command.  He sought to die
that he might join the one he loved.

Pity poor Orpheus, for he forgot
that he could use his priceless gifts
to outwit the gods and regain his bride.
If he had made a song praising the gods
for restoring Eurydice to him,
and lamenting the conditions they imposed,
perhaps she would have understood.

Some of the gods would have been angry
at such a blatant subversion of their will,
but I think Apollo would have been amused
and assuaged the wrath of his fellow deities.
And Orpheus and Eurydice, restored to life,
might have wound up on Mount Olympus,
singing to heaven and earth, and to us, still.

Copyright 2009 Dorothy Miller Gutenkauf

This is the time of year for sadness and for joy.
The earth is distant from the sun, and days are short.
Tempers are short, too, as darkness falls
and days and nights are colder than before.
Some of our ancient ancestors believed
a dragon was swallowing the sun.  They lit
huge bonfires, banged on drums and wood
to drive the beast away and save the world.

Others thought the shortened days a sign
of the impending destruction of their lives,
and vowed to be better than they were
if only the sun would shine on them again.
Believers in all eras and all cultures
have seen the Winter Solstice as a time
for taking stock and looking at themselves,
and joy because the sunlight will return.

Regardless of what we believe—or not—
this is indeed a season to rejoice.
Whether we light candles or trim trees,
this is a time to cherish those we love
and to rejoice that we may live to see
the turning of the darkness into light.
In many tongues we wish each other well,
and hope for many better days to come.

The decorations will not last ‘til spring;
the candles will burn down to little stubs
and then go out, drowned by their dripping wax.
The feasts will end and dishes will be done,
the linens and the silver put away.
The sun will come again and light our days
as we look forward to the Equinox,
with hope that we may see another spring.

Copyright 2009 Dorothy Miller Gutenkauf