“In Villages God Does Not Live in Corners”: for the Spring Equinox, a Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996) poem : “In Villages God Does Not Live in Corners”

In villages God does not live in corners

as skeptics think. He’s everywhere.

He blesses the roof, he blesses the dishes,

he holds his half of the double doors.

He’s plentiful. In the iron pot there.

Cooking the lentils on Saturday.

He sleepily jigs and bops in the fire,

he winks at me, his witness. He

assembles a fence, he marries some sweetheart

off to the woodsman. Then for a joke

he makes the warden’s every potshot

all just short of a passing duck.

The chance to watch all this up close,

while autumn’s whistling in the mist,

is the alltime blessed gift there is

in villages, for the atheist.

Below, “villagers” who do not live in corners

Left: Deborah Waldron (Physics) and Laurie Vena (Chemistry) teachers at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia raised money for $100 grocery gift cards for each of the approximately 8,300 Arlington Public Schools students who receive their main daily meals at school. Middle: drag queen Gary Marion, together with other queens who can no longer perform due to the coronavirus pandemic, are now making face masks for healthcare workers. Right: volunteers sort donated grocery items at a community food bank.

This Spring Equinox, as we acknowledge our weakness in the face of a microscopic virus, may each of us—whether we are atheists or believers—find a meaning to encompass our individual or communal hope that life will prevail over death. Whether you mark the earth’s seasonal return from winter to spring through

  • some ancient festival that celebrates spring, for example, the emergence of Eostre, the Mother of the Dawn—from where she has been sleeping under the skin of the earth for months—so that she might enhance Earth’s abundance
  • Passover that recounts the Israelites’ escape from slavery and the plagues in Egypt
  • Easter that marks the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the Christian savior. ( Easter’s connection to ancient seasonal festivals is designated by the way its date is calculated each year—it falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox—and the derivation of its name from Eostre, the Mother of the Dawn)
  • Ramadan that commemorates commemorates Allah revealing the Muslim holy book, the Quran, to the prophet Mohammed

OR

  • the chocolate abundance of the Easter Bunny, which derives her egg-distribution superpowers from Eostre’s sacred animal, the hare, which laid eggs to honor the spring goddess and encourage her fruitfulness

Eostre, Christopher Bell

This Spring Equinox, (no matter which—or none—of many different Spring Equinox Celebrations Around the World you commemorate), may you, like Brodsky’s atheist in “Villages,” find “glimmers of the Absolute in every particular” (Chet Raymo.)

For the Sun is returning to us.

The Spring Equinox is a moment when the darkness and the light are in balance: on the dark side, our lament: our acknowledgement that things are hard and that we feel their weight; on the light side, our certainty that—some day in the near future—things will be better and our lightness of being will again come forth.

In villages, a generation apart

 

Left: Dance Around the Maypole, Pieter Breugel the Elder (born between 1525–1530, died 1569). Right: Preparation of the Spring Beds, Pieter Breugel the Younger (1564–1638), son of Pieter Breugel the Elder, who died when the child was about 5 years old; accordingly, Pieter the Younger received no training from his father. The father died and the son was born during a time when the bubonic plague was again rife Europe for the umpteenth time since the Black Death (peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351) resulted in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia. It seems, however, that father Breugel died of something other than the plague.