Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Icy Slough

I was thinking this morning about Sylvia Plath, about what makes the difference between those who encounter pain too great to be borne, who end their lives, and those who somehow, against all hope,  hang on until a better day. Is it inborne, having a resilient outlook as opposed to a despairing one?  Is it having people depending on them that they cant abandon, or having  someone in their life who believes in them?

I was writing the poem below and thinking about a particular pond in town, when I decided to make the Ultimate Sacrifice, layered up, left my hot pumpkin spice tea behind (a cup sits steaming beside me right now) and went to get some pictures for you, to illustrate the poem.

The slough of despond
is lined with
dead bullrushes
and cattails,
broken stalks
poking through
the ice
that covers
the pond,
thick frost
every leaf

does every heart visit it
in winter
to look
with the same
deadened eyes
upon a vista of
nothing living?

how does it remember,
in those times,
that spring will come
when no birds sing
and chirp
in the winter garden?

you have choices:
one can trudge
right through,
sinking into the sludge
with mud-filled boots
that get caught fast
and will
never rise again,

or one can go around
by the
marked pathways
where others have trodden,
signposts pointing the way,
to wait for
a better day.

one can visit briefly,
then turn one's back
and search for a sunnier slope.
what makes the difference
between the one who puts
her head in the oven
and the one who hangs
grimly on
to hope?

whatever it is,
please believe me
when I tell you
that despond
is a temporary
take the next turning
you come to
and believe,
for winter is short
in duration.

Weary Traveler,
take the path
we've left
for you.
There lies
a beautiful valley
on the other side
of the slough.



  1. You make me shiver, and not with cold. This is beautiful both words and photos. I read Pilgrim's Progress many years ago and thought of it often when I found those swampland places within me. But, there in your images is the pattern of a completed circle, a wholeness to be found within that swampland and a reminder that in order to find balance, we must also find the lows that match the highs.

    What a wonderful path of contemplation you set before each of us. I think of the bear who sleeps through winter, dreaming of sunshine and honey combs. And realize that she must also have a few nightmares there in the darkness, curved around her own wild scent. Thank you!!!


  2. Thank you so much, Elizabeth.I love the thought of the bear, dreaming of honey!

  3. Sherry, this was a striking work. The images were stark, mesmerizing. Beautiful, yet filled with the frigid stillness of winter. I can understand why you wrote this around the Sylvia Plath theme. The lines:
    please believe me
    when I tell you
    that despond
    is a temporary

    ...speak to me well, as I live with my manic depression. I always know, no matter how deep the depression goes (and 'round February, I'm usually "digging for China"!), love will save the day, life will sort itself out. Don't ask me how I know, but I do.

    If only one person reads your work and understands they are not alone, that will be a life saved. I truly mean this. Thank you. A heartfelt hug from Amy

  4. Thank you, Amy. That was sort of my purpose in writing it. Knowing people often struggle in winter, I thought to offer some encouragement that spring will come again:) Thank you for your message, as it offers hope as well.

  5. Lovely writing, Sherry.

    I don't know what it is that keeps some people alive when others choose to leave. I think it's something a lot of us contemplate at one point or another in their lives. I know I have, and I don't really have anything to complain about. Maybe it's something to do with being introspective, like all writers are.

    You have written a piece of poetry that really makes a person think, Sherry. Thank you.

    Best Wishes


  6. Beautiful poem. There is always a spring after winter and it is important to remember that things always get better after they get better. Nature gives us so many reminders on how to live our life. Winter is one of them.
    It is important to persevere and hope no matter how bad the circumstances are.
    I like the pictures too. They're absolutely lovely.

  7. Sherry, this is beautiful. The words as well as the pictures. There is always beauty somewhere ahead, even when one is in the middle of the worst of times. I realize that, but your words are very meaningful to me RIGHT now in the midst of my dark days. Thank you as well for your comments in my blog. Your words and friendship mean so much to me.

  8. This was a 'woahhh, oh mann' moment for me. The first three stanza's (or whatever they are called, lol "bits") really struck me. Please send me this link next time I'm at the jumping off place.

    Love you xx

  9. this is brilliant!! well written with amazing imagery and lines, a few in particular really stood out, but the whole poem is just great!!! very nice!!

  10. thank you for sacrificing for the wonderful illustrations! i hope you had some nice hot tea waiting upon your return.
    love this thoughtful poem and especially the final word, "slough." great and powerful word choice.

  11. I'm glad you took the intrepid route and went down to get these pictures.

    (My favorites are the ice-patterned ones)

    Even in despair we can find lovely images.

    Nice job, Sherry!

  12. Powerful, insightful and inspirational words Sherry.

    Keep shining your light. x

  13. Dear Sherry, You've done it again. I am deeply moved by your weaving of words into a perfectly illustrative tapestry. Your message is one I have shared with loved ones caught in the mire. Vital to tell, share.

  14. As I'm often thinking of Sylvia Plath myself, I think your poem is an amazing message of love, hope and peace to disturbed hearts and minds.

    I'll thank you for leaving the comfort of your home to take these pictures because they are so beautiful and match the poem so nicely.

    Thank you so much for your lovely comments on my blog.

    Take care and keep smiling.

    Kiss you. =*

  15. Sherry, this poem should be read to people
    who suffer from depression. There is such hope in your words. And boy it sure looks
    chilly where you are :)

  16. As someone who suffers from depression and has attempted suicide, I have often thought about those who make it and those who don't, and what the difference is between them.

    This is an achingly beautiful poem that brings tears to my eyes and hope to my heart. Thank you.

  17. Dear Sherry,
    You have written a masterpiece and painted the picture at the same time.
    The moments and moods of life, especially the winter mood.
    I love the hope within your words and the hope that can be found, nearby.
    You are indeed gifted with words.
    Best wishes, Eileen

    Sherry, I note the picture of your beautiful dog and I am sorry that you have suffered losing him. Eileen

  18. Sherry, this is truly beautiful - your words, your photos and the message. I have always been the type to feel the sorrow and cold of winter, and have only recently begun to see that it too has its own beauty, laying a blanket of sustenance for the spring to come.

    Truly beautiful. Thank you

  19. The slough is best avoided. Excellent piece.

  20. what a poignant piece, sherry! in every twist and turn, there is always an option. we make the choices. then we tread the path where these choices lead us. but we must always remember that:
    "There lies
    a beautiful valley
    on the other side
    of the slough."

    thank you for sharing these lovely photos and thought-provoking poem. {{{hugsss}}}

  21. This is such a striking deeply true poem and I LOVE the photos too. Some really beautiful shots. I have never really tried to match my photos to my poems though I post a photo with each poem "page." Just a way to share my photos as well as my poems. By the way I love the main photo on your blog.


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