My elders often spoke of how the world had become dark, weary and worn. Painfully, they had seen war fold into war; economic depression and scarcity give way to growth and renewal; strange and unfamiliar shifts in culture. They seemed to find joy nonetheless.
Laughter was easy, in spite of sorrows. Potlucks came naturally to nurture community, comfort the bereaved and support the newly birthed. Work — the daily rhythm of chores at home, on the farm, in the workplace — ordered their lives. Scriptures, songs and story helped them find meaning in the midst of transition.
Readily, they would reference the poetry of sacred texts. “I lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord who hath made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121) Ecclesiastes 3 helped make sense of life shifts: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven …”
Frustrations of this ever-changing thing called life make a bit more sense with voices of the poets and the mystics. Rumi, Rainer Maria Rilke and Wendel Berry often help inform my mind, spirit, movement and body as I seek to meander through this life and adjust to its wildness.
Wendel Berry’s voice is always ecologically centered. His passion for the planet and its restoration of balance simultaneously spills onto the page at a near and present level but also as a quiet, pulsing constancy. His poem “The Peace of the Wild Things” always comforts me in times of chaos, gives me hope for my children and for this great, wide earth.
Even now, on a gorgeous late spring day, a storm looms, gathering heavy winds, large hail, downpouring rain. The earth patterns like our souls. Mary Oliver, whose life on this planet ended in the early days of last year, still brings light and order. Her poetry carries on, sharing grace with new and familiar audiences alike.
These are the last days of this one unique spring, the likes of which we may never know again. I breathe in hope and breathe out gratitude. As the world continues to churn with disarray and despair, I leave you, Gentle Reader, with Oliver’s “A Settlement” from “What Do We Know: Poems and Prose Poems” from 2002:
Look, it’s spring. And last year’s loose dust has turned into this soft willingness. The wind-flowers have come up trembling, slowly the brackens are uplifting their curvaceous and pale bodies. The thrushes have come home, none less than filled with mystery, sorrow, happiness, music, ambition.
And I am walking out into all of this with nowhere to go and no task undertaken but to turn the pages of this beautiful world over and over, in the world of my mind.
* * *
Therefore, dark past,
I’m about to do it.
I’m about to forgive you
Which poets are comforting you, guiding you? What and who are you forgiving?