A Poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho 
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans 
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, 
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.  
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth. 

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and 
     purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

A Poem from Mary Oliver

 

Wild Geese

 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~ Mary Oliver ~

 

(Dream Work)

Global Metamorphosis

I feel excited and hopeful.  In Costa Rica we are immersed in the rhythms of nature.  We cannot separate ourselves from the rains, the sun, the insects, the animals.  We cannot conquer the jungle.  I am noticing how the locals dance with the jungle.  There seems to be a give and take, a complicated relationship in which the humans know they are not in charge and cannot force their will.  Instead, there seems to be a deep, respectful entanglement with the elements.  I feel I am re-remembering something deep within me.  Something that in our modern times is absent from our cultural understanding.  I feel like I am remembering that I am nature.  

Our cultural myths reinforce our separation with nature: our need to dominate and control the elements; our need to take care of the earth, as if it needs us to survive.  These myths tell us that there is the earth and then me, and we affect one another.  I know that the monkeys outside my window do not feel separate from the tree in which they hang; there is a symbiotic flow of interdependence, oneness.  Living in the jungle does not allow us to stay in our disconnected state of mind. I feel like I am remembering that I am not separate, I am not in charge, I am not a steward of the earth, but I am the earth.  

    These moments of remembering are fleeting  . . . I forget and then I remember.  When I remember, I hear the poetry, I hear the call within myself to listen acutely and to let myself be immersed in a state of awe.  I can hear the whispers of the ocean and I can hear the medicine of the rains  . . . I pause and soak in the beauty of the sunset each night and bear witness to the artistry in the sky.  I pause and remember.  

When I remember that I am the earth, my actions hold great meaning.  My words, my thoughts, and my behaviors have the power of connection or disconnection.  Judgement/fear or inclusion/wonderment.  I feel the call to come back to be in rhythm.  I was reading Jung’s, "Man and His Symbols," again and came across this reminder of what we have lost with our separation:

“As scientific understanding has grown, so our world has become dehumanized. Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos, because he is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional “unconscious identity” with natural phenomena.  These have slowly lost their symbolic implications.  Thunder is no longer the voice of an angry god, nor is lightning his avenging missile.  No river contains a spirit, no tree the life principle of a man, no snake the embodiment of wisdom, no mountain cave the home of a great demon.  No voices now speak to man from stones, plants, and animals, nor does he speak to them believing he can hear.  His contact with nature has gone, and with it has gone the profound emotional energy that this symbolic connection supplied.”

I wonder what would transpire if we heard the poetry in nature again.  I wonder what would change if we saw earthquakes as Mother Earth shrugging her shoulders to remind us to be more fluid.  When nature speaks loudly it is easy to feel only fear and the need to protect ourselves.  What if we looked at these events not as disasters and tragedies only, but also as the earth healing itself?  Global metamorphosis.  Here is a great reminder of what we can see when we orientate ourselves to an inclusive perspective.  

“Trees and vegetation toppled by hurricane winds return to the earth in the form of rich, new soil. Torrential rainfall is part of the earth's hydraulic system, which moves water from the surface of the planet into the atmosphere, and back again, renewing our water supply. Earthquakes are caused by the constant recycling of planetary crust, which for millennia has formed our geographically diverse and fruitful planet. Wildfire clears away old growth, making way for lush new plant life. Volcanic eruptions add valuable nutrients to the soil, producing fertile agricultural land.” (Four Winds Society)

The Earth seems to be healing herself.  I am excited about our opportunity as a species to follow her lead.  To be in rhythm with the one that birthed us, nourished us, nurtured us, and will take us home again.  

 

 

A Beautiful Poem . . . Fire

Fire

 

What makes a fire burn

is space between the logs,

a breathing space.

Too much of a good thing,

too many logs

packed in too tight

can douse the flames

almost as surely

as a pail of water would.

So building fires

requires attention

to the spaces in between,

as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build

open spaces

in the same way

we have learned

to pile on the logs,

then we can come to see how

it is fuel, and absence of the fuel

together, that make fire possible

We only need to lay a log

lightly from time to time.

A fire

grows

simply because the space is there,

with openings

in which the flame

that knows just how it wants to burn

can find its way.

    Judy Brown