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There are poems I always come back to.  They are the ones that stick by me, even long after recitation, like good friends who appear at unlikely but profound moments, and like teachers who speak only the important words.  As I drove to work last Tuesday, the day after I pronounced the reclamation of my days and renewing of my energy, I found myself tired and in a bad mood.  It was one of those mornings that came to soon, when the moon still held the sky’s attention and my body still yearned for sleep even as I closed the car door and heard the engine rumble awake.  By the end of the day my internal balance was back, and I thought of the opposite forces always present in life.  Just when I step towards clarity and selflessness, my ego pushes its way through my mind, demanding to be heard.

Then came that poem.

“The Journey,” by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations—
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

 

photo by Katie SpringThere will always be advice, some good, some bad.  There will always be a choice of which voice to follow.  With each step I take, I walk deeper into this world of snow and ice.  I walk knowing of the grass that sleeps below my feet, of the sweet sap behind the maple bark, and the necessity of winter’s rest.  I walk knowing that to save the only life I can save, I must intimately know this world as myself—intricate and complete and sacred.  With each breath I take, the calm inside me grows, so when the ego arises to stir up conflict, I will breathe again and feel the peace of change as I let go to this cold clear season.