Friday, October 14, 2016

Poems I Journey With 26

The car I escaped uninjured from
Life surely challenges us; everyday brings one or other crisis. That is seemingly the way we grow and mature. However, it is hard to see that from the depths of a problem or of a tragedy or from any event that brings us face to face with our fragility and mortality. I have just walked free, totally unscathed physically - indeed no one was injured at all, thank God, just twisted metal and and few blocks in a wall displaced -  from crashing my car having nodded off momentarily at the steering wheel. However, existentially I am shaken to the foundations of my being. This is surely what the Existential Psychotherapist and Psychiatrist Irvin Yalom has in mind when he speaks of death/dying/mortality as being one of the major ultimate concerns we encounter in life.  It is at times like these that I like to turn to poetry and music in the quiet corners of my soul when my friends and family have gone their busy way as they must. The poems of Wendell Berry are a wonderful comfort to me today as they are gentle, sublime and profoundly touching. I’d like to share several poems from the pen of this great author with the reader today as I grapple to make sense of what has happened to me the day before yesterday. Berry is 84 years old and still alive and writing prolifically. He is an American novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. He is a recipient of many prestigious awards for writing, for the humanities and for his advocacy of environmental issues. Anyway, the first poem that is quieting my troubled soul today is this one:

The Peace of Wild Things - Poem by Wendell Berry

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

The great Wendell Berry
The second poem is equally as simple and pure and touches me deeply where I need to be healed. This little poem calls me to be deeply present in what I do and to live in the blessed NOW.  I remember an old Dominican priest once telling me that “Now is the sacrament of the present moment.” I thought that was a lovely statement and a deep truth expressed theologically and poetically. The second poem reminds me of that truth, that healing truth.

What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here. 

Once again the third poem I wish to share with you here is equally as simple and pure and once again touches me deeply where I need to be healed. When we get in touch with the deep peace that lies in natural things, even though nature can be violent and cruel at times too, we can be healed. When the calm after a storm touches our soul we can be healed. I’m sure survivors of natural disasters have often been healed in spirit thereafter by the healing power of the peace in nature. Anyway, I deeply need the healing power of the following beautiful lyric:

Woods - Poem by Wendell Berry

I part the out thrusting branches
and come in beneath
the blessed and the blessing trees.
Though I am silent
there is singing around me.
Though I am dark
there is vision around me.
Though I am heavy
there is flight around me. 

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