The December issue of Minerva Rising is out! Within its winter-themed pages lie three poems of mine: ‘Agendas of Winter,’ ‘February View,’ and ‘March Snow.’ For those unfamiliar with Vermont winters – or at least, how they used to be – these present a range of experiences and connections. Quoted below, part III of March Snow:
Late sun slanting into copper
casts an embered net about
treetops glistening through cloud,
each bare branch and twig adorned
in a surge of glint and glimmer;
sparks of spirited radiance
blaze, flicker and flare
magic spelled hope, divine
opening from the dark
portent of gentler light
HAPPY HOLIDAYS and PEACEFUL BEGINNINGS for 2013
Learn the alchemy
true human beings know.
The moment you accept
what troubles you’ve been given,
the door will open.
How do we use the forces of a difficult time to help us grow? There are many ways, but the first way, the gateway, is to know that we are not alone in these endeavors. One of the greatest enigmas of human behavior is the way we isolate ourselves from each other.
I am struck, all these years later, by the relevance of her words – especially in the aftershock of last week’s Newtown horror. She goes on to say:
We imagine that we are unique in our eccentricities or failures or longings. And so . . . we feel shame when we stumble and fall. When difficulties come our way, we don’t readily seek out help and compassion because we think others might not understand, or they would judge us harshly, or take advantage of our weakness. And so we hide out, and we miss out.
Rumi addresses this idea as the ‘open secret.’ In her words:
When we don’t share the secret ache in our hearts – the normal bewilderment of being human – it turns into something else. Our pain, and fear, and longing, in the absence of company, become alienation, and envy, and competition.
The irony of hiding the dark side of our humanness is that our secret is not really a secret at all. How can it be when we’re all safeguarding the very same story? That’s why Rumi calls it an Open Secret. It’s almost a joke – a laughable admission that each one of us has a shadow self-a bumbling, bad-tempered twin.
Rumi claims that the moment we acknowledge our troubles, a door opens. An undefended heart shared encourages a second heart to open. And so on. Such important wisdom, as applicable today as ever. Might this be one step toward dialogue, toward breaking down barriers, toward healing??
Two weeks back, I posted two sets of writings from the women inside Vermont’s prison where I hold weekly writing groups. We had responded to a set of five statements from Brene Brown which circulated following her highly-popular November 12 interview with Krista Tippett. In light of recent events and the coming solstice, it felt right to share my own writing on those themes; writing I did along with the incarcerated women – inside, writing about vulnerability with metal doors clanging, corrections officers interrupting three or four times per hour for head count, women sitting together with others they might not even speak to on the unit; but here we were writing and sharing ouir raw unedited vulnerability.
The five topics are not specifically referenced here. Nonetheless, I believe the resulting lines speak not only to her words, but to many of us for whom the idea of opening ourselves can be frightening, even to point of refusing to do so.
I. When the shell is tight
across the chest, breathing
is labored, forced;
without digging in secret
whence would poetry arise?
If I follow the same path
day after day, I remain
in a rut.
II. We cannot afford to forget
even though painful.
If I live numbed
how would I become better
than my past mistakes?
Absent feeling, there is no pulse;
my soul demands
to feel it all.
III. How can I demand of you
that which I would not myself do? Continue reading
Yesterday I could not write my weekly Friday post. There were no words. Instead I somewhat aimlessly scrolled through others’ posts, responding here and there. Today I am doubly challenged by what I have heard: sadness, of course. Prayers and solace for a reeling community. Also questions, blame, despair. And occasional reasoned cadences for change.
I have lost a child to a violent death. I have lived with an unpredictable head-of-household who harbored a gun, holding me hostage to fear. I am part of a family politically divided in the extreme whose love for one another transcends even those irreconcilable differences. I am by training and by temperament a change agent, a conscious feminine leader who strives by living example to hold the ever-growing paradoxes of both . . . and.
AND I am a lifelong adherent to ‘freedom with responsibility.’
Much of what I read yesterday railed at the failures of public education, our mental health system, public policy, politics. It’s not a new concept that what created a problem can not be what ultimately fixes it. That’s because what is needed, at the point of so much brokenness, is a new approach. Old solutions have lost their resonance. As in not currently relevant.
We are in this together. What happened in Newtown could happen, has happened, in Anywhere, USA. There is no blame that doesn’t come round to include us, each and every one. It is our mindset that underlies the essential challenges of communicating and working toward real, viable and sustainable change.