new year poem


image from web without attribution

I have been struggling with something to write on this first day of 2017. I have found myself reluctant to say ‘Happy’ new year. And now I have found the perfect poem by May Sarton to share.

These are not my words. They are, however, the words that need to be shared, here, now. Please enjoy.

It would be lovely should you choose to leave a comment in the form of quoting a line or two from the poem that especially resonates with you at this time. Thank you. May peace and kindness be your companions along the journey ahead.

Let us step outside for a moment
As the sun breaks through clouds
And shines on wet new fallen snow,
And breathe the new air.

So much has died that had to die this year.
We are dying away from things.
It is a necessity—we have to do it
Or we shall be buried under the magazines,
The too many clothes, the too much food.
We have dragged it all around
Like dung beetles
Who drag piles of dung
Behind them on which to feed,
In which to lay their eggs.

Let us step outside for a moment
Among ocean, clouds, a white field,
Islands floating in the distance.
They have always been there.
But we have not been there.

We are going to drive slowly
And see the small poor farms,
The lovely shapes of leafless trees
Their shadows blue on the snow.
We are going to learn the sharp edge
Of perception after a day’s fast.

There is nothing to fear.
About this revolution…
Though it will change our minds.
Aggression, violence, machismo
Are fading from us
Like old photographs
Faintly ridiculous
(Did a man actually step like a goose
To instill fear?
Does a boy have to kill
To become a man?)

Already there are signs.
Young people plant gardens.
Fathers change their babies’ diapers
And are learning to cook.

Let us step outside for a moment.
It is all there
Only we have been slow to arrive
At a way of seeing it.
Unless the gentle inherit the earth
There will be no earth.

“New Year Poem” by May Sarton from Collected Poems. © Norton, 1993

finding words in hard times

credit - amazingphotography30

credit – amazingphotography30

I have been silenced. In response to the enormity of what has happened to this country. How the past several decades’ of political posturing, decline of civil discourse, disregard for truth has ultimately led to this period of utter unconsciousness on the part of so many. The causes run deep. The impact defies comprehension. And I, to borrow a phrase from a sister-writer, have turtled.

But turtling is not a healthy response. It is not what I feel, what I want to do or how I want to be. It feels more shameful to remain silent than to urge beauty and peace where I can, as small and insignificant as that urge may seem in the enormity of so much ugliness and despair.

Thankfully I have been snapped out of this especially dark doldrum by the wise words of two wonderful women writers I value:

“In a time of destruction, create something: a poem, a parade, a community, a school, a vow, a moral principle; one peaceful moment.”  Maxine Hong Kingston

“In a time lacking in truth and certainty and filled with anguish and despair, no woman should be shamefaced in attempting to give back to the world, through her work, a portion of its lost heart.” – Louise Borgan

And with that, I recalled the intensely powerful words of another beacon of consciousness, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, who post-2008 election (remember THAT one?!!!) penned the following inspirational and important words. I offer them here that you, too, may remember to stand on deck, and let our shining souls spark one another back into the light. Continue reading


wayfindingI had occasion yesterday to revisit Hershey Medical Center. It is a beautifully and thoughtfully constructed facility with inner courtyards abloom with all manner of springtime color. All buildings are connected, so getting to the five-star cafeteria for a delicious salad after our appointments was easy. On the return, I found myself face-to-face with a sign I had missed on the way to lunch: “Wayfinding Map.”

Now I do appreciate good directions. Had I been unfamiliar with the layout of the buildings – which is mostly true of anyone visiting a hospital complex – I would have been most grateful for the clarity of this invitation. And, as a writer, I was struck by the underlying implications of ‘way-finding.’

For one thing, as the Cheshire Cat noted, the way you choose depends on where you want to go. So much of our lives are thusly directed. Goals abound in our culture – time, score, age, honor, place – all kinds of numbers, destinations and status toward which we are guided by all kinds of maps – curricula, degree programs, directions, advertisements, testimonials …

And yet, I couldn’t help musing, so much of our wayfinding is really far less laid out before us. AFTER the fact, we may look back and see a path or thread that pulls it all together, makes us realize the why and wherefore of one step or another choice. But a wayfinding MAP? Rarely is our life’s path so clearcut. In fact, it is often the unexpected, the detour, the mis-step that teaches and that opens the way to something we might never have imagined otherwise.

While I retain my great appreciation to Hershey Medical Center for its thoughtful and useful Wayfinding Map – and indeed many other helpful guides like well-marked street signs and exits and Google maps – for life’s general wayfinding I remain a fan of the mind and heart open to receive what comes.  Rumi says it beautifully in his wonderful poem:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

comfort dump

soul card copy

soul card by deborah koff-chapin

Yesterday morning, as I prepared to walk my dog in the crisp Vermont morning under a tentative sun, I felt a tug. Not a physical one – that would have been Loki’s leash. No, this was entirely visceral; or perhaps spiritual. Perhaps it is intuition. But I can say this has happened a handful of times in my life.

The urgency that moves me to do something that had not been on my conscious radar. The first time it happened I named it ‘grace’ — the knowing that made me create an escape plan ‘just in case’ from a doomed marriage. In fact, he returned and early unannounced from vacation filled with self-righteous accusations I later learned to be the MO of someone on the offensive to cover his own tracks.

The second time, I traveled the distance from New England to Texas to visit my aging parents – somewhat spontaneously.  We spent the late November week bringing me up to speed on their financial matters and end-of-life plans. Not a month later, my mother (the business manager of the two) suffered a stroke that left her with expressive aphasia and me with multiple year-end financial transactions to complete. Absent that earlier trip, I would have been utterly clueless. I still can only name that ‘luck.’

But yesterday it was something else. For the first time in the 18 months since we left our old condo, I felt an urgency to visit the one neighbor there I had come to know well and care for deeply. She responded to my knock hesitantly. At the first glance I knew Something Was Wrong. We spent the next hour-plus perched on her front steps while she talked. Poured out her heart. Shared the truly unimaginable layers of loss and pain that had just been dumped on her. I listened, held her hand, and listened more. Loki licked her face and lay quietly between us.

When she had drained herself for the moment, she said, “Comfort in, dump out.” I had never heard that phrase before. It describes a relational way to interact in extreme grief or other difficult interpersonal situations. But of course! When you are in the same crisis with someone, you need to bolster one another up. Only by turning to someone further removed from the pain can you just dump everything you can no longer carry. She was so grateful that I ‘got’ this – and many other things she shared during our sitting-in-January-snow-and-sun connecting.

After I left I pondered what had just transpired. Not close friends, we nonetheless share some deeper connection beyond words or labels. And what went between us was, in my view, a ‘comfort dump.’ It was so patently clear the comfort she needed, and received, from my simple presence, my listening heart. And what a comfort it was to me, having arrived on her doorstep at the precise moment she so needed it.

holding dreams

How do we ‘hold dreams for others until they can hold them for themselves?’

I came across this question today from the Center for Courage and Renewal‘s newsletter, Words of EnCOURAGEment. And then read on to these fine words from Parker Palmer, found in his eternally inspiring book, The Courage to Teach:   

from Words of EnCOURAGEment


Isn’t that lovely? I got to thinking about this question of mentors. For as long as I can recall, I have mentored. From my first professional jobs in teaching hospitals, I was drawn to create a networking community to help women in healthcare management find their dreams. I helped them shape their resumes, present their passion and exchange job-searching tips and leads. And today, I mentor a number of previously incarcerated women now released into the community, helping them remember and strive to follow their dreams.

In between I have called myself midwife to other women’s voices. But truly, voice is a way of expressing those dreams; and midwifery, another form of mentorship. I invite you today to consider whom you might mentor into passion, voice, career, relationship; how you might hold the dream for another until s/he can do so on his/her own.