the blessings of unknowing

Some of you read my last post here merely as ‘Bleak Midwinter’ perhaps missing the deeper ‘Hope’ part of the poem. Perhaps that has more to do with my skill as a poet, than it does with the message of hope I found contained within Winter’s song.  Hidden within and between the lines of my poem I’d felt precious seeds of hope in the sap, deep in the roots, in the patient harbor and protection of the humus and the dark underground womb. It was meant to be a poem evoking the hope of the earth, with her cyclical ways of growth and decay, of abundance and stripping. The previous post to that one, Henny Penny, had moved me toward this awareness  in its final lines , ‘bidden to life by earth’s cyclical, spiraling dance’.

This morning Parker Palmer shared, on his Facebook post, his experience of walking in the canyon deserts of the southwest, the feeling of ‘all is well’ that washed over him.

“One day, hiking in the desert, I was struck by the fact that the rocks towering above me were at least 150 million years old. It was if I could hear them saying, “We’ve seen it all, and still we stand strong. Let us help you get your problems in perspective, where they’ll be easier to hold.”

For me, in the midst of my own personal dark times, it was a great old wise tree that whispered that message to me of all she had seen and experienced. The earth always offers healing prescriptions, doesnt she? As I ponder the seasons of the earth, I can enter into the understanding that perhaps this current humankind season is a harsh winter with some grievously callous pruning occurring, or a forest or prairie fire stripping the earth bare, making way for the light and for new life to be born next season. It seems that destruction is one of her necessary cycles, and perhaps we are now called to be seeds underground.

My own visit to the southwest struck me with a similar kind of profound peace, simultaneously inspiring and stilling my heart in the way that any experience of wonder and awe can do. All those layers of time laid bare for us to witness, firsthand, the creative resilience of earth, to put this human experiment into perspective and realize how very insignificant we are.  Lately, I have been reading a lot about the mass extinctions that have been documented in every place on this earth where humans came onto the scene -with our new and resourceful ways of cooperating with one another and thus being able to manipulate the environment (and the lifeforms within it) in order to survive, from group hunts to agriculture to resource extraction. Perhaps we will drain the Earth dry of her current expression such that she can no longer sustain our kind, but seeing those layers of time laid down, I have little doubt she will survive, her essential elements intact, to create anew.  Some may find this line of thought to be fatalistic, but it is only so if you think that humanity is the end-all and center of the universe.

But then comes the distress of an inner voice of deep compassion that whispers, “But if such a scenario plays out, will there be great suffering”? , and this is where my heart pauses.

Of course, a cold and calculating heart might more easily take such an objective viewpoint and say ‘of course’ there will be. Certainly, there is already suffering today… not just human suffering either, but the suffering of creatures whose lives are sacrificed for the sake of our own, the suffering of the dying rivers and forests, the suffering of cells and entire ecosystems. There has been suffering since the beginning of time in this place of endless life-death-life cycles, this phenomenal place that seems to us like no other, the very fragility of which makes us Love even more, where the specter of death haunts us all. Yet somehow, it is that very specter that makes it all seem so terribly sacred, so incredibly precious.

Of course, I could be terribly wrong, because what do I know, speaking of smallness after all. I only know that my very insignificance at times is what gives me the greatest hope. I am not in control. We are not as important or powerful as we believe ourselves to be.

And speaking of not knowing? For someone like me, who seems to thrive on morsels of knowledge almost as much as she does on the natural world in this mysterious experience of being human -this strange combination of mind and body that we humans are, where each contact with either idea or with the body (flesh of the earth) feels as if something is whispered in the communion- I am amazingly dumbstruck by the way each new encounter seems to, at the same time, both grow my heart and make me feel smaller at once. Each new idea deconstructs my old certitudes, breaking me open to wonder, like that seed in the ground. Each new perspective opens my eyes to a view I hadn’t considered before, erasing my certainties about the way things are, and brings me back down to earth, to humility, to this blessing of being human, caught up in this life-death-life cycle of falling.. in Love.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Karen
    Jan 27, 2017 @ 18:04:59

    So often you speak what’s in my heart! Thank you!



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