January with Jane – 11. The Contract

The woman who gave me the rosebush

reminds me

“Cut it back hard.”

The stems resist

Thorns and weedy twig-thickets

catch on jacket sleeve, on gloves.

core-wood splinters green under the shears.

Impossible to believe

that so little left will lead to fragrance.

Still, my hands move quickly,

adding their signature branch by branch,

agreeing to loss

_jane Hirshfield

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Cynthia Bourgeault writes, “From a wisdom perspective, this second Beatitude is talking about vulnerability and flow. When we mourn (not to be confused with complaining or self-pity) we are in a state of freefall, our heart reaching out toward what we have seemingly lost but cannot help loving anyway. To mourn is by definition to live between the realms.

Ken Wilber writes, “Practice the wound of love. Real love hurts; real love makes you totally vulnerable and open; real love will take you far beyond yourself; and therefore real love will devastate you.”

Cynthia again, “Mourning is indeed a brutal form of emptiness. But in this emptiness, if we can remain open, we discover that a mysterious “something” does indeed reach back to comfort us; the tendrils of our grief trailing out into the unknown become intertwined in a greater love that holds all things together. To mourn is to touch directly the substance of divine compassion. And just as ice must melt before it can begin to flow, we, too, must become liquid before we can flow into the larger mind. Tears have been a classic spiritual way of doing this.”

-Cynthia Bourgeault, “The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—page 43.

These two writings intertwine in my being this morning. The severe cutting back of hard loss; the tendrils of grief trailing (are they roots reaching for water?) to discover the profound source of Love in which we are rooted. Forever after to remain connected to that source, deeply aware of Love within and enveloping it all. Its so hard to express how this can be to one who has not thus melted, lost all sense of self in the experience of profound suffering and loss. And yet I know there are many who have lost and have not at all been deepened by the experience, merely hardened or forever broken, the grief not met by this saturating experience of Love. I do not know the answer as to why some are ‘blessed’ and others not. And so, I tread gently here, honoring your experience as your own, not valuing mine as higher or better. I can only share that this is how it was for me, as an offering of hope.

Nor will I understate the depths of despair I walked through, how close to the precipice I stepped, the years of anguish and suffering, the longing to lie down and die. I do not know if that is truly how far we must fall in order to be met by those arms reaching out to ours like Michealagelo’s Divine Touch (though not at all so distant and brief a touch, no, it was more like falling into a dark bath of overwhelming Love for me, like hitting a pool of water deep inside the earth of my grief) .

Nor can I believe we consciously can choose it, as Jane suggests (but is not really saying.. read on) in her poem… though perhaps some unknown mystery within us assents to that choice, the wisdom of the soul pulling us there kicking and screaming, until there is no choice but to surrender. The reality is that life itself, filled as it is with unavoidable loss and tragedy, does the pruning, the cutting back hard, if we let it. Perhaps my hands can merely say ,’yes’, when the time comes– to enter that pain heart-fully, to agree to the reality of loss, to cut away what no longer serves in that season of grief –ideas of justice and fairness; old constructs of God; beliefs about what Power can do and what powerlessness means ; control, control, control; perceptions of self; understandings of perfection; what Love looks like (perhaps your learning about Love was conditional or you believed Love was able to prevent pain); ideals about what a good Life looks like; consequential ideas about why/how bad things happen; beliefs about deserving to live without pain and/or shame—-all of these (and you will have your own signature) are subject to that pruning knife.

And what of the green core, the naive center , from which your branches have grown all of these years. It too will be need to be cut– though only enough to reopen your life to a wiser understanding of its goodness, of its wonder, of its mystery, of its remarkable gift, of its blessing even in this, especially in this. My God, it is an exquisite journey.

And oh, the fragrance. The fragrance. The fragrance of that blossom of Love, of knowing oneself as Beloved, of knowing oneself as bearer of Love, of knowing Oneself as a part of Love.

I once dreamt, 22 years ago, when i was still in the midst of that dark forest, that I came upon red roses. I recalled the dream this morning upon reading Jane’s poem. In the dream I was on a journey of sorts, and I kept finding roses — one in the dark forest, one in the fog, one in an icy artic landscape, one in the desert. Roses similar to the ones I had left that year on the graves of the infants I had once carried in my womb, 20 years prior to that, but who did not survive. For, as you may know, one’s current grief brings to the surface all those old griefs, buried within, unrequited.

Anyway, Here is a link to that old piece https://emmaatlast.wordpress.com/2002/03/13/rose/ recording that dream I was given as I was beginning to journey out of that dark place, (in this one their was hope, where there had been none in earlier writings) being met by those tendrils of Love. I like to think today of those random roses like the blossom of a mushroom , all those tendril miles of growth beneath the surface, feeding on the decomposition of my life, pushing upward, to drop themselves unexpectedly upon my forest floor.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. erinhaylakelodgecom
    Jan 12, 2022 @ 20:23:51

    for the grace to remain open to Love and vulnerability, even while mourning, Lord hear our prayer, and in your mercy answer.



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