An Encouragement for Spring and the Writing Life

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 4:59pm
An Encouragement for Spring and the Writing Life

The Quaker elder offers this poetic reminder on trusting that the writing process itself will help you dig into your bafflement.

Essay by:
Parker J. Palmer (@parkerjpalmer),  special contributor
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21 ReflectionsRead/Add Yours

A cozy "writer's cabin" in the Wisconsin woods.

Credit: Chris Ford License: Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

For me, writing is a miraculous process. It's as miraculous as Spring itself, when buds arise from frozen ground and greenery leafs out from wood that's hard and unyielding.

For 50 years I've been writing almost daily. I'm driven not by expertise but by my own bafflement about many things — some of them "in here" and some of them "out there." Every time I write, I'm surprised by what I discover about myself and/or the world.

So I no longer wait until I have a clear idea to start putting words on the page. If I did, I'd never write a word! I simply start writing, trusting that the writing itself will help me dig into my bafflement, uncover what I already know, and point me toward what I need to learn next.

And if tomorrow I find out that I got it wrong, I know that none of my words will go to waste. Instead, they become compost for the next round of new growth.

Here's a poem that reflects my experience of the writing life. I offer it partly as an encouragement to those who write for any reason, personal or professional. Trust the process!

I offer it also as an encouragement for Spring to arrive ASAP! As they say, we are so, like, done with winter in Madison, Wisconsin! Totally...

The World Once Green Again

That tree from its dense wooden trunk
surprises into leaf
as my tight-fibered heart leafs out
in unexpected speech.

I know that trunk, so thick, so slow,
its heartwood core so like my own.
Yet here I celebrate that we
can take leave of our density
to dance the wind and sing the sun.

Our words, like leaves, in season spring
and then in season fall,
but at their rise they prove a power
that gentle conquers all.

As shriveled leaves return to earth
to nourish roots of leaves unstrung,
so dry words fall back to the heart
to decompose into their parts
and feed the roots of worlds unsung.

And when speech fails, the dark trunk stands
'til most surprising spring
wells up the voice that ever speaks
the world once green again.

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21Reflections

I look forward to Wednesdays and reading Parker's wisdom. I know in my core of the grace to be found in writing. During the most difficult time of my life, as I struggled with my aging parents' care needs, I made a promise to God to write something everyday. That promise to write extended into three years and became my map of struggle, growth, transformation and most importantly my map to forgiveness. I eventually summarized that incredible journey in my memoir, "God Never Hurries." I have returned to the guidance writing provides me and have just finished my first year of a pithy weekly blog titled "What if... God Never Hurries" where I reflect on the grace in my week and end with a "What if..." question for the reader to ponder.

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