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

Your thoughts so echo mine about writing. Thank you for offering them and your writing.

Sounds good, good sense, sense change, stay true, thank you for sharing how and the now.

Thank you, Parker! This beautiful meditation is especially welcome on a day with new snow, colder temperatures and the beginnings of bronchial troubles in the midst of writing and editing for myself and others! The six things important for creative process that you once gifted me when we spoke included the "within and the without"; this poem led me through an experience of that as I read - kleenex in hand and lemon water at the ready. Take love for the journey in exchange. L Shores (now McCommon)

So excited for Parker Palmer's thoughts on writing and spring to become a weekly occurrence at On Being. Keep up the good work, Krista, Trent and team. I'm loving everything you do.

Also, didn't know that Palmer lives in Madison - home of my alma mater!

T love the Wallace Stevens poem The Snowman. '
'One must have the mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine trees crusted with snow;

Thank you for these inspiring words. I love the use of "surprises" as a verb. Beautiful!

Wonderful! Everyday I scribble something down on a piece of paper or notebook! Inevitably it gets lost in the shuffle of life!

Parker thank you for your wisdom, for just being there and telling us to trust the process. A few years ago you sent me your ms of Healing the Heart of Democracy. It came during a very dark time. I've never forgotten that kindness, the cup of cold water. I refer to it often. Because this said "add your reflection" I'm going to be bold and add what I wrote "Snow Melt and Blessing" http://katieandraski.com/2014/03/18/snow-melt-and-blessing/

I was led from musing about convincement and writing about t, to open my email where your encouragement appeared and for me if helped fill my pages on this the first of spring. Thank you

Hi Parker,
You are referred to here as a Quaker elder...Is that like an elder in a church?
I've heard of the term "weighty friend" and knew Canby Jones,so I was really aware of what a "weighty" friend was. I'm sure you are that as well.
Will you come to his service here in Wilmington, Ohio April 5. he was 92 years young.

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