poetry

poetry

I recently talked with a friend who's spent time in the same deep darkness that I've known from time to time. In the course of our conversation, she shared a beautiful poem with me — a poem she wrote about an experience that helped her come through that darkness back into the light.

As the poem itself says, this may not be for you. But I wanted to share it here, with her permission, knowing that if the poem brings light to only one other person, I'll be glad I passed it along. I know it brought light to me.

Sculptural artist Dario Robleto is famous for spinning and shaping unconventional materials — from dinosaur fossils to pulverized vintage records, from swamp root to cramp bark. He joins words and objects in a way that distills meaning at once social, poetic, and scientific. He reveals how objects can become meditations on love, war, and healing.

Here's a poem I re-read frequently. As short and simple as it is, it helps me remember that nothing new can grow between us when we speak to each other from "the place where we are right."

More important, the poem leads me to ask what I think is a question worth pondering: How might things change if we began our political conversations not from our certainties, but from our "doubts and loves"?

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "For the simplicity that lies this side of complexity, I would not give a fig, but for the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity, I would give my life."

One of the many things I love about Mary Oliver's poetry is that she faces squarely into the complexity of our lives on "this side" of things — and then points us toward the simplicity that lies on the other side of our confusions and illusions.

One of the most extraordinary minds of American and global history, W.E.B. Du Bois penned the famous line that "the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line." He is a formative voice for many of the people who gave us the Civil Rights Movement. But his passionate, poetic words speak to all of us navigating the ever-unfolding, unfinished business of civil rights. We bring Du Bois' life and ideas into relief for the 21st century — featuring one of the last interviews the great Maya Angelou gave before her death.

"What we need is here."
—Wendell Berry


In one way or another, every wisdom tradition I know says that what we need is here. It's just a matter of opening our eyes and appreciating what I call "secrets hidden in plain sight."

But we can't do that when we're obsessing about the past or the future, or about what we don't have, or allowing a thousand distractions to prevent us from noticing the gift of "here and now."

"Why Should I Ever Be Sad" came to me a few months when I was hiking the Aspen Vista Trail not far from Santa Fe. I was feeling my age, as they say, feeling melancholy about the brevity of life, when I stopped to rest, sitting on a rock and silently taking in all that was above, below, and around me.

Suddenly I felt joy in being there, simply being there! As that feeling settled in, I wrote the first draft of this poem as a way of taking the feeling home. I can still feel it…

To feel at home in my own skin... To feel at home on the face of the earth...

I sometimes think that those are the two deepest yearnings in our lives. What I know for sure is that life becomes very painful when I don't feel at home with who I am, or with the rich diversity of beings with whom I share this planet.

Each week I write a weekly column that captures a tiny bit of what's beautiful and intriguing in this world. If you'd like to receive it in your email inbox, subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

"Camas Lilies," by Lynn Ungar, is one of my favorite poems. I posted it earlier this year — today I needed to read it again…

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