you seek the garden a place where the wind will inform you you are acquainted with a tempest of passion
My trip to the library in April for an outdoor community poetry workshop has continued to inspire me.
As many evenings as possible, I get out my work bag full of scraps of text from the librarian’s packet, and I begin to search for poems.
While I skim the text, I also allow my feelings to make themselves known, and lately what comes to the surface is worry about what some people close to my heart are going through, especially as we are nearing the end of the pandemic.
I also feel the strain of resistance. Four years of resisting the tyrant, starting with the Women’s March in 2017 and the activism I engaged in through demonstrations and letter writing. My body has aches and pains all over from holding stress.
I make collage art and found poems with watercolors and Mod Podge. My little chapbooks are therapeutic for processing my journey through this tunnel of time.
I’m writing you these lines to say goodbye before you forget you ever knew me. Under the eaves, a house wren trills its cry. In the morning, it wakes me from those dreams where you’ve forgotten you ever knew me. Birds whirl around your room, and then you die. In the morning, they wake me from those dreams of needing you to teach me how to fly. Birds whirl around your room, and then you die, even though you’ve swept them from the roof beams out the window. Birds have taught you to fly through this world, stitched with invisible seams. Even though you’ve swept me from your roof beams, I come to ask you where you’ve gone and why this world is stitched with invisible seams. You wake, then forget, leaving threads untied. Once more I ask you where you’ve gone and why. Under the eaves, a house wren trills a cry that wakes me from these threads I can’t untie. Dear friend, I’m here again to say goodbye.
One of the last times I met with my therapist, a beautiful elderly woman who became like a mother to me, she was seeing clients in a home office. She had suffered a car accident, and she thought the accident was contributing to her memory loss.
That day in her office a bird flew into an adjoining room, so Joanne (a made up name to protect her privacy), got a broom and swept it through the open springtime window.
Around the same time period, we had a bird’s nest near our bedroom window, probably a wren, hence this poem.
I thought of Joanne the other day after reading Robert McFarland’s “word of the day” post on Twitter:
He asked readers to share someone who has acted as a mentor in our lives, and aside from a few excellent poetry teachers, Joanne’s spirit came to my heart-mind.
When she sold her house and moved to an assisted living home, she stopped seeing clients, of course. And I was bereft, not in the way I was when my father died, but a long, slow, heartache that still hasn’t quite healed.
Now we have another nest in the wall, but this time, it’s a squirrel. We have a wildlife management company working on relocating the animals, and we’ve sealed up the hole, but there are tin patches that we’ll need to replace with new siding once the weather warms.
Joanne was the first person in my life who reflected my own spiritual beauty and worth back on me. She taught me to show compassion for myself, to value my inner hopes and dreams. I will always be grateful for her guidance.
I can’t replace the void that Joanne’s illness left in my life. Since her retirement, I haven’t found a therapist who relates to me the way Joanne did.
My mentor is my inner guide, my own true nature, often elusive. To connect with my inner voice requires patience, stillness, faith, and hope.
My pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela began in May, 2015. I left San Jean Pied-de-Port, France on May 26 and arrived in Santiago June 28. During those 34 days of walking I meditated, wrote poems, met friends, cried, laughed, sang, ate good food, hobbled with shin splints, slept amid snoring pilgrims, and threw away the remaining antidepressants I carried across Spain.
Eight months have passed since I came home to Georgia, and I have been off antidepressants this entire time. It has been hard.
Since November, I wake in the morning with the fiery pain of nerves in my solar plexus. It takes an hour of mindful breathing to slowly make my way out of bed at 8:00 am. Once I’m up, the rhythms of the day take over. The sun warms my muscles, the others in my family wake up, and the pain under my sternum dissipates.
Buddhist teachers would tell me that my suffering comes from expecting only good feelings. The trick is to watch the feelings come and go without identifying with them. But the pain! It’s sometimes impossible not to lose myself in the misery.
Some might wonder why I don’t go back to my psychopharmacologist for a new prescription. If I were suicidal, I would seek treatment, but I am not. I go to a counselor who helps me with moving the energy in my body. She also gives me suggestions for healing old wounds. I know that everyone is different, and I don’t recommend that anyone ditch their meds because of my experiences. I took antidepressants for twenty years.
I live with the hope that by entering the suffering I will eventually pass through it. I also practice what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “watering the seeds of joy.”
One to two hours of vigorous exercise works to exorcise my inner demons. I take long walks. I swim one to two miles at a stretch. I practice yoga. I’m grateful for the circumstances in my life that allow me the time I need to take care of myself.
Now that spring is around the corner here in Georgia, my thoughts are on the Camino again. I long for six hours of walking a day, no cell phones, computers, chores, or familial drama. It’s the kind of retreat I crave.