In the past few months, change has spilled through my life. Many of the changes have been positive, but hard. The changes have pushed me, and sometimes have hurt, but they have given me back my rich inner life. They have given me back my heart.
I'm sharing two of these changes today.
I learned to sit with discomfort, especially with anger and fear. I learned to breathe through it, and let the hearth within me grow warm. I learned, through this, to meditate -- finally, after decades, I have found my breath again.
This change taught my nervous system to step down the alarm. It taught me to weave the first threads of acceptance. And it has given me the cat pictured above, one of my inner teachers now.
I learned, once again, to make poems. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, poetry saved my life. This is not an exaggeration. It is time I give poetry its own life back.
I wrote this poem for Wonder Anew. Happy first birthday, Wonder Anew, with many more years to come.
The Good, Clean Water
Just where the cranberry farms begin, behind
that arched sign and the long, rutted drive,
the gutter flows. It's a water ditch,
carved deep by rain, seeping south into the pasture
where cows once nosed through wire fence
for grass. I was new to nature then, and stared
at their raspy coats, their hooves delicate
in mud, and of course their curtained eyes.
The water rolls, white foam caught in snags
of weeds, leaves of buttercups flattened in the flood.
It's louder than a river, this fat channel
falling toward the sea. I walk its edge
to the source: A farm at harvest, a drain
from the clay bogs where cranberries grow.
even the stones we have made ourselves swallow.
At nineteen, I pushed open the door to a meditation class.
I sat down, and I failed.
Outside the class window, the pale sky snagged me.
Small birds dropped from eave to sidewalk and moved
as though native to the undercarriage of cars.
Long light shot in at sunset; how could I not love
that light, and follow it everywhere with my eyes?
The teacher talked, his voice launched
from its goateed roost, from the collar
that sprouted his head. Around me, women
were caught in his current, their foam and leaves
razed in his tide. And I itched
for nine o'clock when I could bolt.
I sat still. I tried. But lightning
flared through my chest. Flood warnings
flashed, my good sense screamed.
I never returned.
For twenty more years, I must have breathed;
I don't remember.
In the ditch, the water moves, seaming through dips,
leaping white thickets of foam.
Cranberries, dropped from harvest trucks,
stud the weeds at the edge of the road.
At thirty-nine, my own mother now, I gave myself
breath again, slowly, shaking. I gave myself breath
and this: the guttering flow of the slim, swift stream,
its waves like silver fish, like fingerlings, frogs
as thick as Doug fir bark, and there,
a bright cup of yellow petals jolted in the flow.
I walk now, startled new by nature.
I walk the hill to the source of the stream,
the clay bog where the cranberries grow,
where once the cows in their mud-streaked light
rooted and moved. I walk in the stream, water curving
round my calves, and feel the current take me, take us:
woman and cow, water-choked weeds, words
from a man in some breed of collar now lost to me.
We all course downstream, gutted and drained
at harvest time, red jewels bouncing from truckbeds,
flowers bending to tides. We course downstream,
the water knows its way. The good, clean water
knows its way, and latches us back to our home.