By Rev. Anna Blaedel
Poetry, for me, is often sacred text. Site and source of connection with the Divine. I turn to poetry for grounding, and guidance; poetry helps me remember my own aliveness, helps me reconnect with our collective, shared aliveness. Audre Lorde spoke of poetry as a force for social change. Billy-Ray Belcourt writes, “If a poem could speak, it might chant: if freedom has not yet come, let us sing it home.” Poetry can nourish us for the lifetime of labor and love, singing freedom home.
As a spiritual practice, today, I invite you read these words of poetry by Mary Oliver aloud:
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Here we are, dear ones. Practicing living in this world, during our “one wild and precious life.” Loving what is mortal. Knowing our own life depends on the lives held against our bones. Letting go, when the time comes, when we must.
To live in this world, we are practicing sitting with fears and unknowns. We are practicing collective grief. We are confronting how precious and precarious our entangled, interconnected, collective life really is. We are learning new ways of being together, and acknowledging what is lost when we cannot gather together in the flesh, cannot hold or hug one another, cannot see and simply share space and presence with family and friends. We are feeling the short-term impacts, and anticipating the long-term impacts. Lives, lost. Income and jobs, lost. Important events, canceled. A deepening of already unmet needs, and a widening of the already vast inequalities and disparities structuring our shared life. Fear weaponized in support of nationalism, xenophobic racism, and heartless dismissals of some of us as disposable.
Dear ones, to live in this world we must affirm as gospel truth: None of us are disposable. Our elders are not disposable. Our beloveds who are incarcerated or detained are not disposable. Our beloveds who are disabled, who are chronically ill, who are homeless, who are poor are not disposable. The workers who are continuing their labor for our collective sake, sometimes at great risk, sometimes with terrible pay, are not disposable: healthcare workers, sanitation workers, delivery drivers, pharmacy and grocery store workers, mail carriers and first responders, child care and elder care and all-kinds-of-care workers.
To live in this world, right now, I am tending these practices, and offer them to you as an invitation into intentional, collective practice.
Find what grounds and enlivens you. (And fling yourself into it, as often as possible.)
Find what drains and deadens you. (And minimize this, as much as possible.)
Find ways to encounter pleasure in your flesh. (Cooking. Rubbing lotion into bare skin. Dancing. Sex, with yourself or quarantined-with beloveds. Fresh air. Sunshine.)
Practice gentleness. (With yourself. With others.)
Practice fierceness. (Solidarity. Accountability.)
Breathe. (Deeply. Intentionally. Knowing our life depends on it. Knowing Breath is Wind is Spirit.)
Laugh. (Somehow. Even now.)
And, dear ones: enjoy this small offering, a bit of beauty that I have been turning to over and over, for nourishment and pleasure and laughter, too. Hear these birds, singing us home. And then, maybe, if you can, open a window and listen for the sound of birdsong, carried through SpiritWindBreath. /
Because, to live in this world, we must nourish each other through…