“One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began . . .” —Mary Oliver
One day, immediately following a rather humiliating and very public incident at work in an incredibly fast-paced organization, David drove straight home. “I felt as if I didn’t have an ounce of energy left to do the work I had been doing,” he recalls. A few hours later, a friend and mentor, an Austrian monk, arrived to share a glass of wine and a quiet evening with poetry.
“People come, from delight or the / scars of damage, / to the comfort of a poem.” —Mary Oliver
After we met Dwight Running Deer at the Yakima homeless shelter, it took Cary and me a few days to realize that he spoke in poetry. No iambic pentameters, just subtle rhythms throughout his conversation and little rhymes at the ends of his sentences. As if he were composing an epic poem from the raw materials of his everyday life.
“Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous / to be understood . . . How two hands touch and the bonds will / never be broken.” —Mary Oliver
When the phone rang at 2:30 in the morning, jarring me out of a pleasant dream, I had no idea how dramatically my life was about to change. It was Kelly—a troubled young woman with a drug habit, a criminal record, and a metal plate in her skull from the storefront window through which her boyfriend had pitched her at the tender age of 15. We had dated, sort of, about two years earlier.
She was calling from a rat-infested motel room somewhere in Montana, two states away, a .38 caliber revolver clenched in her hand. She had one thing left to do before she planned to press the barrel against her temple and pull the trigger: to thank me.
“…the vivacity of what was is married / to the vitality of what will be…” — Mary Oliver
At a conference on spirituality in Arvada earlier this year, I wandered past a table in the exhibit hall that displayed a small selection of books. There, smack in the center, sat a book entitled Darkness & Dreams: A Spiritual Journey Through Separation and Divorce (2000) by Stephen A. Laucik. I had to laugh. I’m Stephen Laucik.
“What is called in her rises from the ground and is found in her body, what she is given is secret even from her.” —David Whyte
In 1884, a young peasant woman harvesting grain somewhere in the province of Artois, France, paused along a dirt path and looked up suddenly, captivated by the song of a lark. In his poem, “The Song of the Lark,” David Whyte describes the moment: “The song begins and the eyes are lifted / but the sickle points toward the ground / its downward curve forgotten in the song she hears . . . the mouth opens / and her bare feet on the earth have stopped.”
“. . . your own intellect and imagination a kind of sunlight, a far out star illuminating from a great distance the world you read . . .” – David Whyte
Walking along a garden path with his grown children one evening in the final year of his life, Charles Darwin, the great Victorian naturalist and father of modern evolutionary theory, said, with quiet sadness, that if he had his life to live over again, he would “make it a rule to let no day pass without reading a few lines of poetry.” Why poetry?
“You are not a troubled guest on this earth, you are not an accident amidst other accidents, you were invited from another and greater night . . .” – David Whyte
In his poem “What To Remember When Waking” (The House of Belonging, 1997), David Whyte explicates the intimate and often perplexing relationship between waking life and the world of dreams—which he calls “the other more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world where everything began.” The way for us to become who we are, to “live in our true inheritance,” says Whyte, is to “remember the other world in this world.”
“Start right now / take a small step / you can call your own . . .” – David Whyte
A few weeks before layoffs, well over a dozen geologists and geophysicists sat around a long, dark conference table on the 25th floor of Pennzoil Place in downtown Houston, brown bags scattered about. Chewing, talking, laughing nervously, taking turns, dreaming out loud. Beverly, a friend of mine since graduate school, was orchestrating a sort of communal vision quest. What, she asked, would you like to do with your life, if you could no longer do what you’re doing now?
“Sometimes . . . you come to a place whose only task is to trouble you with tiny but frightening requests . . .” – David Whyte
Ten years ago, just three months after falling headlong into the most devastating existential crisis of my adult life, a crisis that swept away everything that made sense of the world, my first instinct was to gather others who were equally perplexed and explore—together—the big and little questions of life.
“All the birds and creatures of the world are unutterably themselves.” – David Whyte
During the catastrophic flooding here in Colorado last month, we discovered a tiny sparrow lurking in our patio garden. We could see something was wrong, but could not discern exactly what. It hopped out from under the safety of a bush along the wall to peck at seeds knocked unceremoniously off the bird feeder hanging overhead in our little tree.
About the Blog
These are the personal reflections of Jay Valusek on the process of Lectio Poetica, on nature, on poetry in general, and on some of words or phrases from poems we have used in our local gatherings.