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Posted by on Nov 2, 2007 in At TMV | 5 comments

Torture, Arson, Flood, War: Some Vitamins for the Soul

On mission to post-trauma sites, I drag along a raggedy old journal I’ve handwrit over the decades. Inside the old moleskine, well, it’s overheavy with quotes from Heschel, Berry, Lorca, Mechtilde, and others. Freeze-dried nourishment for the climb.

Tonight, here in the Rockies with snow hanging heavy in the white night sky, the big wood owls land on the roof with such a thud that it sounds like a whole man has been dropped from the sky…

I’ve been thinking somewhat wearily, I must get to bed earlier, last night it was just after 5a.m., the night before 4 a.m…. trying to stay up late to write… trying to read and think and write in the interstices left from all other commitments to twenty-nine elses.

But, I’m see once again, from cruising many blogs and their comments tonight, that there are many souls who have need for rest this night that has nothing to do with lack of sleep… for anyone who registers the world with accuracy, these are times, as Wordsworth put it, “The World is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours…”

I’d prescribe for that condition, this to start; From the raggedy notebook, here, take this with water. Tonight, I’ll meet you there:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

by Wendell Berry

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Copyright 2007 The Moderate Voice
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  • domajot

    I’ve thought a lot about the ‘grace’ of wild things, and, with apologies for being aesthetically incorrect, I’ve come to believe that the perception of it is yet another intrusion of human perceptions into the natural world.

    Wild things do not philosophize about the state of their being, but they know hunger, they know fear and they know pain. Is grace then, simply the inability to consruct a philosophical umbrella for experience? And what is grace, if the wild things are unaware of it?

    Because humans are aware of their own state of being, they become seekers of relief from the psychological pain that involves, or grace. Some seek iit in religion, others in nature, but it’s all in search of relief from what we can’t escape – the state of our being. We look for grace is ‘out there’ somewhere. IMO, that’s a mistake in direction.

    If our troubled questions stem from self awareness, then the answers must also be found there.

  • Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

    I dont think you’re aesthetically incorrect Domajot. I don’t know if we can have any sustained ‘relief’
    from ‘the state of our being,’ as you cogently put it. But I do know that in the trenches of whether intense creative work or difficult trauma work, most have to find ‘rest’… like looking away from the computer every few hours during a critical all nighter…to rest one’s eyes, so one doesn’t lose one’s sight. Something like that. Only more intense.

    For me personally, much of nature is, I’d guess, like a tuning fork. In certain parts of nature, I remember ‘the moment’ instead of continuing to scramble ahead. Animals, as you mention feel fear when given reason, hunger in cycles, pain when there is injury. Other times? We don’t know. We can only guess. But, so much of nature’s ability, for long moments, seems just to be…. without, as Berry says, anticipating worse or else. Just be. Hungry when hungry. Fear when the fearsome is right before one, pain when there is injury.

    For many people, this is ‘rest.’ Not seeking ‘out there,’ calm or grace, but, I think, and I speak just for myself, ‘ to re-synchronize with’ a heartbeat greater.’ I find for the psychically often bloody work I do in my calling that there is little rest, except this… to try to remember to spend some time in ‘just be.’

    The ‘answers’ to ‘troubled questions’ … at least some of them, though sometimes raw or not as shapely as others, come with muscular regularity to most, I think; It’s lifting them into place… that is the heavy work. And continuing to strive to do that…. is heavier work still. That’s why I think everyone who speaks, helps, lifts, who tries to bring better, is blessing this needful world.

    Rest, work, rest, work more.
    No rest. Run out. Run down. No more working.

    I think it is not just good, but often imperative, that a soul find a way to ‘rest’ so they are re-strengthened and set back into their core self, the strongest self again. In curanderismo, we call it sustos, the soul wanders off a bit, out of register. Called back, the person is undivided again. Stronger. Strong.


  • olaiva

    Dear Dr. E,

    Thank you for sharing your insights with us. You became my hero since I discovered you this last summer. I have read, looked at and listend to everything I could find with your name printed on it. The change was slowly coming my way but you made it so much more profound, a word I now call my own. I know you write poetry. How and where does one stumble upon a book of your poetry? Please!


  • Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

    dear olaiva, change is always slower than the odometer reading. I know, I do. To answer your question; I’m published in what I call ‘mayfly journals,’ like Stick, Center Right, and The New Censorship by Ivan Suvanjief, and many others over the years. ‘Mayfly:’ work of love by editors who publish a few issues, run out of money, and like a may fly, journal is born and dies quickly. I also have a publisher who is holding collected poems ms ransom in order to publish another book first.

    I remain in the ranks of one of many poets worldwide who have written hard and published wet for years and yet –no book of poetry. Yet. You can hear much of my poetry, spoken word, on a 12 part series broadcast a while back on NPR and various community public radio stations, “Theatre of the Imagination,” released on CDs by Sounds True. Thanks for asking.

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