Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
by Derek Walcott
A few weeks have passed since my last post. Preparing for a workshop, a presentation, precepting a new employee…time slips by. Work is busy. I grow tired. Sleep in late and skip my morning walks. I think ahead to my upcoming vacation. Get lost in daydreams. Scurry down Facebook rabbit holes (usually related to poetry at least!) I become annoyed with traffic. Wish the rain would stop for more than a day. Hear a story about refuges and feel guilt for my petty whining. I forget to be present to my day, my moments. Forget to offer myself grace. Forget to engage in the self-care I am adamant others offer to themselves. Eat too much chocolate. Don’t drink enough water. At least I remember to brush my teeth and wash my face. It is the reality of living in this body, with this heart, this spirit as winter crawls toward spring. Of wanting daffodils to be in full bloom when they are still in the bud.
On March 12th I had the honor of once again facilitating and holding space for women to explore their journeys of grief and loss. I have said this before after a workshop but it bares repeating, the courage and honesty of those present to enter into the depths of their loss was a gift to me. I also reflected on an ongoing loss I have in my life. How often we stow away our losses, not allowing them space to breathe, to be heard. The gift of ritual has been minimized in our society as we bounce from life transition to transition, both monumental and small, without taking time to acknowledge what unfolded on the path. As the last few weeks have shown me, when I am not intentional in setting aside my own sacred time each day to reflect, to enjoy, to play, I fall back into old habits. Whether I facilitate or participate in a workshop, I find those hours ground me and I find my way back to my center. I regain my balance.
The poem at the opening of this post, Love After Love by Derek Walcott, was introduced to me in a workshop years ago by Melanie Weidner (http://www.listenforjoy.com/.) Poetry has always, and I do mean always, been a part of my life. But having it introduced as a way to reflect on my journey has evolved over the last 15-20 years. Portland Women Writers (http://pdxwomenwriters.com/) was instrumental in showing me how to blend my love of poetry into a tool for healing and reflective work. I incorporate poetry into my workshops, as a chaplain, and other areas as a healer because I have found it frees the heart to explore what the mind might find to difficult to look at head on.
Love After Love is a well known poem. You may have heard it read this week on the radio since the death of Derek Walcott last Friday. Here is a link to it being read on NPR: http://www.npr.org/2017/03/19/520708160/a-reading-of-derek-walcotts-love-after-love. Listen to it again. Is there a word or line that stands out to you and what feeling does it evoke? What does "the love letter you pull from the bookshelf" say? What would it look like to “feast on your life?” My invitation to you is to sit for 7 minutes (set a timer) and using one of the three questions above, write without stopping and see where your pen leads you. Turn off the editor part of your brain. Then, when you are done, read what your wrote out loud to yourself. If you like, post a comment or send me an email of what your wrote and/or share how it felt to write and read. And I’ll do the same exercise and share in my next post.
May the winter places of your life awaken as spring has finally arrived at the door.