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There have been weeks of whirl. Switch the news on, and this thing called overwhelm has been hitting, hard. I see it everywhere. Walking through Dublin airport last week, I saw a mass of bodies swimming in a sea of overwhelm too. The stress of coming, and going. The stress of all this frantic doing. Then the news comes in from the Kavanaugh case, and the latest IPCC report on our global trajectory. I wanted to bury my face in the sand and just ignore it all for a while. But the thing is, the sand is suffocating too, and it’s no place for a head and a heart which gets broken open from the pain of all that it witnesses. For when the head is buried this thing called cynicism starts to creep in and calcify the openings. It blocks the flow of that which is vital to us: breath and life and connection to something which is deeper and wider and bigger than the pain. This I am realising; broken hearts are also open hearts, and open hearts hold the ingredients of our transformation.
So, I read an essay by Robin Wall Kimmerer on the plane, about how her indigenous elders respected the annual return of Salmon to their waters, and the beauty of her words stirs me up. As I read I let my tears fall onto the open page, and a stranger across the aisle reaches over and passes me a tissue, in recognition. And I attend a conference called ‘Inner Peace’ in Amsterdam, and sit with hundreds of others, who are each questioning and questing to be part of the renewal of the world. Again the tears come, and another stranger reaches from his chair in front of me, turns around, and touches my arm gently for a moment, in an act of recognition. Then back in Dublin, waiting for a bus in the cold and drizzle, I read in one fell swoop Mary Robinson’s new book, ‘Climate Justice’, and some gentle raindrops falls on the pages in a kind of mutual recognition too. Inside me, I feel the need to dance.
I am home. I turn the music to it’s loudest. Among the stacked, unwashed dishes in my kitchen, alongside all the ordinary, I let my rage and grief transform into something called movement. I dance. And dance some more. ‘Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly… you were only waiting for your moment to be free’. Gregory Porter’s version has all the energy of renewal in it. Then I call a friend in the US. Across the span of time zones and a big ocean between us, we speak of loss, and fear, and this need for connection and momentum. Then we read a poem, from Rilke,
‘Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine…..
There is a moment of silence, and in the pause we recognise: in the space of the poem, and the space of the tears, and the space of listening for the openings, we are each trying to find a way to stay in the deeper conversation. It’s the one about love and trees, how the rivers move, and how we can build trust between those who are deemed strangers. No, I am not alone in am trying to find the ways to keep my heart above ground. I have never been alone. That was just a story.
I flip back through the months I’ve just had. It would be easy to focus on the mistakes I have made, and the ways I have been unkind to others, and all that news, but now instead I see flashbacks of the passing of tissues, the dance, the deepening conversations, and all the stories in the books, and the poems too, each showing me that here, just above the surface, rising now and rising more, there is another story being written. It picks up the frayed threads of cynicism and insists that they need not define the map of our way forward. Instead, this story weaves hope right into it’s fabric. But it is not hope as a fleeting feeling. It is a hope defined as presence, showing up to all that is, all the pain and the grief, all the confusion and the fear, and still insisting on action, and in that act, is the thing called hope, offered to us again by Rilke in poetic recognition too;
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they called life
You will know it by it’s seriousness
Give me your hand.
And so, today, on another ordinary Monday, I turn off the news, turn up the music, and do the work which calling to me. For right now, it’s what I have, it’s my dance, and it’s my offering. In it all, I am learning, that together we can go further, and we don’t have to do it alone. This is the story for our time.
Write to Your Truth // Online Circle
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