Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.
My Dad once said the problem with modern society is that people don’t read poetry anymore. I don’t know if it’s true, but it gave me something to think about. Have we lost touch with that warm and expansive part of our hearts where deep feelings await expression? Dad was often seen balancing one of his hard bound classical treasures easily on one large hand, immersed in the world he loved. How many times did he rise up to write?
Dad loved to write poetry too and once gathered together family poetry from generations past into a book for each of us kids. It inspired me to join the ranks of a long line of family poets, to allow words to tumble out through my own bulging veins. Passion runs deep in the Bell clan.
So why am I talking about poetry? Because it captures the essence of our world, our human nature, and the boundless creativity inside each of us. It speaks of passion and conflict, records history, sings songs, inspires and informs, and is a calming respite from reality. It’s an opening, a suggestion. It clears clouded thinking and gives space for a more balanced perspective. It is pure joy, and sometimes very funny.
The holidays draw near, igniting our own passions, good, bad or hysterical, and it’s easy to lose our cool. In the past I’ve forgotten the true reason for celebrating, which for me is totally about the joyousness of the event. Yes, I want my kids to delight in their gifts, but it’s the delight I seek. I want to have as many around the table as I can gather, but it’s the delight of kinship I seek. I want to invite the spirits of dear ones passed to join us. It is the presence of eternal love I seek. It does not have to be expensive or complicated.
As daylight dims and bows to the solstice, we humans start to move in opposition to the natural rhythms that would have us rest in a time of peace until the first blossom promises re-birth. Instead, we speed up in the effort to produce the perfect holiday event. For some the jobs become overwhelming. Tempers rise and relationships suffer. There have been many Christmas’s where I ran a marathon in pursuit of perfection, only to go straight to bed Christmas Eve with a crash banger, and get up the next morning exhausted.
The holidays are just one example of what can happen when emotional times come upon us. Its easy and natural to lose sight of what is really important and become stressed. When this happens I now realise I missed the warning signs, and just stop. Some clues? My house is a mess. I see I have forgotten important things, and even the tasks I usually take pleasure in are too much. It’s a sad affair.
It is at these times I know I need to halt the madness and clear some space for myself. There is life after cancelling a commitment, even when it seems impossible to do so. Simplifying is a gift for everyone, and self-care the only road to salvation.
This is where poetry becomes my balm. Thank you Dad.
One of my favourite poets is the Irish mystic, John O’Donohue. His words are lyrical, deep, gentle, and find the sweet spot that is hurting. I’m grateful for these masters who have the power to return grace to my life.
Here is a poem from one of John’s books: To Bless the Space Between Us – a Book of Blessings. It reminds me to rise above those times of overwhelm, and honour myself and my relationships. It is such a privilege to love another human being and be loved in return, to hold them in a sacred space. Sometimes it takes courage to do this, but the blessings do emerge.
For Love in a Time of Conflict
When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached hold you still.
When no true word can be said, or heard,
And you mirror each other in the script of hurt,
When even the silence has become raw and torn,
May you hear again an echo of your first music.
When the weave of affection starts to unravel
And anger begins to sear the ground between you,
Before this weather of grief invites
The black seed of bitterness to find root,
May your souls come to kiss.
Now is the time for one of you to be gracious,
To allow a kindness beyond thought and hurt,
Reach out with sure hands
To take the chalice of your love,
And carry it carefully through this echoless waste
Until this winter pilgrimage leads you
Toward the gateway to spring.
If you are not in the habit of reading poetry, or may even think you do not like poetry (egad!), John’s gentle words may change your mind. I hope so.
I send you all wholehearted love from my corner of the internet, and thank you for stopping by.
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Thanks to Ellie Young for her stunning photo.