A Poem for the Week

When I was young, I was lucky to live on small farms surrounded by open spaces. My neighbor friend, Laurie, and I would spend hours on a partially-wooded, five-acre piece of land across the country road from our families’ farms. We dragged windfall branches, built lean-tos, imagined the forest as our own kind of Narnia, named the trees, watched the marshy corner of the land fill with rainwater, freeze in winter, thaw in spring. We loved each tree, each birdsong, each trail the cows had tracked through the open pasture land.

This week’s poem takes me right back to living in a space where I felt this deep connection to the land, this sense that the land did indeed know me as I knew it. In my daily walks in San Diego, whether in the urban Golden Hill, East Village, South Park, or at Coronado Beach, the La Jolla Shores, or Torrey Pines, I am reminded that these spaces also “breathe” and “listen,” and “are not lost.”

This poem, “Lost,” is, as a matter of fact, about allowing yourself to be “found.” It was written by the Northwest poet, and former University of Washington professor, David Wagoner. He moved to the Seattle area from the Midwest in the 1950s, at the invitation of fellow-Midwest-transplant, Theodore Roethke, who was already teaching at UW. Of arriving in the Northwest, Wagoner says, “when I drove down out of the Cascades and saw the region that was to become my home territory for the next thirty years, my extreme uneasiness turned into awe. I had never seen or imagined such greenness, such a promise of healing growth.” I still feel the same awe Wagoner felt each year when I return to visit my family. I swim in the blues and greens, the dramatic rise of the mountains, the scent of evergreens, and I am home.

by David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Our yoga practice that accompanied this poem yesterday included both a strong Warrior I, feeling I am Here, and a respectful bowing in Humble Warrior, an homage to the greatness around us, a reminder to be still and listen.

The featured image this week is a photograph I took a few days ago at our local urban park where a man and his dog create these beautiful rock cairns, helping walkers to “stand still” and be “found.”

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