Gathering

[Image description: Photo of a collage of pictures taken from magazines. The bottom picture shows a shoreline with large rocks and a tall island silhouetted against a blue and orange sky and the sky is reflected in the shallow waves of the water. The top picture is a black-and-white ghostlike picture of trees with drooping branches reflected in calm, glasslike water. In the center of the collage, overlaying the other top pictures is a Viking ship. The word “Gathering” is pasted on the ship.]

We are told not to live in the past,
or dwell on what has been,
yet our lives ebb and flow and some wisdom
is gleaned only in hindsight.

Memories, waves veining across sand
in the rose-golden light of retrospection
beckon us, carry us, navigate back to
gather in the previously unobserved.

Wandering revealed as labyrinth path,
the trivial unveiled as meaningful,
former aches and longings
rediscovered as deepest truth.

Time offers perspective, not forgiveness.
Perspective offers understanding,
shows the way to forgive ourselves
for what we didn’t know.

Reasons

[Image description: close-up of a black-eyed Susan blossom, with most of the bright yellow petals unfurled, except for two that are still joined together over the brown center of the bloom. In the background are green stems, leaves and buds of other black-eyes Susans.]

You don’t have to keep
wasting time in attempt
to fit in,
to conform,
to meet arbitrary expectations.

There are reasons
you are the way you are.

Learn them.
Examine them.
Take the time
to understand all their
light and shadows.

Follow the breadcrumbs
to the mysteries you haven’t
yet discovered,
the truths yet to unfurl.

Your Pandora’s box fears
are unfounded.

Your truest self is a gift of beauty
to yourself and to the world.

Poem to My Younger Self

Sometimes I want to listen to something different.
Folk music. Indie pop.
And sometimes I do,
even though I have to pay attention to the words,
get caught up in any genius of the lyrics,
get distracted from whatever else is going on.

But mostly I listen to Claudia Berti and Hania Rani
on repeat for hours every day,
no lyrics to get tangled in,
just vibrant piano notes resonating,
tones filling chest,
clearing mind,
softening breath.

God, I’ve always loved the sounds
a piano makes.

Sometimes the music makes me think of
my six-year-old self who longed to learn all the notes
as well as the lady who played hymns on the old piano at church,
who would sometimes let me sit next to her on the hard wooden bench
and nod at me when it was time to turn the music page.

I would tell that younger me it’s okay she couldn’t make herself
sit long enough to really practice and never passed book four.

Sometimes music calls to mind my teenage self,
desperate to fit in, find her place, her people,
who learned to play music by chords on the keyboard
to join the youth group praise band.
Even then, always on the periphery.
Performing music, performing roles,
none of it coming naturally.

I would tell her it’s okay the group dynamics
always felt forced, through a mask, never intuitive.

I would tell her one day she’ll discover
she forms connections in a way that make
certain attention and certain relationships
feel just out of reach, near-misses, through a veil.

And I’d tell her someday she’ll discover
the way her mind can meander, swirl into being
a collage of words that connect, invoke clarity, resonate,
piano-music tapestry, woven by others,
the backdrop of her own expression.

Based on Isaiah 11

Our eyes perceive only destruction
when all that remains are
remnants, desolation, isolation,
severed branches, tangled roots.

Relief, impossible to comprehend,
desperation closing in.
But Spirit whispers deliverance,
painting wild possibilities.

A new day will dawn, Wisdom’s reign,
when the poor and the meek and the child
are safe and warm and held and equal,
when harmony abounds.

Connection with the source of Love will permeate,
infusing every human and non-human interaction,
the world overflowing with collective liberation
and we will finally know peace.

Note: This is one of nine poems I wrote to complement the nine readings for Lessons and Carols the Sunday after Christmas. Many commentaries I read–both Jewish and Christian–cautioned against reading Isaiah as Messianic text. So, I shied away from that, opting instead to view it through the lens of hope promised to those living in times where hope seems distant.

Thresholds

[Image Description: Sunny picture taken in Utah in the western United State showing a sand-colored rock formation with an opening through which other rock formations and distant landscape can be seen]

Liminal,
the present already
shifting, slipping, fading,
yet this impulse to cling
to familiarity
pervades.

Daunted,
point of no return closing in,
unknowns creating undercurrents
of ambiguity, infusing moments
as they pass.

Bolstered,
recalling previous iterations of myself
on long past thresholds,
hesitating in-between,
stepping across despite
my fear.

Held,
sustained within my own
gentle reassurance,
yet still wondering how to bless
the ending and the beginning
in the same breath.

Companioning

[Image description: somewhat blurry photo of the moon, looking like a tiny white dot right-of-center in the picture, mostly obscured by light and dark gray rainclouds.]

Last night I caught a glimpse
of the full moon gleaming through
the clouds shedding tiny raindrops
over our backyard.

I read some Indigenous folks call her
Long Night Moon during what
I’ve learned to call December,
and I like that name
because right now the night
arrives so early and it’s still dark
long after I wake up to start my day

and I feel a small bit of comfort
knowing that at her most revealed
this final month on our calendar,
she’s companioning us
when daylight
eludes.

Limited

[Image description: Photo of a forty-something white woman with long brown hair and wearing a dark blue winter coat in the foreground. She is in the woods on a sunny winter day, with mostly bare trees in the background and sunlight flooding the frame.]

How little we genuinely can perceive
of someone else’s experience,
our perception stemming
from our own awareness.

A cool hand may soothe a flushed cheek
or be felt as shock from icy fingers.
A nonchalant observation may be forgotten
or forever taken to heart.

Regardless of intention,
or our observed response,
we can’t fully know
another’s interoception.

Even explanations
can fail to bridge the gap,
tempting as it is to think
we comprehend.

Compassion, empathy,
involves remembering
how limited is our insight
into bodies, minds, and lives
not our own.

Find the Truth of Yourself

Gently gather in the loose threads
that came unraveled
while you were busy
trying to hold together the self
crafted carefully under
other people’s scrutiny.

Replace what no longer serves with
tenderly collected fragments
until you can explain yourself in your own damn words,
not syllables you memorized to stave off
raised eyebrows and sidelong glances.

Or maybe don’t.
Maybe stop trying to explain
and instead wrap yourself joyously
in the love you’re weaving
from understandings reassembled,
until you live your beauty and your wisdom
so fully that you need no explanation.

Returning

[Image description: a path in the forest, covered by fallen leaves and framed on either side with tall trees full of bright yellow leaves with sunlight streaming in through the leaves on the left side.]

A long way off for so long,
separation mostly out of focus,
only sharp when jolted,
when glancing back revealed
the distance never understood.

Looking for explanations seemed
too much like searching for excuses,
best to forge ahead, maintain armor,
match and mimic and blend in,
hoping to forget you never feel at home.

Bless the glimpse, the epiphany,
the light, the turning
that initiated understanding,
illuminated the returning way.

Bless the hindsight,
the pieces falling into place,
the gleaning, the gathering up the truth—
tattered and frayed from disregard—
now seen, embraced, and known.

Bless the kindness, the compassion,
the gentle regard that
accompanied comprehension,
the tender, loving warmth with which
you welcome your own knowing,
your return to the truth of yourself.

Disoriented

[Image Description: Close-up photo of yellow beech leaves on a branch with cloudy sky and other yellow beech leaves out of focus in the background.]

In global crisis isolation,
muscle for maintaining
masquerades atrophied,
withered,

no longer able to
hold in place and
they hang, ill-fitting
and comically off-kilter,

weariness creeping in
and building
within moments of
attempting to redeploy.

Unsettled in current clarity
and still unsure of
what happens when
facades fall away for good,

asking if I’ll be
lost or just disoriented,
unknown or
finally seen.