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.

Configurations

[Image Description: a close up photo showing a bright yellow maple leaf to the left, an orange-tinged oblong sassafras leaf toward the center, and a green black cherry leaf face-down along the top. All three are lying atop layers of other brown and fading leaves that have fallen to the forest floor.]

Newly fallen colors
drift to cover
fading predecessors,
layer after layer,
various configurations,
some cupped,
holding rainwater,
creating tiny windows
to the sky.

Bright sassafras
and maples mix,
soon to fade,
decompose,
provide nourishment
to roots from soil
instead of sun.

Aware of
seasons, cycles,
letting go
to allow for
new growth,
to allow for
understandings
to develop, overlap,
drift away, blend
and turn and return,

Yet I almost never
remember I once
learned to trust
release and renewal,
death and resurrection,
and I cling,
white-knuckled
and exhausted,
forgetting this is how
room is made for
something new.

A Blessing for Regrounding

Time moving at near-warp speed
no time to catch a breath, catch a break,

Ungrounded, unsettled, under water,
surface out of sight, floundering.

Every passing day, passing item checked off
on the way to the next one,

No time to take the side trail, get derailed,
listen to what your heart needs.

Hold your discontent with gentleness,
Be tender with your wavering soul.

Remember, seasons turn,
rush of autumn gives way

to slower, dormant evenings
and a little space to breathe.

Bless your noticing, your awareness,
your yearning for regrounding.

Your longing is a guide, a conduit,
a pathway back to yourself.

Different Ways

[Image description: a path in a woods in the fall. The photo is taken from a very low perspective, with the path in the foreground, covered in brown and yellow leaves, dividing in the background against a backdrop of trees with green and yellow fall leaves.]

A well-known anonymous quote reminds
that those who mispronounce a word
most likely learned it by reading,
without ever hearing it said aloud

and I wonder what is the equivalent for
living out an different way of being one has
only read about, imagined, caught glimpses of
without experiencing long term in real time.

Most structures, families, organizations
revolve around power, control, clinging to
the same way of doing things even as
we all know something’s off, not working.

Wanting desperately to chart a new course
but with only a compass to guide, a compass
I know only from books always points true,
but I’m unsure whose truth it is pointing to

and if it can point me to the truth I’m learning as I go
while also keeping me from veering back onto
the well-traveled way that was modeled and
whose inertia feels nearly impossible to overcome.

Everyone else on the same different course
is also learning as they go with navigational guides
they’ve acquired by searching, not example,
and it seems like there are too few, too far away.

I need the language, the guides, the practices
to communicate to others, to teach myself,
but it always feels like pronouncing
words the wrong way. Out loud.

Resistance

[Image description: Crabtree Falls in North Carolina. Photo shows a waterfall cascading down a rock face and continuing on over stones at the base. A smaller cascade is in the foreground with the water pooling in front. The water and rocks are framed on both sides by trees with leaves just beginning to change from green to yellow.]

Language of antagonism,
ubiquitous,
who we are defined most often
by what we are against.

Oppositional,
transactional,
interactions avoided with
the unlike-minded.

Wondering what it might be like
to shift energy,
to not be overcome,
to turn in a new direction,

to flow,
to let the undesired
fade and fall
and wash away,

to carry on
bringing nourishment
to new destinations
we can’t yet see.

Parenting

[Image Description: a nature photo with large boulders in the foreground and a waterfall in the distance framed by trees with green foliage. In the center of the photo, an adolescent boy wearing black shorts, a tank top, backpack, and blue hat is partially silhouetted against the waterfall, jumping between two large rocks.]

Seemingly sudden
shifts lead to
freefalling into
experimental moments,
making best guesses in
an attempt to cultivate

a freedom,
an inner knowing,
an understanding of
healthy connection
you’re still trying
to learn yourself.

Unlearning,
turning over tables
to build something new,
create a new arc
out of gleaned wisdom
and hope.

Finding ways
to navigate uncertainty,
knowing successes
and failures
will only be visible
in hindsight.

Defaults

[Image Description: close up of a blanket flower, which has a center of yellow ringed by dark red, and multiple oblong petals fanning out from the center that are all red, tipped with bright yellow.]

I wanted to write a poem
but I listened to an audiobook
and weeded the zinnias
and repotted some plants
and tried to figure out
why I sometimes parrot things
I’ve heard a thousand times
but do not actually believe.

I wondered how to shift
from default reactions
to thoughtful responses
when those defaults
feel so ingrained and
I have so little precedent
for expressing more
newly-acquired ideals.

I watered the blanket flowers
and kale and lamented
the tomatoes I neglected
to harvest before they
became suitable only
for compost and
thought about ways
we perpetuate unhelpful
patterns because
transformation is slow
and difficult and trying
a new direction
involves risk.

I wanted to write a poem
but I tended to plants
and got lost in thoughts
and now it’s late
and I should be helping
make dinner but there
are so many things
I want to change.

A Blessing for Autumnal Rest

[Image description: close-up of Sassafras tree three-pronged leaves, beginning to change from green to red and rust fall foliage.]

May you give yourself the gift of idleness
to nap, meander, simply take a break.

Consider the lilies and birds, trees and fields,
bask in their wise teachings.

Let yourself fade from view, seek refuge,
change, let go, lie fallow.

Cultivate ease, and call it good.
Cease to strive, and call it beauty.

Gaze at the clouds or the moon or the falling leaves
and lose yourself in wonder.

Leave the to-do list in the drawer, email unanswered,
there are other times for doing.

You are enough.
You deserve rest.

No messy room or unpaid bill or daydreaming afternoon
changes your inherent worth.

Gift yourself times of leisure, stillness, being,
and bless the seasons for showing the way.

Meander

[Image description: several branches with bright green clusters of large, oblong pawpaw leaves in the foreground with woods in the background. A few patches of blue sky are visible behind the trees and the sun is gleaming through the pawpaw leaves in the upper left of the photo.]

Today words are scarce,
mind too tired from a too-busy week.
Meander in the woods to settle,
regroup, rest.

Sunlight streaming
through pawpaw leaves
on fall-tinged breezes,
the only poetry in reach.