Once upon a time, I ran a blog that encouraged me to seek out and memorize meaningful poetry. For whatever reason, I gravitated toward poets who have anchored themselves in the annals of tradition and time. Poets like Henley and Longfellow and Dickinson.
Somehow, the poems of the modern age often strike me as too irreverent to fulfill the purpose I’ve carved for poetry out of my own life. I prefer words that gently provoke, softly invite–poems whose words are timeless as the meaning their authors hope to portray.
So, you can imagine, whenever I find a contemporary poet with work that resonates with this objective, I get twitterpated, inspired, and look at life anew.
Such a discovery happened this week when I found David Whyte. First, I read his poem “The Truelove,” which might be one of my very favorite descriptions of the moment you find someone so very special.
Almost, immediately after, I read another piece of his entitled, “Sometimes,” which I share with you today.
SometimesSomtimes by David Whyte
if you move carefully
through the forest,
like the ones
in the old stories,
who could cross
a shimmering bed of leaves
without a sound,
you come to a place
whose only task
is to trouble you
but frightening requests,
conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.
Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
to stop what you
while you do it,
that can make
that have patiently
waited for you,
that have no right
to go away.
Please, don’t feel like you must keep reading. If reading this poem stirs you to contemplation, then don’t let me interrupt. What follows are my own thoughts and reflections, neither right nor wrong, applicable or irrelevant.
Poems, like music, exist in abundance, and a perfect match between reader and work comes down to a matter of preparation, life experience, and timing. For me, this poem hit me like a load of bricks.
Perhaps it’s because I have wandered, recently, into such a forest and seem to find myself bombarded by these places filled with questions that have waited for me.
It’s so easy to let life slip by–easy enough as developing a routine and sticking to the schedule. And there is always pressure to stand, with load squarely on shoulders, and do nothing but hold up the world the way you ought to. To simply stand so that others can walk across the bridge you carry.
There is nobility in that sentiment, one I’m all too familiar with. I’ve found immense satisfaction in helping others cross difficult ravines.
At the same time, I can’t help but feel as though there are journeys to be had, journeys earmarked still for me both beyond the chasm and, deeper still inside the forest David Whyte talks about.
How can one balance responsibility and the yearning calls from questions that can make or unmake a life?
I suppose we are all remade the way our bodies are remade. A Swedish biologist discovered that. Dr. Jonas Frisen. The cells in our bodies have complete renewal, that is all are replaced, every seven to ten years. In some areas, like our skin and our hair, it happens much more quickly.
How often do our spirits and hearts turn over? Does it take seven years? Can it take a moment?
And if so, what memory gets left behind and how? What holds the nostalgic yearnings of things so far behind us?
Perhaps, somewhere deep within, there is a well where all water that falls on us finishes and remains. And it’s this well that defines us, truly. And despite what renewals take place beyond its curbs, or how we choose to ignore, heed, or interpret its callings, we go back to the well to start again.