Blessing for Coming Home to an Empty House

I realized that I had not posted much lately. I am in the homerun stretch of graduating from the apprenticeship program at The Guild for Spiritual Guidance, which has carried me through the last two years in community and love. After this Sunday, I will be a graduate and will dive deep into my writing and sharing with you here in this space. I very much look forward to posting more.

In the meantime, I came across this poem by Jan Richardson. I hope it brings you comfort.

Blessing for Coming Home to an Empty House

I know
how every time you return,
you call out
in greeting
to the one
who is not there;
how you lift your voice
not in habit
but in honor
of the absence
so fierce
it has become
its own force.

I know
how the hollow
of the house
echoes in your chest,
how the emptiness
you enter
matches the ache
you carry with you
always.

I know
there are days
when the only thing
more brave than leaving
this house
is coming back to it.

So on those days,
may there be a door
in the emptiness
through which a welcome
waits for you.

On those days,
may you be surprised
by the grace
that gathers itself
within this space.

On those days,
may the delight
that made a home here
find its way to you again,
not merely in memory
but in hope,

so that every word
ever spoken in kindness
circles back to meet you;

so that you may hear
what still sings to you
within these walls;

so that you may know
the love
that dreams with you here
when finally
you give yourself
to rest—

the love
that rises with you,
stubborn like the dawn
that never fails
to come.

—Jan Richardson

Haiku Poetry of Grief and Gratitude

I have rediscovered Haiku poetry, a Japanese form of short poetry.  In the English language, Haiku is written according to the number of syllables: Three lines with 17 syllables.  5-7-5.  Japanese does not have syllables.  So, Haiku is written in what are durational sound units, sounds of equal duration.  In English, syllables can be of differing duration.  

I think I love Haiku so much for a couple of reasons.  First, because of my analytical side.  The counting of syllables and the effort it takes to fit a moment of life into 17 syllables is very satisfying to this woman whose favorite class in school (way back when) was math.  Many poets of Haiku in English think of this 17-syllable rule as a suggestion, and my older self is just fine with coloring outside the lines.

Second, Haiku helps me to reel in my errant thoughts and focus them like a light beam onto one moment, one object, a simple thing.  This is a type of meditation for me.  It has helped me, especially during these uncertain times. 

Noticing the smallest of things and being grateful for them, however fleeting, is what I attempt to hold in my hands as I walk through life now.

Here are a few Haiku poems focusing on grief and gratitude. I hope you find comfort in them.


Grief

A Japanese Poem Translated by Takashi Kodaira and Alfred H. Marks

At the deepest point

of grief, somebody nearby

breaks a withered branch


by Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)

In a world

Of grief and pain,

Flowers bloom –

      Even then.


By Rev. Deb Vaughn

Just a single leaf…

One of many in autumn

A tree remembers


By Emily Thiroux Threatt

Remembering joy

Gazing into his brown eyes

We laughed together


by Hannah Spencer

“Not Fair”

How cruel my heart

is!… To persist in beating

although you’re gone…


by Dina Televitskaya

“Smile”

It has flown to me.

And it has given me grief.

It was your sad smile.


by P.S. AWTRY

“Not As Strong As She Seems”

formidable dam

     a breach in the night

          dread torrent of tears


by Paula Goldsmith

“Squirrel Time”

My cute furry friend

Eating nuts until the end

Chasing all your friends


Unknown

Morning fog rolls in

Not as dark as yesterday

         Or the day before


Gratitude

By Diane Yoza

My white coffee cup

So full of aroma

Sips to warm my heart


by David Byrne

“Beauty”

Ah, beauty must die

Impermanent flower

Showing gratitude


by Romeo Naces

“Grateful Sigh”

    …soil, sky and sea sigh

       gratitude from low and high

       we, us, you and I…


by Line Gauthier

“Summer Whispers”

summer whispers

in the garden of my life

  ~ chants of gratitude


by Dietra Reid

Appreciation of Colors”

shades enlightened light

gratitude to primary

secondary thanks


by Suzy @ suzysomedaysomewhere.blogspot.com

Changing seasons drift

A twisting kaleidoscope;

   Life, a Thankful gift

Perennial

Perhaps the greatest gift
is to die a little each day.

To love what death can touch.

The losses innumerable
on this world

where grief is

perennial.

And gratitude,

for the fleeting beauty
of life is its twin,

born from the same mother
called love.


I have been thinking of the 12th Century poem a lot and the transitory nature of life. I wrote the short poem above in the early morning hours which was inspired by these thoughts.

Mary Oliver and Me

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

  1. As I care for my aging father, and witness his diminishing abilities, both physical and mental. I see my own future. I see my frustration and grief in not being able to do things that used to come so easily. I see my melancholy face as I stare out the window of the kitchen, thinking of – who knows? My past? Things I have done and not done? Joys and regrets?
  2. At times it sends me into a panic wondering what I have done, or what I may still do in the time I have left of this life. What will I do with my one wild and precious life? At other times, I release these fears and escape my ego’s hold, a great reprieve if even just for a little while.
  3. I believe the answer to Mary Oliver’s questions above may be within the poem in which she asks that devastating question, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
  4. Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
  5. Be in awe of the grasshoppers, and trees, and blue skies. Be in awe of the beauty in this weary world. A world that we have been gifted.
  6. The rest of life will unfold as it will and should.
  7. Mary Oliver’s poetry has saved me in ways it is hard for me to explain. Through the darkness of my mind, her words pulled me back to the world. I wiped my eyes and remembered to be in awe of the beauty around me, especially in the smallest of things. A flower, an insect, a cloud, fleeting as they all may be. Her poem “The Summer Day” was the first one of hers that I read, and it pulled me back from the abyss.

THE SUMMER DAY

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

The Wise Woman and the Stone

I do not know where I first read this or who wrote it. But it has always stuck with me, so I share it with you now.

Blessings.

Click the picture for the video or read below.

The Wise Woman and The Stone

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone
in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and
the wise woman opened her bag to share her food.

The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman if she
could give it to him. She did so without hesitatin. The traveler left,
rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give
him security for a lifetime. But a few days later he came back to return the
stone to the wise woman.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it
back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious.
Please give me what you had within you that enabled you to give me the
stone.”

The Witchery of Living

A poem by Mary Oliver. This is an excerpt from that poem. I plan on uploading a video of the whole poem in the near future, but I find this section particularly meaningful at this time in my life.

Click the picture for the video or read below.

To Begin With, The Sweet Grass

Mary Oliver

The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you, my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe
   still another.

How The Stars Get in Your Bones

A poem by Jan Richardson tells of the luminosity that can come from integrating one’s grief and letting it set fire to the fractured parts within. As caregivers to loved ones, nature, the world, we are burdened with an enormous responsibility that may feel like a suffocating weight. However, this weight can be used as alchemy to form diamonds.

Click the picture for the video or read the poem below

How the Stars Get in Your Bones

by Jan Richardson

Sapphire, diamond, emerald, quartz:
think of every hard thing
that carries its own brilliance,
shining with the luster that comes
only from uncountable ages
in the earth, in the dark,
buried beneath unimaginable weight,
bearing what seemed impossible,
bearing it still.

And you, shouldering the grief
you had thought so solid, so impermeable,
the terrible anguish
you carried as a burden
now become—
who can say what day it happened?—
a beginning.

See how the sorrow in you
slowly makes its own light,
how it conjures its own fire.

See how radiant
even your despair has become
in the grace of that sun.

Did you think this would happen
by holding the weight of the world,
by giving in to the press of sadness
and time?

I tell you, this blazing in you—
it does not come by choosing
the most difficult way, the most daunting;
it does not come by the sheer force
of your will.
It comes from the helpless place in you
that, despite all, cannot help but hope,
the part of you that does not know
how not to keep turning
toward this world,
to keep turning your face
toward this sky,
to keep turning your heart
toward this unendurable earth,
knowing your heart will break
but turning it still.

I tell you,
this is how the stars
get in your bones.

This is how the brightness
makes a home in you,
as you open to the hope that burnishes
every fractured thing it finds
and sets it shimmering,
a generous light that will not cease,
no matter how deep the darkness grows,
no matter how long the night becomes.

Still, still, still
the secret of secrets
keeps turning in you,
becoming beautiful,
becoming blessed,
kindling the luminous way
by which you will emerge,
carrying your shattered heart
like a constellation within you,
singing to the day
that will not fail to come.

To Love What Death Can Touch

To Love What Death Can Touch

Recently, I have found much comfort in this 12th-Century poem, especially during this time when everything seems to be changing and out of our control. In order to truly feel the depth of appreciation for those people and beings we love, whether a parent, a pet or a flower, it is necessary to see that their end will come as well. Everything we love, we will lose. It is an unchanging law of this physical world. I try to walk the path of holding these two seeming opposites in my hands. Grief and gratitude. They are twins of the same mother, love.

Here is the 12th-Century poem in written and video form (click the picture above). The author is unknown.

‘Tis a fearful thing

To love

What death can touch.

To love, to hope, to dream

And oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,

Love,

But a holy thing

To love what death can touch.