I thought I'd take a bit of a break from politics today to share some things I've learned in life, particularly how I've experienced a change in perspective as I've grown older.
In the 40 years after I graduated from college, I spent my professional life working with children, youth and families who were struggling. I knew it was my calling, even though the introvert in me dreamed of trees, as Mary Oliver wrote.There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.
There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.
I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?
When the mind is festering with trouble or the heart torn, we can find healing among the silence of mountains or fields, or listen to the simple, steadying rhythm of waves. The slowness and stillness gradually takes us over. Our breathing deepens and our hearts calm and our hungers relent. When serenity is restored, new perspectives open to us and difficulty can begin to seem like an invitation to new growth.
This invitation to friendship with nature does of course entail a willingness to be alone out there. Yet this aloneness is anything but lonely. Solitude gradually clarifies the heart until a true tranquility is reached. The irony is that at the heart of that aloneness you feel intimately connected with the world. Indeed, the beauty of nature is often the wisest balm for it gently relieves and releases the caged mind.
So I've found myself some trees...and water...and solitude...and space that is a little way away from everywhere.
My plan these days is to explore the kind of serenity with nature that O'Donohue wrote about. That is what's right for me at this stage of my life.
I certainly won't claim that my path is the one everyone should follow. But as a culture, we really haven't done enough to explore how our perspectives change at different stages of life. What I'm learning is that the longings of my soul these days are very different than they were in my 20s, 30s, 40s, and even 50s. As O'Donohue wrote elsewhere, it is important that we pay attention to those longings.
Give yourself time to make a prayer that will become the prayer of your soul. Listen to the voices of longing in your soul. Listen to your hungers. Give attention to the unexpected that lives around the rim of your life. Listen to your memory and to the inrush of your future, to the voices of those near you and those you have lost. Out of all of that attention to your soul, make a prayer that is big enough for your wild soul, yet tender enough for your shy and awkward vulnerability; that has enough healing to gain the ointment of divine forgiveness for your wounds; enough truth and vigour to challenge your blindness and complacency; enough graciousness and vision to mirror your immortal beauty. Write a prayer that is worthy of the destiny to which you have been called.
Or as Mary Chapin Carpenter sang, "don't be late for your life."