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Through You I Rise

Through You I Rise

I've been spending much of the last month reading a collection of poetry by Wendell Berry. I don't really know much about him and knew even less when I picked up this book. A prolific author if there ever was one, Berry turned his back on what many might have called a charmed life of in literary academia in New York and chose a simpler life of teaching in Kentucky while farming more than ten acres of land not far from his family's "home place."

His choice might have drawn him away from the seductive social proof of success, but it seems to enriched his life in deeply profound ways, given him the luxury of observing and living, working, and coexisting with the natural world, which lent him a clarity of vision and passion about what he valued: "peace, economic justice, ecological health, political honesty, family and community stability, good work."

I sense that as I circle around in my perspective to what is meaningful to me, the appeal of a simple life is undeniable. It has an uncanny ability to peal back those dear, thick layers of judgment, insecurity, and fear that I use to protect my fragile sense of self, and reveal a simple act of gratitude that overflows with love. And it's with this overflowing love that I came across Berry's "A Poem of Thanks" one night when I couldn't sleep:

I have been spared another day
to come into this night
as though there is a mercy in things
mindful of me. Love, cast all
thought aside. I cast aside
all thought. Our bodies enter
their brief precedence,
surrounded by their sleep.
Through you I rise, and you
through me, into the joy
we make, but may not keep.

Love and thought are considered incompatible by some folks, meaning to love is to be and let be, while thinking tries to make sense of what by nature can't be defined or expressed completely. Yet, both are necessary and inescapable parts of our humanness. To sleep is like a suspension of active thought and also a release of our subconscious. And all of it rising simultaneously.

I reflect on this (as usual) through the lens of being a parent. The nighttime, after my son has gone to sleep -- and he sadly sleeps so little, he seems to run by sheer willfulness alone -- is a precious time for me to be alone. But often, I find myself simply wanting to escape from the ravages of whatever conflict it took to wrangle a seven-year-old determined against going to bed, to numb myself for a half hour with distraction, rather than spend it recovering through quiet reflection, in gratitude, or just letting my mind wander as I wait for sleep to overcome the senses. So, it seems fitting that this would be the first poem I flipped to one night in bed. And fitting to think of parenthood, too, in the way of one's relationship with a child. As a first-time mother, through my son I come into being, and him through me, into the joy of our making, that still is impermanent by nature.

I hope you enjoyed the poem, I look forward to sharing more.


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