burden

Letting go of what is holding you back

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Taking the back path from my home, with this complicated word, Burden, pulling uneasily on my heart, I walked as slowly as one might in David Whyte’s poem, ‘Sometimes’, * wondering what my camera might lead me to notice. Seeking something that looked like the way the way a burden feels in my body, I scanned the landscape with care… a pile of rocks constructed in an inadequate attempt to hold back the weight of the earth here, a discarded soda can that could take eons to be absorbed and assimilated by the earth there. Not quite. There is a visceral sense for me of what the word feels like, something subtly different than merely heavy, something more akin to weary in many ways, as if there is attached to my heart an unconscious body that I must both hold up and drag along.

Along this particular path there have been some old stumps and piles of fallen trunks for some time. I always take a peek inside the hollow stumps and appreciate such rare glimpses of the intricate insides of what is most often hidden from view, beneath a tough layer of bark. I experience a sense of deep reverence in the presence of any fallen tree, as one might in a graveyard, and I notice that there have been several added to the fallen here. It seems there is something killing them… not only the Hemlock, consumed by the wooly adelgid, and the Ash, by the borer, but also the Chestnut Oaks in this place.  Sadness soon joined the other feeling, pulling on my heart.

Soon, I began to notice the others, the ones still standing, but no longer living. Though no trees here are yet pushing their buds, it was simple to tell which ones they were, for someone has been through and marked them for felling. So many, so very many. Indeed I had come to the ‘place whose task was to trouble me’, and my camera and I moved even more solemnly, bearing witness….

At once, that other poem, Tree, by Jane Hirshfield, bubbled up in my heart.

It is foolish
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.

Even in this
one lifetime,
you will have to choose.

That great calm being,
this clutter of soup pots and books –

Already the first branch-tips brush at the window.
Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.

It seems in this particular place the clutter … of homes and intrusions, of one kind or another… is winning.
A heart too can become cluttered, I think…with heartache, deep worry for loved ones, with shame, fear, regret, grief …holding up more than it can bear, unable to thrive in such conditions.  These devastating emotions can seem to attach themselves, not willing to let go of their hold. I have felt the weight of these things in my life, a heaviness that seems to be most deeply ensconced right in the places of the heart that also have known the deepest love. I don’t know if I wish to call these things burdens or not, but I know I have had to learn ways to set them down, while still holding onto the love, creating more space for Love to grow.
Otherwise, my internal landscape may look as despairing as this one before me today, so many dead ones filling the space as if they are living, but unable to take in the light.

 

*David Whyte: “Sometimes”

 Sometimes
if you move carefully
through the forest

breathing
like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
where the only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
and

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

questions
that can make
or unmake
a life,

questions
that have patiently
waited for you,

questions
that have no right

to go away.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Margaret Hardy
    Feb 29, 2016 @ 11:24:34

    Oh, how we protested and cried when Daddy cut down the sandbox tree, to enlarge the house so all three of us were no longer sleeping in the same 12 x 12 room. It shaded us while we played, and was the only one with a branch low enough for us to climb on. “Hey, Mister Tree? Do you remember me? I used to sit on your knee, Mister Tree.” Thanks for letting me wander.

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