Thursday, September 13, 2012

First Fall

by David Wagoner

Stand still.  The trees ahead and bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes.  Listen.  It answers,

I have made this place around you.

If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost.  Stand still.  The forest knows

Where you are.  You must let it find you.

I've been reflecting lately how every step we take in our lives has value, and how we must trust the paths we've taken, for they have led us to where we are right now.

Or, as a page of my journal said it last month:

One of the most difficult of times I've had to trust myself was when I met my husband in grad school.  I was dating someone else at the time, and not ready to admit that my life needed to change.  But then I dreamed about Tim for twenty days straight.

These dreams piled on, and finally convinced me that I had to open up and listen to my now banging-a-gong, loudly chattering heart.  I needed to open to my life, which wanted to heal me.

It was a dramatic turn of events, but here we are almost six years later, two years of marriage under our belts, still learning from each other.


I used to be embarrassed that I have dated a few people in my life.  At the rehearsal dinner for our wedding, a dear friend's dear mother toasted Tim and I.  Not knowing Tim yet, said she knew he was one heck of a guy to be able to keep me.  I laughed, and glowed in the community circle that weddings provide. 

She had known me best when I was in high school, just starting out in my dating career, and unafraid to make mistakes in love.

That is to say: when I was a little arrogant in the land of love.   A wee callus.  And a whole lot of fun.

Sitting in a room full of people who had known me when I was a tiny girl letting rabbits out of cages, others then who had known me as a little dancer in shimmery outfits, those who had known me as a kaleidoscope of creative energy (and irresponsibility) in college, and others who knew me as a connector to yogic roots - all these people circled round, ostensibly celebrating this love Tim and I had found to shelter us through life, but truly celebrating the passage of life itself - and the courage such a passage entails. 

With all these people in one room, I was nervous when my friend's mother started talking about my dating past - as any sane person would be. 

But now when I think about it - both her recollection of it and my open and daring heart as a teenager - I recall the richness of it all: the qualities that drew me to these people, the lessons we learned together and taught one another, and the sweet goodness of life: that all the moments before lead to this one now, where I sit at a table and write to you and remember it all.

I joked recently that I understand why old people sit around and remember their lives, and tell the same stories again and again.  (We'll all be lucky if we still remember the stories we want to tell again and again, but that's a topic for a different time...) 

Stories are our connection to life - they are how we learn, and how we love.

Cling lovingly to the stories you adore.  Or, as Kerouac wrote, Accept loss forever.  Accept that there is no right way to do things.  Accept that in this moment, you have taken every step you needed to take to be where you need to be right now.

Accept the perfection of your path - every winding, messy step of it.  And take a cue from the people who love you - we are all delighted by the show you've put on.

Not me, but easily could be.  Photo from antique store in NC.

From Jim Harrison's novel Wolf:

I once years back had an older but much unwiser professorial friend who told me after his seventh bloody mary:
-All you have to do is tell it like it is.
-But nothing is like anything, I replied, with a very precise Oriental smile.


"The wound is symbolic and cannot be reduced to any single interpretation.  But wounding seems to be a clue or a key to being human.  There is value here as well as agony."  -Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

I guess I've been writing more about perceived mistakes than trauma or wounding in this post, but I think all of these subjects have to do with the vulnerability of being human, and the strength, beauty, and tenderness that come with that assignment. 


This post is dedicated to my friends in western Colorado.


And now, go forth with compassion - for yourselves, and for our hungry, spinning world.  Be good to yourself, and to the ones you love.



  1. These sentences fit in so perfectly with how I spent my afternoon: with a migraine reading my new book for hours with Mavis, in post-double-vaccine discomfort, at the foot of the bed. Sun streaming in all around.


  2. I love this: Accept loss forever. Accept that there is no right way to do things. Accept that in this moment, you have taken every step you needed to take to be where you need to be right now.

    Very profound. Thanks for your writing. It's very meditative for me to read.

    1. He's so good, eh? So happy to share.


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