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Posts Tagged ‘healing’

Heartened

red gold leaves ground

By the brilliant, joyful student performance of In the Heights I saw at Berklee College of Music on Friday night. And the powerful, lovely original song the cast performed after the curtain call (written by Zaid Tabani, who played Usnavi and is wicked talented).

By the wise, thoughtful voices of faculty members at my workplace, who are drawing on their expertise and experience to help make sense of what happened and what is next.

By conversations with friends and strangers, and the quiet sense that we are taking care of each other in small ways.

By the gentle, steadying atmosphere at my local yoga studio, where I have been showing up more frequently this month.

By the conversation I overheard the other day between two young men, one of whom is a playwright, about the responsibility and power of art and artists at a time like this.

By the friendly, supportive, determined conversations on Twitter and elsewhere that have helped me process my feelings and also figure out a few practical things to do. (First and foremost: so much listening.)

By the oak leaves in every shade of gold, red, russet and deep brown. I was afraid we wouldn’t have much color after a dry, hot summer, but the trees this fall are stunning.

By a brief conversation I had with the mayor of Providence, R.I., about the good work being done in government at the local level. (He was visiting campus for a conference, and probably has no idea how much his words encouraged me.)

By the spindly, twinkly “giving trees” on the steps of Memorial Church in Harvard Yard, covered in messages of hope. (And this separate message of hope, below.)

refugees welcome sign trees

Nearly two weeks post-election and it still feels like a new, fragile reality around here. We are heading into the holidays, which I love, but also into the shortest and darkest days of the year, which are hard for me. (I have never been more ready for Advent, which, for me, is a way to look the darkness steadily in the face and then light candles against it.)

I am still sad, frustrated and heartbroken, but I’ve also found myself heartened by the glimmers of hope I shared above. We have – I keep saying – so much work to do. As we move forward together (and head into Thanksgiving week here in the U.S.), I’d love to hear what is bolstering you up, these days.

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The temperatures are slowly rising. The skies are losing the cloud-streaked pallor of winter, giving way on some days to a bold, nearly electric blue. The crocuses are out in full force; the trees are budding; the rhubarb and asparagus are out at the grocery store. On my lunchtime walks, the earthy tang of mulch hangs in the air. I even spotted a rabbit in Harvard Square last week.

And I’m feeling homesick for the mountains of northern New Mexico.

hermits peak blue haven new mexico

Eight years ago, after two semesters fraught with loss, I packed my car with a sleeping bag, pillow, a few books and two weeks’ worth of jeans and T-shirts, and headed west across the Texas plains. I drove past my hometown, crossed the New Mexico border, then wound down a long grey highway bordered with scrub and cacti, then with pine, shadowed in the distance by mesas. I was heading for a camp tucked into a valley under the Sangre de Cristo mountains, where I had signed up for a writing workshop with a former English professor who now ran the camp.

For two weeks, we lived out of cell phone range, hiking and writing and reading each other’s work, sharing meals at a long narrow table in the dining hall. I spent hours walking around the camp alone, inhaling the scent of sun on dried pine needles and the sharp, crisp mountain air. I laughed as Jake, the resident golden retriever, bounded into the river and out again, shaking himself dry, wiggling head to toe with joy. In the late afternoons I stretched out on the wooden porch of the old dining hall, with my journal and a bottle of water, eating M&Ms and writing poetry, soaking up the sunshine and the quiet.

We read Wendell Berry and William Stafford, and I spent a Sunday afternoon sitting in the doorway of the laundry room, reading Kathleen Norris and listening to the rain. Sometimes Scott, the director, would pull out his guitar and share one of the songs he was writing. His words, and the words of these other writers, are bound up with the long hikes and the bowls of hot vegetable stew, and the moments at night when I crossed the short distance from the cabin to the shower house, and paused to look up at the indigo sky pierced with stars.

hermits peak group new mexico hike

I did not solve my problems, nor completely jettison my worry and grief, during those weeks spent so far away from my usual life. But I began to imagine what renewal might look like. I began to believe, after a year of struggle and loss, that I could move forward with peace and steadiness, drawn somehow from the quiet strength of the mountains and hills. I discovered, again, the ability of words to help work through the sorrows we can’t explain, and I knew the deep joy of talking about words with people who also believed in their power.

Every spring, when the air begins to soften and the sky turns toward the vast, jarring blue of early summer, when the life that has lain dormant all winter under the earth begins to quicken, I long to pack up my car again and head for that valley. My soul aches for the deep quiet of those afternoons on the porch and the camaraderie of evenings around the campfire. My ears strain to hear the sound of Scott’s guitar. My whole being remembers, and for a few moments, I am back there in the mountains, where my soul found rest.

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