As Spring creeps northward, coaxing up the daffodils, forsythia, and redbud, I am back into routines after times of travel and our work at the Lake Junaluska Peace Conference, which just completed its annual meeting. The turkeys have shown up outside our house, performing their obscene and acrobatic rituals of mating. The Jays are back, the Cardinals sizing up our windows for their mock combat with the rivals they contain. The Bluebirds have come and gone in fewer numbers than before, their absence a terrible sign of what we have done to their homes, their bodies, and their flyways. Yet the leaves return, the onions lead the grass to lushness, branch lettuce pokes its first hands up through the humus at the waterfall.
I am working on some poems coaxed out of yet another annual event, the Press53 Gathering of Poets in Winston-Salem. Some 53 of us get together for a day of workshops, conversation, and performance to celebrate the craft we share. The sponsors, Press53 and Jacar Press, show us what they’re publishing and promoting to keep this alchemy of words alive in North Carolina. The workshops usually evoke some poems, some of which will pop up here when they have fermented a little more.
While I am there, I usually take a walk through the old Moravian Cemetery nearby, with its row upon row of simple stones laid flat on the ground. Each person is buried in the order in which they died, erasing all distinctions of this life, awaiting the joyful Resurrection of the Dead they celebrate each Easter with trumpets and song.
Our Peace Conference was devoted to the theme of Faith, Health, and Peace, with informative presentations on some of the success stories in fighting disease, but also on how the health of communities, the health of our bodies, and the health of this world are all interconnected in a web of life. The question is: How do we nourish life in its manifold dimensions? Such an effort puts us in line with the Source of Life, while our warfare against death, which characterizes so much medicine and its costliness, can never be “won,” for it is part of life. The words Shalom, Salaam, “wholth” and their kin can lead us into a different perspective, and that’s what we were struggling for.
While we are emerging into Spring, my co-author John DeGruchy, in South Africa, is settling into Fall. We are pulling together the text for our little book on woodworking and spirituality, entitled Sawdust and Soul. With reflections on our years in woodworking, on the relationships with parents, children, family, friends, and mentors, we hope to stimulate conversation about the impact of this work with natural materials on our lives and spirits. You’ll hear more about it later!
Those are my ruminations of the season. I close with just a little poetic that emerged a short while ago as I was struck by the seasonality of our life.
How would I know myself
without the seasons?
How would the earth embrace me
in its dance around the sun?
How would I chop my life in little chunks
to feed my fire?
Would I drown in time’s ocean,
never seeing shore?
Could I pace myself,
control my impatience,
shake off the dread of change?
How would I act
without the simple drama of the year?
Find my way in a familiar play
with just the right suspense,
the satisfaction of completion?
To have a fill of night,
a satiation of the day,
A sleep that touches death,
a waking to eternal life?