Poetry for Challenging Times

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Riding the River

rocky-62127_1280A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I went out and bought inner tubes and took a nice long float down the Clackamas River. I’m unsure as to how this was my first time doing such a thing after living in Portland for most of a decade, but you know… there’s so much to do in this life that it’s hard to do it all!

As cliche as it might be, I’ve since had the metaphor of the river running through my head: rivers and their surrounding ecosystems in many ways mirror the trajectory of a human life. We are nature, after all.

Driven by prana, the life force that moves all things, the current flowing through it carves out its own path. In some areas, it’s smooth sailing. Anything under or on top of the water will drift along peacefully. But sometimes there are rapids and rocks… of varying sizes. The ride gets bumpy, but eventually smooths out again. The roller coaster always ends. There are stagnant places, too. Sometimes you drift out of the current and have to paddle and flail a bit to reconnect with the stream.

Much like a life. It doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes it’s bumpy. Sometimes we get stuck for no apparent reason.

So, what?

So, it’s these rocks and rapids and stagnant places I’m interested in right now. The less than perfect, peaceful, smooth-sailing places. The obstacles, or perceived obstacles. So much human behavior centers around trying to make things easier for ourselves or circumvent issues before they arise. Taking precautions. Safeguarding. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try to maintain the smooth-sailing state, or at least the illusion of it, obstacles arise. We’ll never be able to prevent everything that is less than ideal from happening — perfection doesn’t exist! — but we can always shift our thinking about the things that happen.

I am reminded of one of my most favorite poems on this topic. “Because Even the Word Obstacle is an Obstacle” by the poet Alison Luterman

Practice:
Could you “try to love everything that gets in your way”?

Maybe the obstacle is in the end a sorely-needed teacher.

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