Poetry, Song, and Turning 74

Dear New School Friends,

We just completed our 197th Cancer Help Program. We will hold our 200th in April. Each time eight people show up from a cross the country — and often around the world.

Many have recurrent cancer. They come for many reasons. They come to find others who understand what they are going through. They come in hope of learning about integrative therapies that might enhance or extend life. They come to process what they have been going through in life-changing treatments. But above all, they come to find a way to hold this part of their lives with greater peace of mind.

I turned 74 on October 22nd. I entered my 75th year on this sacred earth. I live at the place where the land meets the ocean, where the earth meets the sky. Each day I give thanks for Commonweal — for our community, for our work, for this place.

I live in a place where light meets darkness, where love meets loss, where understanding meets mystery. I live in gratitude for it all.

Poetry and song hold the mystery best for me. As Rachel Naomi Remen says, we are a community that trades poems.

Here is Rilke, in Joanna Macy’s beautiful translation:

God talks to each of us as he creates us,
Then walks with us silently out of night.
But the words, spoken to us before we start,
Those cloudy words are these:

Sent forth by your senses,
Go to the edge of your desire —

Back behind the things — grow as fire,
So that their shadows, lengthened,
Will always and completely cover me.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror
Only press on: no feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself be cut off from me.
Nearby is that country
Known as Life.

You will recognize it
By its seriousness. Give me your hand.

With love and prayers for each of you as you walk through the country known as life. If you find even one friend worthy of walking with you, count yourself fortunate.


1 thought on “Poetry, Song, and Turning 74

  1. Thank you for sharing the beginning of your 75th year of life with me. My soul overflows with gratitude for the safety and warmth I carried away with me. At home now only 10 days after saying au revoir, never goodbye, my poetry runs like fresh water through and around me, more clearly and briskly than ever. The aporopos Rilke translation in response falls into my hand and I will hold it, just as your friendship, of which I cherish and on which I often reflect. All of the Commonweal staff surrounds me in light. Now, if the shadows grow longer than I can see, I bring myself back quietly to the center to my breath and my center, and I’m there again. Safe and happy, in peace, peace.

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