Things have been busy, as I’ve been chipping away on research of faith-based approaches to food justice and navigating my way through Vermont’s wintery mix of snow, ice and rain. It’s crazy how caught up we can get in being busy, only to convince ourselves that we don’t have “time” to rest or pause. Time has been a concept I’ve struggled with for a while – especially after reading Heidegger and Derrida in social anthropology. Time is a cultural construct, it’s something we agree on and clock our days with accordingly — but what if our watches, clocks, meridians, and time zones ceased to have meaning? What would time be then? Interestingly, as I go about my work and projects, I, like many others, am able to hold space in my mind to meditate on these questions.
I’ve found that in my search for some rest in the “busy”, poems have helped to occupy that space in my mind to keep things in perspective – the work at hand is not the be all end all, it’s just a part of it all, as critical as it may be. The most recent poem to occupy this space is Lost by David Wagoner. It beautifully depicts our place in nature, and that our place is always moving – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But, nature belongs to all cultures, and, as result, to no culture at all, and no culture’s projected construct. It is vast and wide, and open to interpretation – but that does not mean our interpretations are correct. Oftentimes they are deeply wrong, and, as result, we become lost though hard we try to find ourselves. In truth, we cannot escape the wisdom and movements of nature – no matter how many mountains we remove, forests we clear cut, wells we drill, waterways we spoil, soils we degrade, and air we pollute. Nature will come back and remind us where we are, how small we are, and how much we do not know – how much we cannot know, perhaps because of all the “busy.” Some food for thought.
Lost by David Wagoner, from Collected Poems 1956-1976
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 a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. you must let it find you.