By Robert R. Walsh, from Noisy Stones: A Meditation Manual
Skinner House Books, 1992
Did you ever think there might be a fault line
passing underneath your living room:
A place in which your life is lived in meeting
and in separating, wondering
and telling, unaware that just beneath
you is the unseen seam of great plates
that strain through time? And that your life, already
spilling over the brim, could be invaded,
sent off in a new direction, turned
aside by forces you were warned about
but not prepared for? Shelves could be spilled out,
the level floor set at an angle in
some seconds’ shaking. You would have to take
your losses, do whatever must be done next.
When the great plates slip
and the earth shivers and the flaw is seen
to lie in what you trusted most, look not
to more solidity, to weighty slabs
of concrete poured or strength of cantilevered
beam to save the fractured order. Trust
more the tensile strands of love that bend
and stretch to hold you in the web of life
that’s often torn but always healing. There’s
your strength. The shifting plates, the restive earth,
your room, your precious life, they all proceed
from love, the ground on which we walk together.
One of the great illusions that we hang on to as humans is that the earth beneath our feet is solid. However, science, and our awareness of earthquakes, and erupting volcanoes, tells us that this isn’t true. Yet, we trust in the illusion because of personal experience–we can’t feel the ground moving, so it must be stable.
A second illusion that we cling to is that the circumstances of our lives are as solid as the ground under our feet. We may nod our heads in agreement when someone says “change is the only constant”, but what we cling to is the comfort of the phrase “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. Change that isn’t self-initiated is frightening!
Loss: The Earthquake That Comes to Us All
When I heard Walsh’s poem for the first time, I needed to sit with his words and let them sink in. As I pictured his images, I was reminded of the experience of grief and loss.
According to Walsh, we’re living our lives–unaware of the earth moving beneath us. We assume that ‘what is’, will continue ‘to be’. Even when know that a job loss may be coming, a relationship is in trouble, or the death of a loved one is imminent; we don’t really know. Then the pink slip arrives, the suitcases are waiting at the door, or the late-night call comes from the hospital; and we know. In our gut, we know. As Walsh describes, our shelves and floors are never the same.
The Grief Journey
When we experience a loss, our world is turned upside down. Much of what we depended upon no longer feels trustworthy. For a while, the world stops feeling safe. We actively know that bad things do happen–even to good people.
In Walsh’s words, “You would have to take your losses, do whatever must be done next.” This is often what we do when a loss occurs–we plan the funeral, we edit our resume, we divide assets. Because of the natural shock that our bodies and minds experience at the beginning of the journey, we are able to take the next necessary steps.
While details of the grief journey are beyond the scope of this particular post, video content about the journey is available here on the Blaikie Psychotherapy Facebook page.
My Wish for You…
While grief and loss come to us all, Walsh’s imagery of the “tensile strands of love that bend and stretch to hold you in the web of life” describes the circle of care that ideally surrounds us during those times.
My wish for you is that you are enveloped in the love that takes away the precariousness of the ground.
And now…an amazing video of Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert talking about their grief experiences. Please note that during their discussion Stephen Colbert does share about his personal religious beliefs. Enjoy!