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The Gift of Presence

via The Gift of Presence

Wendell Berry is one of my favourite poets. In her post, Shobna uses part of a poem, Our Real Work, to point a need to be present. Gary Snyder wrote a book called The Real Work devoted to similar subject matter.

In the rush of “normal” life, I often overlook what that means and what calls to me to step into a healing moment; to make me whole and pause to listen to what the “impeded stream” sings to me. For Shobna, gardening is a quiet moment to listen to the “impeded stream.”

Today, as I checked Facebook, Parker Palmer posted another Berry poem: The Peace of Wild Things. Here, we are called to, in times we do not have a frame of reference for, to turn to poets to help find paths forward. In various ways, they remind us to each look for what keeps us moving , especially in times of turmoil and despair. When I hike and find my path blocked, I pause, look, and listen. In life, I find ways to move ahead, embrace uncertainty, and recognize I am walking my own path, as Antonio Machado would remind me, but I am not alone.

As Shobna points out, I only have to look and I “see that kindness is more visible these days.” Health care workers, farmers, grocery store employees, and many others, often strangers, stand in the breach to help. If these are to recall Dickens, the best and worst of times, what makes them the best is to pause, when my path is blocked, to find what calls us and ask we each ask ourselves what calls us.

One of the things I take for granted is music. It is part of my love of poetry. In particular, lyrics pull me to them. I am fortunate to listen to a small community-based and funded radio station, CKUA, and have it on non-stop. To say it is eclectic is an understatement. They do play top-40, but it is often from years and decades ago.

In keeping with my love of music, I leave you with two videos. The first by Jimmy Buffet got me through tough times years ago. It reminds me who I am and live that way. I have always been a person who walked to the beat of my own drummer and am a bit of a pirate, regardless of age.


The second is one I used to listen to with my mother years ago. It is a gospel song written and performed by Gene McLellan, a Canadian, called Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man Who Stills the Water. Now, my mother and I did not always agree on music, but we had some serious overlaps such as Gene McLellan, the Beatles, Elvis (if she did not have to watch), etc.




16 responses »

  1. Thank you for sharing the post and adding your perspective to it. Really like the songs too. I put the book, “the real work” on my list of books to read. Stay well and safe.

    • Gary Snyder, like Wendell Berry, is a wonderful writer of poetry and essays. I have a book they published using letters they wrote to each other over the years about their environmental projects and other essential subjects. Take care and be well.

  2. I’ve been thinking about the things that I miss most during this time of quarantine. Taking my Gypsy Road Trips tops the list as I usually go somewhere every week. Right behind them is going to all the local musical presentations that are actually numerous for a small town. Your gospel song above is one I used to play at church and I still remembered the words!

    • Actually, I wonder about that while I was on your site: “are you getting out and about?.” Kathy and I have tickets to a small folk club and they had to cancel their last two shows of the season. When I looked up the song today, I was surprised how many covers there had been. It came in my mind as I listened to the radio the other. It took me back a few years as I listened both times.

      • Our Ohio governor has given us the privilege of going to get groceries and also going to our parks and lakes for fresh air and sunshine. So I take a short ride to a local park or lake every day to just get out of the house. I’ll have to be creative with my Gypsy Road Trips. Thanks for your kindness in following my posts one by one. It makes me smile.

      • We have to find new ways to make people smile. We are still able to get out and about in Edmonton and, I think, Alberta and Canada more broadly. The challenge is it is cold and snowy, even in early April, so getting out to walk has its challenges. We had about 3 inches of snow yesterday and it was about minus 10 Celsius (about 20 F). It is supposed to warm up next week, so I hope to do more than walk back and forth in the house.

  3. I smiled when I read this line: “turn to poets to help find paths forward.” Maybe 30-45 minutes ago, I just transitioned from considering and writing about hard things by reading poetry. It’s only been the last few days that I’ve understood I don’t have to wait for poetry to find me; I can go out and find it, and will almost certainly feel more grounded when I do.

  4. Thank you for sharing Shobna’s words: I only have to look and I “see that kindness is more visible these days.” And it is kindness speaking through music and poetry that will replenish us for helping others.

  5. I just love Jimmy. He and I are almost the same age, so I was listening to this when I was 40. And he still playing, and I’m still listening.

    • Like IZ, he has so much life in his music. Whenever I listen to him, and he is loaded on my I-Pod in a big way, I envision the twinkle in his eye and the smile. IZ had a similar twinkle and smile. A Pirate at 40 got me through some challenging moments.

  6. Ivon, that music is for our times. It’s a beautiful post.

    • Thank you Micheline. I find, as I listen to music and I prefer that to TV, there is a lot of music new and old that resonates. Some of it I had forgotten about, like the Gene McLellan song and heard it on the radio. I listen to a lot of Jimmy Buffet and this is my all time favourite of his.


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