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Set the Backpack Down

Several years ago, I was in the midst of professional struggles and wrote this poem while attending a retreat based on Parker Palmer‘s work. At the time, I was reading his book, The Heart of Democracy. In the book, I came across the following quote:

“Suffering breaks our hearts, but the heart [that is] supple … breaks open, not apart, [and] can grow into greater capacity for the many forms of love. Only the supple heart can hold suffering in a way that opens to new life.”

Joanna Macy has a similar quote: “The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.” If my memory is accurate it is this quote that informed Parker’s writing at the time. It is about hopefulness. Hopefulness is not going it alone. It is walking up the mountain together, with those who we can share the burdens of our mutual journey together. Companionship is about sharing bread along the journey, not hoarding it. This is an apt metaphor. What does bread mean in our daily lives?

Parker reminded me passion is not just about love that comes easily. Passion is love has moments of suffering, sometimes long moments. We can each grow through these moments or wallow in self-pity. The other part of suffering is I was not in it alone. Whether it was a colleague who listened, parents who came to check in with me every few days, or Kathy giving me space to make career decisions, I was not in these moments alone.

At the time, I was writing poetry for the first time in years and it was a healing space; a space where I tried to become whole. An essential part of becoming whole is speaking from the heart, which may not mean speaking out loud. In speaking to one another this way, I must listen more closely.

Weighing us down;

We set backpacks down,

Without companions,

The path terrifying,

The mountain is high,

Its peak obscured.

Sharing one’s load;

Trusting,

Settng one’s course right,

Being true to one’s heart,

Only other hearts hear,

Will others hear?

Speaking one’s truth;

Inviting,

Sharing

Lightening loads;

Strengthening our resolve,

Straighening backs,

Squaring shoulders,

Holding heads high.

Will we walk together?

Will we share our loads?

Will we lighten the journey?

I leave you with a wonderful short video from a Canadian performer, David Francey called Morning Train.

 

About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and taught for 15 years in a wonderful hybrid school. My dissertation topic and research were how certain teachers experience becoming who teachers. In teaching and leanring, I am a boundary-crosser who understands moving ahead is a leap of faith. Teaching is a calling and vocation to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what calls me next. I am an educator, phenomenologist, scholar, boundary-crosser, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

13 responses »

  1. Merci ! sufferings of all sorts have to be surrpunded.
    Les épreuves sont faites pour être surmontées.
    Amitiés 🙂 Bonne et paisible semaine !

    Reply
  2. Thanks for sharing. A few years ago, I read Palmer’s The Courage to Teach. At the time I thought, someday I would like to attend one of his Puget Sound workshops. Time for a reread. 🙏

    Reply
    • The retreats are spread out, but the ones in the Seattle area are generally quite breathtaking with the scenery. The organization that facilitates is called the Center for Courage and Renewal. You can find them with a quick Internet search. Take care and be well Heidi.

      Reply
  3. It is especially comforting in times like this to have others that we can communicate with through various ways. It not only gives us comfort but most likely will give others comfort as well. Your posts always bring a smile to my face and warm my heart.

    Reply
  4. Beautiful post 🙏🏻🌈

    Reply
  5. theburningheart

    Ah! T heart that breaks, its the heart , that it’s set on fire, therefore the handle name to my gravatar.

    Beautiful! 🙂

    Reply

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