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Tag Archives: Theodore Roethke

A Light Breather

Theodore Roethke wrote poems that attempted to connect the inner and outer worlds we inhabit simultaneously. While exploring the outer world, it is important we find quiet in the inner world. In those quiet moments, moving back and forth we find ourselves staying.

The metaphor comparing this movement to that of a snail challenges me to think deeply about what living and breathing mindfully is. What do I notice? And, who and what notices me? As I move, am I sensitive to the world that I move through? Or, do I walk heavily chasing those who which to join me away?

The spirit moves,
Yet stays:
Stirs as a blossom stirs,
Still wet from its bud-sheath,
Slowly unfolding,
Turning in the light with its tendrils;
Plays as a minnow plays,
Tethered to a limp weed, swinging,
Tail around, nosing in and out of the current,
Its shadows loose, a watery finger;
Moves, like the snail,
Still inward,
Taking and embracing its surroundings,
Never wishing itself away,
Unafraid of what it is,
A music in a hood,
A small thing,

Long Live the Weeds

Theodore Roethke wrote this poem that echoes the writing of Shunryu Suzuki, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Thomas Merton. Frequently, I forget the need for weeds. They add to the richness of the garden I call my life. Roethke said it so eloquently: “These shape the creature that is I”. The good and the not-so-good of life help shape me.

Today, I talked with students about a need for resiliency, so when we run into those bumps along the road of life or find weeds in life’s garden, we realize they are there to make us a fuller and richer person. Often, when I look back, I see the beauty of something that I felt was harmful when it happened. Perhaps, I was just not ready for what I thought I wanted, needed to be patient, and wait my turn. Or I was not ready to fully understand what needed to learn and needed to mature.

Long live the weeds that overwhelm

My narrow vegetable realm!–

The bitter rock, the barren soil

That force the son of man to toil;

All things unholy, marked by curse,

The ugly of the universe.

The rough, the wicked, the wild

That keep the spirit undefiled.

With these I match my wit

And earn the right to stand or sit,

Hope, look, create, or drink and die:

These shape the creature that is I.

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