Welcome to day 31 of 31 Days of Kissing the Wounds, a month of posts about the beauty, longing, and soul inherent in our damaged selves; in the world’s brokenness; in the imperfection, incompleteness, and transience of all that we love; in our recognition of each other as the walking wounded; and in the jagged, messy, splintery, deformed, sullied, unhealed parts of me, you, the natural world, our communities, the culture. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others. I won’t attempt to tie them together.
“It’s an ugly woods, I was saying to myself, padding along a trail where other walkers had broken ground before me. And then I found an extraordinary bouquet. Someone had bound an offering of dry seed pods, yew, lyme grass, red berries, and brown fern and laid it on the path: ‘nothing special,’ as Buddhists say, meaning ‘everything.’ Gathered to formality, each dry stalk proclaimed a slant, an attitude, infinite shades of neutral.
All contemplative acts, silences, poems, honor the world this way. Brought together by the eye of love, a milkweed pod, a twig, allow us to see how things have been all along. A feast of being.”
― Mary Rose O’Reilley, The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd
Yes to bouquets that honour the world and help us see what’s there already, what we had overlooked or mistaken. I love stumbling upon a bouquet, or a tableau, arranged by human hands or not. I love a signpost, a marker, an offering, a reminder not only of beauty, not only of presence, but of whimsy, solemnity, intention, the transcendent made immanent, the extraordinary ordinariness that exists, that’s created, and that can become.
But also: Yes to what is, without the bouquet. Yes to the broken trail, the ugly woods, the messy relationship, the agitation of feeling nothing special, the boredom and craving, the restlessness while walking the well-trodden path.
Yes, in other words, to being known and to being liked “as is,” whether ugly, ordinary, arranged, poetic, a feast or a famine, the song that summer sings, the chill that autumn brings (to quote Elvis Costello).
Yes to knowing ourselves as broken, damaged, and wounded; yes to knowing ourselves as breakers, damagers, wounders; yes to being known as both victims and persecutors (not to mention prosecutors). Not because harming another is good, but because none of us is good in that sense. To quote from House, M.D., again, “We all make mistakes, and we all pay a price.” (episode #107)
Yes to being restless, anxious, bored, irritated, bitchy. It’s not fun to be on either end of those feelings, and we all know it. Knowing it is what makes it possible to be compassionate. Knowing it is the signpost, the reminder of what’s true, that human nature is complex and puzzling at times, that our motivations are almost always mixed, that most of us struggle and muddle and somehow maintain hope and joy anyway. Most of us even manage kindness and compassion, often in the midst of our suffering.
Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field at Twilight
by Jane Hirshfield
her nose to the ground,
a rusty shadow
neither hunting nor playing.
One stood; sat; lay down; stood again.
One never moved,
except to turn her head a little as we walked.
Finally we drew too close,
and they vanished.
The woods took them back as if they had never been.
I wish I had thought to put my face to the grass.
But we kept walking,
speaking as strangers do when becoming friends.
There is more and more I tell no one,
strangers nor loves.
This slips into the heart
without hurry, as if it had never been.
And yet, among the trees, something has changed.
Something looks back from the trees,
and knows me for who I am.
So yes to those whose “slightest look,” as e.e. cummings put it, “easily will unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself.”
Yes to what reminds us who we are, wholly, holy. For what uncloses us. For what and who knows us for who we are, through and through.
For me, it’s a few people, certainly the presence of wild animals (insects, snakes, horseshoe crabs, turtles, mammals, birds), and many dogs, a few cats. My own reflection in a train window. Photographs, music, books, and paintings, occasionally, and sometimes just a sentence or an image. Groups of people — dinners, parties, conversations — when I feel a settling, a shifting, sometimes a sort of sigh that envelops and holds. Walking in a big city. Often, walking in the woods, around a lake, by the ocean. Hard rain and storms. Birds, very close. The sound of birds flying. Trains. The feel of sand, and wind, which has been everywhere. Some kind of god, who knows and likes us all, even the most unlikable. For me, this is the essence of faith, realising it’s not about morality, it’s not about being heroically “good”, but instead it’s about receiving something, relaxing into being known by someone who wants to lure us into “a field beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing” (to quote Rumi) where life is full, and in that fullness, our sense of beautiful and ugly merge in some way I can’t even imagine.
What about for you? How do you feel known?
Thanks for checking in. And be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers wrote about.