Sunday, November 25, 2012


Today I would like to share a poem written by a dear friend. I'll share some of my own thoughts and responses at the bottom of the post. I invite appreciative readers to add their own reflections by posting in the comments section.

Prepare for reading the selected poem by previewing these leading questions:

  • How does this poem connect with you? In what way does it move you?  
  • How does the poem make you feel? What reactions does it inspire?  
  • What insights about universal Truth are revealed as you read the poem?



          --Julie Long


The beginning of a Flood
leaks into my mind

seeps through to my heart

washes over my soul
Inexorably filling
what had been drained by my tears

Washed-out Renewal


The beginning of a Word

speaks itself in my mind

wraps hard ‘round my heart
drags my soul to it
Compelling surrender
of what I guarded most well

Guarded Optimism


The beginning of a Mercy
once unknown in my mind
now a balm to my heart
keeps watch on my soul
Holding inside it
What I so fearfully, hopefully left unguarded

Unguarded Surrender


Some of my thoughts and responses to Julie's evocative poem follow:
  • This poem speaks to me about the balance between risk and assurance
  • As we move through our days, we are constantly torn: we feel the desire to reach out for new experiences and adventures on one hand, and the need to drive home the truth and deeper meaning of what we have tasted on the other. 
  • Over time we learn we are not islands unto our selves. The risks we take to gain experience change us, but they also effect others. It's difficult to balance these forces in one's own life, and even more daunting to maintain balance in relationships and communities.
  • To me, the poem is about the interplay of honesty and intimacy in mature relationships. (In fact, Julie shared her poem in response to an earlier PhilosFX post on that theme.)  How can we hope to be honest and intimate with others until we are first willing and able to be deeply and truly authentic? Until I accept myself and am truly comfortable in my own skin, how can I be a good friend or partner to another human being? If it's not OK to be honest with myself, how can I be honest with anyone?
  • I like the strong and clear structure of the poem: three parts, each part has a literal "beginning," a more figurative middle, and an end that flows into the next beginning. I would argue that the last stanza can be read as a prelude to the first in an ongoing cycle. 
  • Each of the three parts also has the recurring rhythm of mind, heart, and soul
  • The stanzas progress from a washed out renewal, to guarded optimism, to unguarded surrender. Surrender is an act of opening oneself up to new beginnings when the cycle inevitably repeats.  

When Julie first shared it with me as an inspirational and supportive comment to a previous post, the poem was neither named nor illustrated.  However, the name I gave it and the water-themed illustrations I chose for it seem (to me, anyway) to fit perfectly. Here's how they came about:
  • The title, Beginnings, plural, implies a series of iterative re-starts. I imagine life as a spiral ramp, leading onward and upwards in widening, concentric arcs. Hopefully we are aware enough to recognize the moments when we circle past the origin again on our way up. When we slip, we roll back down until we manage to stop our decent, collect ourselves, and start up again.
  • The first image shows two people  consoling themselves and each other as they silently survey a special place now covered in flood water. The colors are muted and the feeling is one of despair and isolation. Imagine or recall the moment when you rolled down the ramp, all the way to the bottom. Everything you had worked for: gone. The flood of your tears washed away all the old hopes and dreams until you realized--the ramp remained, The only thing to do? Get up, and start climbing again. 
  • The middle image is transitional and uplifting. The colors are muted, save for the bright ray of sunny hope at the top. A single bird takes flight over the water, soaring in the sun. The power of the water which washed everything away in the first stanza is not diminished in the second. If anything, the ocean is more powerful than the flood-stage river. But, guided by hope. the soaring bird is willing and able to fly upward and onward. 
  • The final image shows a swan gently caressing her cygnets. This is a beautiful imagery of mature love. The parent understands the dangers of the waters, but also the bounty that awaits. She cannot protect her babies forever. She has to let them go. She knows they will have to face their fears if they are to survive. 

Julie's poem touched me profoundly. Its insights are too powerful to leave as a comment to a previous blog post. Don't you agree? Please share your own thoughts and reactions in the Comments.