We keep saying yes to our chaotic, confused and imperfect life with courage and eagerness, all year long. When a year comes to an end, we may be happy about it, or sad. But sometimes, we simply feel lost, bewildered by the never-pausing cycles of clocks, calendars, and, time – the limited one, of our lives that is, and also, the eternity.
At times we are puzzled about our priceless yet mysterious journey here. What are we heading to? Or, where do we actually have to reach? More importantly, where is this very spot in space-time that we are standing at, and what it means to be exactly, Here?
Our inner landscape is clogged with words and images we constantly feed our consciousness with, more often than not, on these flashing screens – sadly the only things that have our continuous and undivided attention today. Our own version of our reality, therefore, is not truthful. For a clearer, truer glimpse of where we are, we need to see things in front of us, just as they are, surrounded by nothing but pure silences.
I have found time and again that being in nature can create those quietudes effortlessly. And so can poetry.
Fortunately for us, prolific poet & novelist named David Wagoner (June 5, 1926 – December 18, 2021) once combined his poetic prowess with the timeless wisdom native Americans derived from the natural world, in his spellbinding poem, “Lost” – which, in the moments of turmoil, I find myself going back to.
This poem has an incredible feeling of silence about it, capable of invoking in the reader, a profound sense of attention, and a fearless surrender to the higher intuition. Reciting it, one experiences an almost meditational clarity, arising from the realization of existing precisely, in Now.
The poet based “Lost” on the traditional teachings that northwest coast Indian elders gave to their children on what to do if they ever got lost in a dense forest of cedars situated high in the mountains, where one can’t see beyond few yards, or ascertain any of the four cardinal directions.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
In 1954, at little under thirty, when Wagoner’s moved to Pacific Northwest, it was a real change of consciousness for him, something that transformed his poetry forever.
“When I drove down out of the Cascades and saw the region that was to become my home territory for the next thirty years, my extreme uneasiness turned into awe. I had never seen or imagined such greenness, such a promise of healing growth. Everything I saw appeared to be living ancestral forms of the dead earth where I’d tried to grow up…” he once recalled.
Complement with my own short poem expressing an aspiration risen from being among trees.
Article ©2021 Gyaneshwari Dave
Excerpt of “Lost” by David Wagoner,
from Poetry, ©1971 by David Wagoner