Poetry of Waiting
I'm interested in the poetry of waiting and in waiting poetically. We spend so much of our lives waiting, and there are so many stances, so many ways to wait. Right now we, in Edmonton, are waiting for spring. (The rain just washed away the last of the snow in our yard). I'm waiting for spring by going to the florist. (The Coral Charm peonies in this post are from Panda Flowers). I'm finding ways to enjoy the waiting.
John Tarrant in The Light Inside the Darkness says:
"We are waiting for the seasons to change. We are waiting for our time to come around, or that opening to appear in the Tao where we can walk through and touch somebody. Whereas if we had moved before, everything would have been wrong - no point, no effect. Sometimes the right thing to do is to wait. In the hexagram in the I-Ching about waiting, it says you should enjoy yourself with this kind of waiting, you should eat and drink and be of good cheer. We do not need to be dour about waiting because we are in tune with the seasons. It is the right time to wait."
In Gravity and Grace, Simone Weil says:
"The attitude of looking and waiting is the attitude which corresponds with the beautiful. As long as one can go on conceiving, wishing, longing, the beautiful does not appear. That is why in all beauty we find contradiction, bitterness, and absence which are irreducible."
What happens when we wait, attentive, present, open to the beautiful, knowing full well it might not appear? Does our waiting become more beautiful? Worthwhile? How does it change the one waiting?
We are all familiar with the person who taps their fingers or keys, or what have you, when they are waiting for you to do something for them. How can we redirect their attention or thoughts in a productive way? I sometimes like to ask, how has your day been going so far? And see where that leads us. In my experience, it's always an interesting conversation.
What if instead of waiting for our messy life to become pristine, we embraced that mess? What if we just looked at what we had or how far we have come (and haven't we all come such a great and lovely distance) as a blessing?
by Leza Lowitz
You keep waiting for something to happen,
the thing that lifts you out of yourself,
catapults you into doing all the things you've put off
the great things you're meant to do in your life,
but somehow never quite get to.
You keep waiting for the planets to shift
the new moon to bring news,
the universe to align, something to give.
Meanwhile, the pile of papers, the laundry, the dishes the job –
it all stacks up while you keep hoping
for some miracle to blast down upon you,
scattering the piles to the winds.
Sometimes you lie in bed, terrified of your life.
Sometimes you laugh at the privilege of waking.
But all the while, life goes on in its messy way.
And then you turn forty. Or fifty. Or sixty...
and some part of you realizes you are not alone
and you find signs of this in the animal kingdom
when a snake sheds its skin its eyes glaze over,
it slinks under a rock, not wanting to be touched,
and when caterpillar turns to butterfly
if the pupa is brushed, it will die –
and when the bird taps its beak hungrily against the egg
it's because the thing is too small, too small,
and it needs to break out.
And midlife walks you into that wisdom
that this is what transformation looks like –
the mess of it, the tapping at the walls of your life,
the yearning and writhing and pushing,
until one day, one day
you emerge from the wreck
embracing both the immense dawn
and the dusk of the body,
just as you are.
How do we create for ourselves a stillness within the waiting? How can we wait without hunger, ready to receive? This is what the next poem asks, which is one of my favourite poems because it has the beautiful effect of creating this very stillness in the reader.
by Esther Morgan
You’ve been living for this for weeks
without knowing it:
the moment the house empties like a city in August
it forgets you exist.
Light withdraws slowly
is almost gone before you notice.
In the stillness, everything becomes itself:
the circle of white plates on the kitchen table
the serious chairs that attend them
even the roses on the papered walls
seem to open a little wider.
It looks simple: the glass vase holding
whatever is offered—
cut flowers, or the thought of them—
simple, though not easy
this waiting without hunger in the near dark
for what you may be about to receive.
- found in Grace by Esther Morgan
I don't know how many times I have read this next poem. Each time, I say to it, oh yes, I know you, poem. I know you, dream. I know you for what you are.
This is the Dream
by Olav H. Hauge
This is the dream we carry through the world
that something fantastic will happen
that it has to happen
that time will open by itself
that doors shall open by themselves
that the heart will find itself open
that mountain springs will jump up
that the dream will open by itself
that we one early morning
will slip into a harbour
that we have never known.
There's a relatively new volume of work by Hauge out, titled Luminous Spaces, which includes his poems and journals.
I think writers and art makers understand this feeling – if only something fantastic would happen, then my art would be better, I would write more, or make more art. When we stop imagining that someone or something will save us, then we can settle into the life of making things. We can open the doors that will open, ourselves, and this is ultimately more satisfying.
And anyway, there are other dreams to carry through the world. Other stances. We might wait patiently. We might be thinking, we might be still, we might be daydreaming.
We can wait with flowers, that are so beautiful they make us cry.
We can wait actively. We can open doors, windows, our heart.
We can wait, creating an inner stillness, that is so calming, it ripples out from us and is felt by all around.
While we wait, we can fill up on wonder, on beauty, on now. We can wait without hoping something fantastic will happen to us, because in our waiting, we know how fantastic it is to merely be exactly ourselves. That grace. That grace.