Wage Tenderness, Wage Peace
A couple of days ago I was all set to write a post about anger. You see, it had welled up in me and I didn’t know what to do with it. I sat in my gray chair in the corner of my study with all my Pema Chodron books on my lap. I read, I said my mantra. Then I looked at photos of Ace. I know I’ve hit the anger stage of grief. I’ve talked about this with friends, and even laughed a bit about it. I’ve told people how I’ve been yelling at clouds: I WASN’T READY FOR THIS! I’m still not ready for him to be gone. Nevertheless.
Meanwhile, that dog loss anger brought up other points of anger, and in all honesty I had a bit of a rage-fest. Angry at various people who’ve said lousy things to me, dumped me, or disappeared from me in silence. I’m also pretty angry at the political climate, you know, etc etc. Climate change! Don’t forget climate change. So.
The thing about losing a dog is that they’re great comfort for all the other hoo-haw. One spends hours a day petting, touching, talking to, sitting with, walking, feeding, being drooled upon, and perhaps taking photos of one’s pet. The logical thing would maybe be to get another dog but we’ve decided that we’re going to live with things the way they are right now.
Long story short, I decided I didn’t want to write a post about anger. I wanted peace. I wanted tenderness. I wanted to tend to myself, to the bruises. I wanted to lick my wounds alone.
So, I went back to this poem which was written for 9-11 but works for a lot of things:
by Judyth Hill
Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings
and flocks of redwing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children
and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen
and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening:
hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools:
flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don't wait another minute.
It seems to me that what we need is peace, what we need is tenderness.
I was reminded of the lines by C.D. Wright from Deepstep Come Shining. She says:
“There are enough signs. Of the lack of tenderness in the world. And yet. And yet. All you have to do is ask. Anyone here can extol the virtues of an onion. Where to get barbecue minced, pulled, or chopped. The hour of the day they have known the thorn of love.”
We can remember the lines by Robert Bly:
“I am proud only of those days that pass in
Let’s next move to this poem by Erica Funkhouser:
by Erica Funkhouser
Last night the animals
beneath her window
crept out of hiding
to comb the dirt
from each other's fur.
Rising to watch,
she discovered the lilacs
lit from below by ivory vinca.
The street on the other side
of the trees continued
to contain its passing cars;
tenderly her teeth
let her tongue rest
against their curving backs.
Tonight when she lies
in bed again,
she will remember
the one kind thing
her grown daughter said today
after weeks of scrutiny,
and the moment at work
just now, when a stack
of Day-Glo folders
cascaded over her desk,
thrilling the white cubicle
with their descent.
There are enough signs of a lack of tenderness as C.D. Wright says. And yet, and yet.
I sat in my chair and waged tenderness with my anger as I thought about small lovely moments. Kind moments. All of the nice things people have done for me. I thought about friends who have brought me flowers, or homemade bread. I thought about drinking pro-secco to good news with good people.
How about we lie in bed and remember that one kind thing from our day. That one tender moment, beautiful accident, chance encounter, a look exchanged. The way a hand rests on the top of a dog's head, the fondling of a floppy ear. The sympathetic look someone gives you in a long line-up. The caring and funny email a friend writes you. The glass of wine poured for you at the end of a long day.
And here is one for the poets writing what they can in April, poetry month.
On the Threshold of the Poem
by Anna Kamienska
On the threshold of the poem shake off the dust
the powder of hate from your soul
set aside passion
so as not to defile words
Into this space step alone
and the tenderness of things will enfold you
and lead you toward the dark
as if you had lost worldly sight
There whatever was named will return
and stand in the radiance so you and I
can find each other
like two trees that were lost in fog
How can we find radiance, how can we come to poetry, if we don’t first shake off the powder of hate from our soul?
“How do I gather up those rose petals of tenderness? How do we acknowledge it exists in these many reflections and refractions? How do we tend to one another, hush and sing and care for each other, when some of us have felt too much tenderness. Too much connection. How do we tend to this ‘too much’, this ‘too much’ which manifests in ways that do not urge us out of the earth at the sun’s first blush to meet its return, but in fact triggers us to bury deeper into the soil, to find safety in its embrace? How do we hold space for these many experiences of tenderness?”
– Zoe Todd