The Green Place
Over millennia mankind has crafted a myriad of obstacles that hide the doorway to an inviolable part of the soul. We cover the entrance with arrogance, we cover it with fear. We visit it only in vulnerability, in brokenness, in wonder. It is a green place that lives in the core of our being, a place which, left ignored or untended, can, over time, turn utterly to dust, leaving us blind to the treasures we are offered in this life. It is an elusive part of the soul, but wisdom floats on its breezes and hope shines down in its light. I cannot tell you how to get there, I doubt that anyone can. But you’ll know it when you do.
I have wandered the hillsides of this green place many times, often guided by poets whose words I cannot explain but understand as well as I do my own name. They are the weavers of wisdom, people to whom a gift has been given, and so often their words are the incantation that unlocks this door to my soul, setting me loose to wander these illuminated fields like an inarticulate child glimpsing heaven. Poet David Whyte has written, “Poetry is the language against which we have no defenses.” And he’s right. Poetry so often comes bearing a light of truth that only our soul understands. We need it, especially now.
April was National Poetry Month here in the US and I gave myself a personal challenge of sorts to post a favourite poem each April day on my Instagram page. Despite my concern that I wouldn’t have enough, I found I had many, many left over and I realized anew how much poetry has influenced and comforted me throughout my life.
At present, there seems to be a concentrated effort in the world to devalue the beautiful and denigrate those very things that make the soul breathe. Empathy is weakness. Wisdom is superseded by financial success. When America’s president publicly expresses contempt for the poor and is applauded for it, we have not only turned our backs on truth, but we’ve closed the door on decency as well. In this time of darkness it is imperative that we find that green place in our soul. We must dig through any vines that have grown up over the door, dig till our fingers bleed and tears stain our faces. Once on that hillside we will know we are not alone in our hunger for goodness.
On that hillside we will hear Shakespeare say,
“The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this scepter sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy."
We will hear the echo of Mary Oliver’s question:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
And we may resolve, like Amy Lowell:
“...For I have time for nothing
But the endeavor to balance myself
Upon a broken world.”
painting above by Gustave Dore