This week, death has nudged a little closer: the devastating war, the shameful famine, the choaking of the earth and the passing of time.
And for some, it is closer to home.
In the face of this, we have a range of choices. From closing the door and hoping it doesn’t come any nearer, to waking up and asking how we can honour life by living more fully.
The unexpected death of a beloved and highly respected elder in our church family at the weekend prompted the question. And in celebrating her life, I am glad that it prompted the re-evaluation of my own.
Yet this isn’t a one-off exploration. Depending on how much baggage, disinformation, and masks we’ve accumulated, it may take a while.
So here is May Sarton’s timeless reflection, from Collected Poems, 1930-1973:
NOW I BECOME MYSELF
Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before—”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my Time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is Time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!
Let’s keep walking together on the path of becoming.