You could be right. Maybe there is a vast conspiracy, a web of lies wrapped around generations, a fraud so vast and pervasive that only the enlightened catch glimpses in shadowed alleys. Do you want to know? Do you dare to tug on the smallest of those tangled threads? Are you courageous enough to look at the edges of your vision? Begin with these questions: Whose stories have I not been allowed to hear? Who have I placed outside the circle of my concern? If I were to really listen, what might crack open and be born?
– Lynn Ungar – November 29, 2021
With the new covid variant “omicron,” gaining traction and making global headlines, countries are responding, re-heating debate and dissent, protest and polarization. Ungar’s questions are wise reminders to help us hold the centre when there’s heat on the rim, to invite us into curiosity, to remind us of all we do not know.
I wonder if some language has a word for it – the elation of a perfect fall day, crisp and gilt-edged and glowing, mixed with melancholy of wondering whether this might be the peak, the moment when the fruit is perfectly sweet before it tips to decay. I mean not just the coming winter, but the dropping shoe of it all- flood and drought and the cruelty of the terrified and in denial.
And what if another perfect day does come, and I fail to notice? What if I wake up as if from a dream in which I’ve opened a room full of opulent gifts, and then neglected to thank the giver? It happens. The ground is littered with bright leaves and sturdy acorns. I carefully select a few to bring inside, when I could lie down and roll in the brittle beauty of it all.
– Lynn Ungar – October 2, 2021
“Gosh, I could gush every day over the golden, glorious gorgeousness of these autumn days,” I wrote to a friend in response to the photos we were both posting. And then I read Lynn Ungar’s most recent poem, and knew that before these perfect fall days pass, I will lie down and roll in their brittle beauty and thank the giver.
We knew it would come crashing down, but now we are in the clatter – fire, drought, flood, smoke, heat, the million and one ways that beings cry out. We thought there would be more time. We pretended that we didn’t know. We squandered so much that we might have saved, and for what? Trinkets. Glitter. The pleasures of ignorance and a basket full of Happy Meals.
It’s time to ask the dying what they know. What will you give up to cure what is killing you? What do you pursue when your days are numbered? Gaze into the eyes of a beloved old dog. Bury your face in her neck and engrave the scent on your memory. Let your heart break open. Learn to cherish what remains.
– Lynn Ungar –
Lynn Ungar first came to my attention last year with her “viral” poem, Pandemic. Straight to the point and heart, her words pierce with truthfulness. A week ago, our beloved Annie dog went under for a brief diagnostic procedure. Thankfully an “all OK” diagnosis, she returned home that day woozy and with a package each of probiotics and antacids, hopefully to curb the somedays’ frantic rush to eat grass. But with eleven and a half years under her belt, and a decade this month with us, I know the times we walk together are ever precious. But isn’t it so for each of us – how life changes on a dime? Once again, around the world, we see how precarious, precious, and fragile our circumstances. Reading Radical Regeneration: Birthing the New Human in the Age of Extinction (2020) by Andrew Harvey and Carolyn Baker makes the unequivocal point that we are living in the end times. The posthumous One Drum (2019) by Richard Wagamese cites ancient prophesy of a time “when words would fly like lightning bolts across the sky, and ” when “the human family would move farther apart and that this separation, the break in energy, would cause great stress upon the Earth… floods, titanic storms, famine, earthquakes, the departure of animals, strange diseases, and turmoil among all peoples.” (22)
How do you know what’s essential? Could you have predicted this particular version of paring down? Perhaps your work is essential, but maybe not. The face you wear to the outside world, the picture in the mirror, has probably slipped. Even the fundamentals of human touch might not be required to assure us that we are not alone. Who could have imagine that we would somehow come down to making bread even without yeast? To the fact that with nothing more than food and water and air and time, even the least of us will find a way to rise?
– Lynn Ungar – April 28, 2020
One year ago this week, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Determining what and who was essential continues to be of consideration in decision making. Global vaccination rollouts promise a light at the end of this very long, dark, and lonely tunnel. While this past year, much has changed and too, much has remained the same. Hoarding toilet paper is giving way in some countries to hoarding vaccinations. Home bakers are making their sourdough creations their livelihoods. Virtual meetings, family gatherings and celebrations have become “de rigeur” and may change the landscape of onsite work. Here at home, I continue to feel the absence of essential connections.
The trees, along their bare limbs, contemplate green. A flicker, rising, flashes rust and white before vanishing into stillness, and raked leaves crumble imperceptibly to dirt.
On all sides life opens and closes around like a mouth. Will you pretend you are not caught between its teeth?
The kestrel in its swift dive and the mouse below, the first green shoots that will not wait for spring are a language constantly forming.
Quiet your pride and listen. There — beneath the rainfall and the ravens calling you can hear it — the great tongue constantly enunciating something that rings through the world as grace.
Lynn Ungar (Bread and Other Miracles)
Last week when I wrote about Wintering, I was aware it was Imbolc, the ancient Celtic holy day, midway between Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox, that honours the “barely beginnings” of new life. Try as I might to acknowledge that in my post, I couldn’t, needing instead to simply stay put in the depth of wintering. Maybe a prescient response to the deep Arctic cold that descended upon us this week, nonetheless, those barely beginnings are evident. Sun rising earlier in the morning, sitting higher in the noon sky, setting later in the afternoon. Hyacinth, tulip and daffodil bulbs forced in greenhouse warmth. Latent buds on trees. We wait. It comes. Winter into Spring.
One morning you might wake up to realize that the knot in your stomach had loosened itself and slipped away, and that the pit of unfulfilled longing in your heart had gradually, and without your really noticing, been filled in—patched like a pothole, not quite the same as it was, but good enough.
And in that moment it might occur to you that your life, though not the way you planned it, and maybe not even entirely the way you wanted it, is nonetheless— persistently, abundantly, miraculously— exactly the way it is.