Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Invisible Something

What Invisible Something holds the Sierra Nevada Mountains up? What sustains the giant sequoias as they grow to be 30 feet around, 300 feet tall, and live for 3000 years? What inspires the rivers to dance and sing in the cascades?

In his “Autumn” poem, Rilke says that everything is falling — “the heavy earth is falling away from all the other stars in the loneliness.” I feel this at times, the heaviness, the sorrow, despair, the general listless dragging down toward earth.

And yet, after the leaves have fallen to the ground and the trees are bare, I can see the other side of the woods, and how untethered I feel from the earth, as if I could float up above the mountains. The air is cool and dry, and I feel lighter and lifted up. The southern slant of sunlight, the bright colors of the season, and the fresh, crisp air make me want to start something new.

But what holds the world together in the time of heaviness?

I think it is the assurance nestled in the back of our minds that there are seasons to life, that after the heaviness, we will feel lifted up. After the darkness, light will eventually return. And after death, there will be rebirth, although probably not in ways that we expect, and seldom as soon as we want it, but still rebirth.

At times it is people who hold me up when my life falls apart, or an amazing essay, or words I write that come on their own from some mysterious place and are more profound than what I understand. Often I’ll have unexpected conversations with strangers who show up just when I need them. Or a deer appears outside my window. A barred owl. Or a pod of silent, attentive ravens.

The ancient Celtic people believed that every day there would be something to mourn as well as something to celebrate, and they wanted to honor them by both crying and laughing. If we were paying attention to the lives of the people around us, they believed that we would see the sorrow that some had to bear as well as the joy that came unbidden to others.

The gravity of grief, of thousands and thousands of leaves falling, and feeling that each leaf is part of us, breaking off and falling away, is held up by the infinite calm of the universe in all its glory, the Invisible Something. And we are held up by the levity and strength of our love for each other.

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