Calcutta - Early May 2014
One of my favorite radio programs, On Being, had a lovely post on its blog today (http://www.onbeing.org/blog/simple-gifts/6303) from Parker Palmer about the inspiration he takes from Mary Oliver's poem, Wild Geese. He writes: "What I know for sure is that life becomes very painful when I don't feel at home with who I am, or with the rich diversity of beings with whom I share this planet."
By Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean-blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Both Palmer's words and Oliver's poem feel especially poignant having spent the last two days in Calcutta, where for the first time on the trip I struggled with feeling at home in myself and connected to the people around me.
Perhaps it's because we came straight from Darjeeling, where I felt so enveloped in the love and sweetness of our scholars there. Perhaps it's because I picked up a little bug along the way, and was sick and grumpy. Perhaps I couldn't get past the overwhelming intensity that is Calcutta.
Regardless, this poem brings me lots of comfort today.
This work is hard. India is hard. We have ups and downs and yet what always rises to the surface is love. Why else do this? Already I feel so much love for these young women who are braver and stronger and more motivated than I have ever been.
I realize this is more than a mission, an idea or a charity. These women have entrusted their lives to Katrell and the Learning Tea and Katrell has devoted her life to supporting them. What beautiful mutual belonging - a shared "place in the family of things."
Katherine Branch, for The Learning Tea