Turtle, Crevasse, and River

What do a turtle, a crevasse, and a raging river have in common? I don’t know. Perhaps you can tell me after reading these words of wisdom that, for some reason, came together in my mind today.

The Turtle

by Mary Oliver

breaks from the blue-black

skin of the water, dragging her shell

with its mossy scutes

across the shallows and through the rushes

and over the mudflats, to the uprise,

to the yellow sand,

to dig with her ungainly feet

a nest, and hunker there spewing

her white eggs down

into the darkness, and you think

of her patience, her fortitude,

her determination to complete

what she was born to do –

and then you realize a greater thing –

she doesn’t consider

what she was born to do.

She’s only filled

with an old blind wish.

It isn’t even hers but came to her

in the rain or the soft wind,

which is a gate through which her life keeps walking.

She can’t see

herself apart from the rest of the world

or the world from what she must do

every spring.

Crawling up the high hill,

luminous under the sand that has packed against her skin.

she doesn’t dream

she knows

she is a part of the pond she lives in,

the tall trees are her children,

the birds that swim above her

are tied to her by an unbreakable string.

From The Love of Impermanent Things by Mary Rose O’Reilley.

This country has puzzled me since 1960, when I belatedly began to think. Where did we get the idea that we are entitled to be pain free and worry free, that accidents must always be someone’s fault, that all cancers should be gotten in time, that babies should be born flawless, and that death could be relegated to the back burner? What is the implicit idea about being human here?… Under the rock of every fear is the refusal to accept the contractual conditions of being human. I don’t know why I came into the world or where I will go when I boil over on the back burner, but I know that I was born into a condition of radical instability…The only way to overcome fear is to accept without equivocation the worst it can propose, belay your ropes, and step across the next crevasse. We have no choice, anyway, about stepping.

And finally, from the Hopi Elders.

This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast.

It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.

They will try to hold on to the shore.

They will feel like they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination.

The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off toward the middle of

the river,

keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.

See who is there with you and celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally,

least of all ourselves!

For the moment we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lonely wolf is over.

Gather yourselves!

Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary.

All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.


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  1. but its the song that came to mind.

  2. … but your essay has me in tears.

    As buhdy would say, I’m “eating the bitter” right now, as so beautifully illustrated by the “crevasse.”

    Thank you for this, Pandora.

  3. When one fears, it is a grasping, a clinging to a previously held sense of security, of comfort. The one who fears does not live in the present, does not really live at all, merely reacts. It is sooooo exhilarating to turn loose of the fear and live in the moment, to walk across that narrow bridge over the yawning crevasse. The first time I ate acid back in the 60s, one of the biggest epiphanies I had was why I loved riding bulls so much before the army turned me into a hippy. It was the adrenaline, it was the rush of living life in it’s fullest, on a moment to moment basis. The adrenaline wasn’t produced so much as a reaction to the fear I may or may not have felt at the time, it was in anticipation of living at the 100% level, of being fully committed to the ride the moment I called for the gate to be opened. That rush of adrenaline, of life was as psycedelic as was the acid.

    And the manner in which to channel that surge of energy became obviously clear to me after riding for awhile. If I felt that energy as fear, I would freeze up, literally become too stiff to ride well, or too stiff to ride at all, really. The answer was, and is……..wait for it ….go with the flow, doh. If I was going with the flow, I could anticipate which way the bull was turning and act accordingly, substantially raising my odds of riding the full 8 seconds, and maybe, just maybe win enough money to get to the next rodeo in style, instead of by broke down motorcycles and $100 cars, if not by thumb. Ah, it was such a great life.

    But I digress. The point of crossing crevasses, of riding bulls, of throwing rocks at the WTO leaders as they show up for their big whoop-ass conference, is that these are all acts of, and in, the moment. These are people living in the joy of experience, in the light of day, not people crouched in their modern day caves watching the modern day fire, afraid to look out the door.

    In the words of the Hopi elder you quote NL,

    See who is there with you and celebrate.

    great essay NL, and very much OT to so many of the issues today.

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