Let’s begin with a poem, “Where the Circles Overlap” by Ada Limón, the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States.
We beg and beg.
The thesis is still a river.
At the top of the mountain
is a murderous light, so strong
it’s like staring into an original
that brief kinship of hold
and hand, the space between
teeth right before they break
into an expansion, a heat.
We beg and beg.
When should we mourn?
We think time is always time.
And place is always place.
Bottlebrush trees attract
the nectar lovers and we
capture, capture, capture.
The thesis is still the wind.
The thesis has never been exile.
We have never been exiled.
We have been in the sun,
strong and between sleep,
no hot gates, no house decayed,
just the bottlebrush alive
on all sides with want.
One reason I love poems is that “[p]oetry is language against which you have no defenses” (David Whyte). Having invited you to read the poem, above, I will now risk saying something about it, which you are free to defend against if it suits you.
I love this particular poem by Ada Limón, because it touches a true-feeling primal phenomenon. When did I start feeling exiled? I have burrowed, hunched, hurried, and hankered for as long as I can remember. Capturing more and more feels like begging’s logical outcome. Maybe so. Defined times and places distract from presence. Scarcity is the mindset of exile. This should bring us to tears—and often does.
Meanwhile, Nature’s thesis has always been the river, the wind, and breathtaking mountain-top light. Foundational joy. Nature’s thesis is wordless, yet it speaks. “You belong here because you are here. Because you are here, you belong here.”
The want of the bottlebrush tree seems different from my artificially generated craving. I crave to acquire or avoid in an endless quest to fill a void that can’t be. The bottlebrush attracts pollinators in direct relationship with pollinators being drawn to its nectar. The blossoms wither and fall. The tree stands dormant, yet still living until the next Spring. Nobody decided it should be so, Nature just develops what works.
Dip your fingers in the river. Feel the wind upon your face. You and I—with all our beautiful and terrible contradictions—are part of what works. Breathe in. Breathe out. Welcome home.
The Spiritual Naturalist Society works to spread awareness of spiritual naturalism as a way of life, develop its thought and practice, and help bring together like-minded practitioners in fellowship.
SNS strives to include diverse voices within the spectrum of naturalistic spirituality. Authors will vary in their opinions, terms, and outlook. The views of no single author therefore necessarily reflect those of all Spiritual Naturalists or of SNS.
(1) Ada Limón, The Hurting Kind, Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions (2022), pp. 31-32.