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Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person.

 I discovered this gift in another book while rooting around for a topic for my next blog—gift because of its striking use of juxtaposition: creates, sanctuary, and homeless parts with listening; gift, because of its power in shoving apart steel barriers imprisoning my psychic depths. I still wince at the scraping sounds on the cement floor of my prison.
 

Its distinguished author is Rachel Naomi Remen, medical teacher, author, poet, and currently professor at Osher Center of Integrative Medicine at University of California San Francisco.

Rachel Naomi Remen

So moved was I by this quotation that I decided to use it in the first person, then amplify it according to my present circumstances.

My CPA Recovery teaches the primacy of listening, of stepping back from distractions and become fully engaged in the beauty of the unfolding moment, whether shared with a significant other or alone, whether spoken or in print. Exercising the Twelve Steps facilitates this process.

Like pesky mosquitoes hovering over creek beds, my symptoms zap my inner quiet and prohibit listening—then, imprison me until time for bed and sleep with my “cocktail.” Such intrusions pull me out of prayer and into anxiety, impatience, and my need for help, more than I’d like to admit.

But when I’m able to sort through the rabble and bring compassion to the troublemakers, or the homeless parts, a new creation occurs: its colors, scintillating and fresh, like that First Morning Genesis describes. I find myself in a sanctuary, a place of communion, peace, and joy, unlike any I’ve seen around the world.

Only Precious God produces such revelations that buoy me until the next one, usually on the heels of a spell of aridity. I’m humbled and grateful.

Questions about the timing of Mary Oliver’s last publication, Upstream, Selected Essays in 2016 caught my attention. She passed in 2018.

In these nineteen essays, two of which are original to this slim volume, she left us a life-long template of her spirited struggles. It’s as if she had unfurled gossamer threads over her troubled psyche; then wove them into a wordsmith, a solitary, a listener, a passionate observer of life’s waxing and waning, a priestess.

For whatever reasons, Mary Oliver was not safe in her childhood home or in the classroom. Such fragile beginnings are nuanced in her first essay, together with the compelling influence of her mentors, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allen Poe, and Walt Whitman. Only in the surrounding woods and creek outside her semi-rural Cleveland home did she find solace; it became her Temple where she pondered, wrote, and discovered who she was, what she was, and what she wanted to be in the world.

And she became that, and exquisitely so.

Her nineteen essays in Upstream reflect her affinity with whatever flies in the skies, maneuvers on the forest floor, or swims in the ocean: a black-backed gull, a snapping turtle, a common spider, among others. Her judiciously placed words illumine the depth of her exuberance; its freshness feels like the first morning of creation. Yet, the leitmotif of death shadows its élan.

Perhaps sensing her own, she must have selected each essay in Upstream, mindful of its whorl of energy enriching the one following and plunging her readers into the mystery of living life with its imponderables.

 

Available on Amazon

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