I first posted this column on 16 December 2017.
When I read Dave Nelson’s, Ruminations on turning 90 last week, I felt proud that we share an appreciation of Wm. Stafford’s, The Way It Is, for Stafford’s work is a source of inspiration for my writing just as Dave is my mentor of how to live a fully realized life.
This is in tribute to you, Dave. May we live long and prosper.
The Way It Is
There is a thread you follow. It goes among
Things that change. But it doesn’t change.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
Or die; and you suffer and get old.
While you hold it you can’t get lost
You have to explain about the thread
But it is hard for others to see.
Nothing you can do can stop time’s unfolding
Don’t ever let go of the thread.
— William Stafford
There is a thread you follow.
I do not remember the moment I realized it. I know it had something to do with light, and with air. Maybe a breath of wind caused a shudder and a glint of light caught what I held. Although I do not recall the moment, I do recall that the realization was momentous. I was hanging on by a thread.
I did not let go.
Tragedy happens, people get hurt.
It is a difficult journey. I recall many cross-currents buffeting me into contortions in which I barely recognized myself, twisted and swirling, confused as to direction, often angry, almost always careening off one barrier and into another. I was adrift.
More than anything, I just felt sad. There were too many stories, rumors, and shadows; like hoards of grasshoppers that chewed up the land, columns of ravenous strangers.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
And then I glimpsed a silken thread glinting in ways that dazzled me. I grabbed that thread as if it were a lifeline — and indeed it was. When I raised my head and peeked over the horizon I saw an unbroken procession of people pursuing a vision devoid of dominance or wealth. They too held in their hand the thread, it was made of sunlight and air and many small miracles.
You have to explain about the thread.
Many years have passed since then and much has changed. But, the thread has not. There is still a cortege of people who choose a less traveled path marked by a single thread and carried by those enthralled with our miraculous world, thick with mysteries. Their endeavors to find the words, shapes, and colors of life — and present them to the world aboard the ships of canvas, paper, and clay — is their legacy to the human spirit. And it is through the efforts of these travelers that we come to a better understanding that the act of artistic self-expression, regardless of medium, is an act worthy of respect and consideration.
A rapper riffing on street life and Christo wrapping islands in Miami are both essential contributions, among many, to understanding our place in the world.
It is hard for others to see.
Strange though it may seem, there are those who roundly scoff at such derring-do. It is difficult for them to grasp that which is beyond their immediate reach because so little value is attributed to the wonders that surround them. The shiny coins of wealth and prestige seem enough and anything to the contrary is considered a sinister and dangerous threat to their unexamined lives. Sadly, they are right, their lives are being capsized, but not by magic; they are sinking under the maleficence of greed and selfishness.
There is nothing we can do to stop time unfolding.
Some folks are setting out on long journeys guided only by a thread.
A few glow like sunrise and amaze us with their brilliance.
Some choose to spend their time tending a garden, harvesting and sowing.
A few friends will be leaving shortly; their ride is coming to take them home.