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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

The Thing with Feathers

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Get Outside

Bring out a chair, or a blanket. Just sit, or lie down, or stand in your yard or a park somewhere. Breathe deeply. Look around. Breathe some more. Take a close look at a blade of grass or some little weed. Or a bug. Or a big tree. Heave a sigh of relief. Just be, just for a few minutes.

Loosely based on several tools in Toolkits 1, 2 and 5. Here's the Index of all toolkits. And The Mini-Toolkit: For Those with Little or No Time.

The Thing with Feathers

I almost didn't have a veggie garden this year. There are so many ways I find to not write and gardening is one of them. It can be a scary thing to write (and even scarier to put my babies out in the world). So as I have been trying to figure out how to minimize writing distractions and excuses, I knew that as summer progressed, my gardens would likely call loudly for weeding, watering, picking, processing and more. So, maybe no garden this year?

And then there's the fact that the sunniest spot on our property (with just enough sun to grow reasonably happy veggies) was, evidently, a driveway before we arrived on the scene. That is, if you dig down a half inch or so in that area you'll find about 15% dirt and 85% gravel. So we have to use raised beds. However, several of the wooden beds (other materials being too expensive) had rotted rather dramatically over the last year, and needed replacing. Another reason not to plant--it would make Lawrence's job of replacing the beds a lot more difficult, if not impossible.

But then I found myself thinking, "well, maybe I can plant a few sugarsnap peas in one of the less-rotted beds." I love sugarsnaps. One thing lead to another and now, thanks to Lawrence's hard work I have two fully renovated beds and one entirely new one, and thanks to my own hard work I've got Chinese cabbage, kale, several varieties of lettuce and, of course, my sugarsnaps beginning to come up. That's late for this neck of the woods, but...oh well! At least they're in.

I'll just have to get smarter and more balanced about when I write, when I garden and when I do all the other things I want or need to do. But--here's a thought--perhaps my garden can help.

Because, besides being beautiful, nutritious, and delicious, gardens are full of hope and promise. After all these years I'm still more than amazed when those minuscule seeds grow into plants hundreds of times bigger than their infant selves. Remarkable. Could my story and poem seeds grow, perhaps, like their sisters in the garden? Taking the analogy a little further, perhaps editing is like weeding? I like it!

The thing with feathers? It is, of course, one of the ways Emily Dickinson described hope. In honor of Emily (who died on May 15, 1886) and gardens and spring, I offer a few poems about hope, including hers. I've tucked in one of my own here too (one I shared here a few weeks ago) because...well, because maybe if I hang out with the greats, a little bit of it might rub off!


Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard; And sore must be the storm That could abash the little bird That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land, And on the strangest sea; Yet, never, in extremity, It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson


This is the time to be slow, Lie low to the wall Until the bitter weather passes. Try, as best you can, not to let The wire brush of doubt Scrape from your heart All sense of yourself And your hesitant light. If you remain generous, Time will come good; And you will find your feet Again on fresh pastures of promise, Where the air will be kind And blushed with beginning.

John O’Donohue


Wild Geese

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 your 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.

Mary Oliver


It is a kind of love, is it not?

How the cup holds the tea,

How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,

How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes

Or toes. How soles of feet know

Where they’re supposed to be.

I’ve been thinking about the patience

Of ordinary things, how clothes

Wait respectfully in closets

And soap dries quietly in the dish,

And towels drink the wet

From the skin of the back.

And the lovely repetition of stairs.

And what is more generous than a window?

Pat Schneider


Pay attention to the new warmth,

the budding verses,

the jiggling, juggling streams

of spring.

Just a tiny joy to start

if your grief is too great.

There will be warmth enough in

this new season of beginnings

to allow the old cloak

of reasons and loss to slide away.

Dawn Elizabeth Hunt

Until next time,


Photo credits:

Girl outside, Zach Lucero, unSplash

Gardening, Sandie Clark, unSplash

Piping plover with chicks, Michael Milicia, Palm Press

Meadow, Daiga Ellaby, unSplash

Wild geese, Shutterstock

Chair in evening light, Alec Krum, unSplash

Stream, Karolina Kolodziejczak, unSplash


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