Shadow Work

“In a Dark Time”
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,

I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood–
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,img_1551

I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!

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I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks–is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

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A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!

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A man goes far to find out what he is–
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

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Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.

The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.
~~Theodore Roethke

I’ve written (HERE and HERE) before about the power and importance of poetry in my life. I read poetry daily; my choice of poems, or poets, changes to adapt to my life circumstances.
This poem by Theodore Roethke, “In a Dark Time,” is one I return to often during times of doubt, despair, and despondency. I love the imagery of the natural world, it is one that I relate to easily. In my life these dark transitions, or thresholds, provide the time and space for deep shadow work. It sounds paradoxical, but I feel I must go deeper and deeper, to emerge out of the abyss I’ve stumbled into. And emerge, I always do. Thankfully, and transformed by my experience. And like the Great Blue Heron, I find that I am at my most liberated when I realize that all I have to do is spread my wings and fly. The ability to be free and at peace is always there, quietly beckoning to me. I must remember that, but remembrance only comes after the deep work and the dark time.
Then, if I am paying attention, I am greeted by a still small voice : Welcome home, friend. You, too, are within the One.

To read more about Theodore Roethke and his poetry visit poetryfoundation.org.

*Photos and video mine, 2016


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