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WORD VIEW: In need of an oasis


Esther Phillips

WORD VIEW: In need of an oasis

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Today I want to forget the state of the economy, the rise in crime, falling values, the high cost of living, and all the other woes to which we are subject nowadays.
I want to find instead a place of peace and restoration which, as we know, is often to be derived from the contemplation of nature.
While on vacation in Britain on one occasion, I was watching a gardener at work. He clearly loved what he was doing, which I could appreciate, being an avid gardener myself. I was admiring the wide variety of flowers but soon found myself thinking how temporal they were since summer was ending:                   
. . .The iris, rose, sweet/columbines will wither and fall./ Chrysanthemums must soon/yield up their autumn gold,/and pansies, braving the winter’s/frost, may yet succumb to the worm/or otherwise expire . . .  ”.  
This was not a pessimistic turn of mind; quite the opposite. I was thinking how important it is that we take nothing for granted, but that we seize what opportunities we can
“ . . . to hold still the moment of beauty/– the fragrance, colour, interplay of light – when all we are or feel ourselves to be/is silent, comes to attention, bending/towards the inner ear, striving to hear/the quiet rhythm running along the nerves,/released into the noiseless/air around us . . .”.
I believe that those moments when we listen to the “inner ear” are essential to our mental and emotional equilbrium. This listening is best facilitated, I think, in quietness and certainly enhanced in an atmosphere of natural beauty. If we accept that nature is one of our greatest teachers, then it is only when the inner ear is fully attuned that we may truly hear its wisdom:
as the river to its source, the wing/of the butterfly to its Designer,/so the silence of the moment/to its Maker who willed it so: beauty/ with desire, that we, hungry for meaning/sensed behind reality, may track Him through/the silence, the moment none interprets – only He. Nature points us to her Creator.
I think, furthermore, that there is something in all of us that longs for these experiences of transcendence:
Something in us is often lonely,/ eady to pick its way across debris/grown too familiar,/and hook on to the star/we recognise as ours./ Something in us turns over/after the best lovemaking,/and gazes where a grasshopper/leaps against the moon.
Something in the ocean’s roar,/light tremulous, dancing on water;/some dim memory in the angle/of the seagull’s wing, the lift,/the curve of a bird’s soaring.
We cling too close to earth/and all but die;/ Why do ground doves walk/when they can fly?
Within the poem above, this longing to find some space that is beyond ourselves is projected mostly through images of nature: the star, the moon, the dancing light, the flight of the bird. The poem ends with a challenge to each of us not to become so trapped and bogged down by the material world that we forget the value of the spirit.
Not only can nature be instructive but healing as well, bringing closure in matters of the heart:
I knew the day would come/when the bright crimson of you would fade/and I would ask the wind your name/and it would scarcely answer,/if at all.
I knew I’d walk this beach again,/find a shell, some piece of seaweed/that bore no imprint of your hands, your face.
I hear the ocean sing in aqua/marine-gue off deep blue chords/close on a white whisper./. . .
Dawn grows more tender/with your absence . . . last evening . . . I saw the brilliant flash of green at sunset/and in that moment, knew how the dying of one love awakens another/then looking eastward/knew why a rainbow/streaking emerald/arced outward.
The appreciation I feel for the gift of poetry is immeasurable. While we may not all write poems, we all have souls and we are alive. Life has its difficulties and its experiences that may be harrowing at times. But the raw materials of poetry are all around us for the taking: nature, solitude and a listening heart.

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