The end of the year can be comforting in its familiarity. Clustered with moments of tradition, we often have anchors that connect us to the past. With that of course is the cacophony of feelings that come with tradition, the past, and the passing of time. Each year can be a mixture of weighted obligation, grief of loss, or disappointment when anticipation is met with a reality that falls short.
In the midst of my own feelings this time of year, a poetry podcast by Padraig O’Tuama came into my car and had a line that brought me up short:
“Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger”
- excerpted from the poem "Lost" by David Wagoner
Getting to Know "Here"
As this line resurfaces through my thoughts in the weeks since, it’s been a gift. Here as I make holiday travel plans, here as I put decorations out, here as I seek a gift for a relative, I’m reminded to be present in today’s “here.”
Familiarity can short out our experience of any moment. It is so easy to not fully notice life when we have been with the person, done this action, had this routine so many times before.
Treating each moment of “here” as a powerful stranger has piqued my interest and sharpened my attention. There is my husband with his daily coffee, here are the wreaths I put on the house every year, here is the team I see every Tuesday morning – but as a stranger, I meet “here “with awareness of the subtleties and I fully lean into the moment. I am not the same moment to moment and neither are the people around me. “Here” is a kaleidoscope that shifts and changes even as we are watching it.
Lean into the “here” as our year rushes to its end; give your full attention to the people you see all the time, feel the full force of any losses this “here” encompasses, as well as the fullness of new things emerging. Every time of our lives has things we have lost and others we have gained, being present and aware in the here and now can help us notice the latter as much as the former.
Read the full poem "Lost" by David Wagoner below, or better yet, listen to the 12-minute podcast Poetry Unbound where it is read to you in the lyrical voice of Irishman Padraig O’Tuama.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven,
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
- David Wagoner, Travelling Light, Collected and New Poems, 1999
This blog article was contributed by Margaret Vimont, Vice President of Strategy and Service Development.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 50 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org