Broken Open

The world, even mortally wounded,
is so achingly beautiful
it invites us to sing its praises.
And I do.

Yet each day I feel grief.
Sometimes it flows
sometimes it surfaces,
occasionally floods.

And I wonder:
Do I negate life
in this mourning?
Do I have a choice?

If your child is ill,
your body carries pain and fear,
your heart is fierce,
your path single-minded.

So if this blue and green earth
is my feverish child,
how can grief
become healing?

I instinctively wrap my arms
tenderly around her,
hold, rock,
caress places most bruised and torn,
murmur softly into earth’s ear:

I love you
I am so sorry for the wounds you suffer,
that we have inflicted,
that I didn’t protect you from.
I am heartbroken
for what can’t be healed.
I am committed to be with you,
whatever comes.

As I rock the world,
ocean currents flow
round my lap,
geologic layers readjust
as they settle in
and I am cooled
as the jet stream
stirs the fine hairs on my arms.

My head tilts back,
my closed eyelids open slowly
until I gaze out
past our silvery moon,
our round siblings
and the fiery parent that warms us.

My gaze lengthens,
passes through the Milky Way,
the galaxies,
to the farthest reaches
of the universe,
and then so far beyond
that eventually it
circles back

and falls with compassion
on us both,
my self and the earth,
envelops us in love
until we are rocked,
held, sustained
as I sing on, sing
sweet lullabies
to our ailing earth.

I had been feeling edgy, melancholy, not fit for the company of others. As November slid into December, I began to wonder, am I depressed? Ill? What is this? The answer came late one night, when I burst into unrelenting sobs at the end of a wildlife documentary about the loss of habitat in the Serengeti and the cascading impact on each species. I realized, this isn’t depression, this is heartbreak. Grief. Grief for what is happening in East Africa, in the Arctic, in Montana. Grief for this planet that is my family.

Though wracked with sadness, I felt relieved to have moved out of my prior deadened mood, to shift from grief-stricken (frozen, incapacitated) to grieving (dynamic process). When my heart is broken open, a tender space is created that can expand to hold more than it ever could embrace in its “intact” mode. As Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

So I welcomed grief that night. Like delight, like curiosity, sorrow is one of the threads that binds us together, creating this life-web we live in, where movement at one node stirs adjoining nodes, rippling endlessly. The web quivered as I watched magnificent creatures struggling to survive, unable to follow the pathways of their ancestors, then rippled into this poem, Broken Open.

About the Author

Marilyn DuHamel is a psychotherapist who has spent several decades listening deeply to the people who have entered her therapy office. In the last years, she has found herself increasing pulled to the nonhuman realm, tuning her ear, her heart, her psyche to the wild animals that approach her, to the sensate world out her door, and to the dreams and synchronicities that startle her with mystery and meaning. She is committed to following this trail, accompanied and sometimes led by her dog Shadow.

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