When great trees fall,

rocks on distant hills shudder,

lions hunker down

in tall grasses,

and even elephants

lumber after safety.

When great trees fall

in forests,

small things recoil into silence,

their senses

eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,

the air around us becomes

light, rare, sterile.

We breathe, briefly.

Our eyes, briefly,

see with

a hurtful clarity.

Our memory, suddenly sharpened,

examines,

gnaws on kind words

unsaid,

promised walks

never taken.

Great souls die and

our reality, bound to

them, takes leave of us.

Our souls,

dependent upon their

nurture,

now shrink, wizened.

Our minds, formed

and informed by their

radiance,
fall away.

We are not so much maddened

as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of

dark, cold

caves.

And when great souls die,

after a period peace blooms,

slowly and always

irregularly. Spaces fill

with a kind of

soothing electric vibration.

Our senses, restored, never

to be the same, whisper to us.

They existed. They existed.

We can be. Be and be

better. For they existed.

-When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou from The Complete Poetry

In the early days of shelter in place my parents did not follow guidelines. It was upsetting and as I checked in with friends, I realized I was not alone in my fear-born frustration. I love my parents and I am not ready to know a life that does not have them in it. While I decry some of the choices and mistakes of my elders when it comes to their worship of capitalism and their destruction of the environment, I covet their wisdom. 

We exist because of the greatness, care and mistakes of earlier generations. Angelou reminds us that we can be and be better because our ancestors existed. We can respect their dreams while choosing to dream different, bolder dreams. We can name their sins and examine the ways we learned to sin from them. Grief is not only for the dying, it is also for the living. It is for grieving that we cannot live as our beloved ancestors once lived, we cannot participate in this world and creation the way that they did. Grief is for the living and it is like all things an invitation. To reflect, to repent, to dream and to listen to what God might be up to in this long string of people that stretched before us and will stretch after us. 

Be Kind,

Cara

To Find a Steady Center is a daily poem and meditation to offer a short, good word to those who are anxious, fearful or lonely and who might need a gentle word of hope, encouragement or perspective during social distancing. 

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