(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
“The Uses of Sorrow” by Mary Oliver, from Thirst, 2007. Beacon Press.
Note from Christy:
2016 was a tumultuous year. It had its share of joy, but most would agree that ’16 also had an inordinate amount of pain and loss and anxiety. It’s why I chose to leave you–for the time being–with Mary Oliver’s “The Uses of Sorrow.” My long-term readers may know that I’ve opened and closed each year with Ms. Oliver, and given the “box full of darkness” that was 2016, it felt like the right piece to close this year. We can learn from darkness. We can learn from sorrow. We can learn from grief. We may never “get over it” or “feel better,” but we can adapt. We can grow scar tissue. We can choose to be softened, to keep going. We can choose to look at darkness as a gift.
Had I not gone with Ms. Oliver, I may have chosen the following by Viktor Frankl:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Words for the Year will return in the new year after a short hiatus. Like last year, I plan to be back by April. I may post daily, or I may post on a reduced schedule, or I may just go with the flow and allow room for spontaneity. This project means so much to me, and I’m touched to know it means so much to many of you as well. (Special wave to Willene.) Sometimes you all are the bright lights that keep me going, just as these poems often keep you–us–going. “The darkness around us is deep,” to quote William Stafford in “A Ritual to Read to Each Other,” but somehow, like elephants, we hold each others’ tails and we continue to find our way. Until next time, I wish you love and light and good health. ~Christy