Can Poetry Save the Earth?
I was rummaging through some notes and rediscovered this wonderfully written poem called ‘The Well Rising’ by William Stafford. I learned about him from a feature by NPR covering John Felstiner’s book “Can Poetry Save the Earth?”
The well rising without sound,
the spring on a hillside,
the plowshare brimming through the deep ground
everywhere in the field —
The sharp swallows in their swerve
flaring and hesitating
hunting for the final curve
coming closer and closer —
The swallow heart from wing beat to wing beat
counseling decision, decision:
thunderous examples. I place my feet
with care in such a world.
The scene in Stafford’s mind reminds me of a hike I took when I was 13 or 14. I was living in Michigan then; it was late Spring, so the snow was finally gone.
I entered a forest near my home that I hiked over and over since I was 10. This time, I decided to beyond my usual path, beyond the white pines, and into a stand of deciduous trees. I think they were birch. The trees in this part of the forest were much shorter, and the leaves were so thick that they blocked my view ahead. A thick roll of wildflowers had bloomed under the bramble of tree branches. I faced a wall of living green.
I stopped and considered turning around when I heard birds – lots of them – chirping wildly and growing louder. It sounded like a chaotic mass, madly beeping and bleeping. Then I noticed a pattern of crescendos, in pitch and loudness.
What was behind that wall of green? I pushed ahead but I softened my moves so that I didn’t snap limbs or branches. When the curtain of green broke away I saw a large meadow and cloud of birds swirling over, swarming around in the air. There were a lot more birds than I expected. I know I gasped (a little) because they were flying so close to the ground.
They flew through the tall grasses and into the limbs of the trees in their midst. Clouds of them soared high up, then plummeted down to join another cloud of them swirling over the grass.
I stood there, as still as I could and gaped at a scene that I’ve only since seen on nature shows and documentaries. I watched for many minutes – maybe it was hours – until the flock moved away to a nearby cow pasture.
I’m now inspired to write:
Time to think.
And not hear the sound of a rising well,
but feel the vibe of life.
Feel its Warmth.
Feel its love.
Let it wash over me.
Feel its hope.
Can poetry save the Earth?
Makes me wonder.
Well… I’m no William Stafford. Maybe I should read more poetry. Think about my childhood. The good parts. Like that time.
Writer’s journey continues…