All things being relative, remember
that collective and individual histories
are cyclical but open-ended, and discern
the kind of moment you are in and part of.
Remember how to make it better
by holding on to all that is dear in life,
and becoming more prayerful and thoughtful.
When deprivation comes, return to what is essential—
first, beauty, so look for and create beautiful behavior
and encourage it.
Stretch into the sustenance of sensual beauty—
when none comes easily, look for what is subtle.
Let your eyes linger at the turning points where
God pours out color on clouds at dusk and dawn.
Look for the glistening on snow.
How no moonlit night is like another.
Stop everything and be fully there,
looking out toward the horizon
or up to see how pink halos layer
above the mountain, or certain birds travel,
all of them, even in the same families,
composed of individual and variable traits, and
in the variations, beauty, fascination, wonderment.
When noise obscures music, listen for the lyrical delicacy
or percussive timpani of rain, excellent for both good sleep
or rousing into consciousness. Relish the forest scent,
the popping and crackling of contained fire for physical warmth
and spiritual solace.
See and hear how wind changes everything—
hence the Holy Spirit as both fire and wind, and also a bird
that masters flight through the air, as Christ the Fish navigates
the Divine Dance of Grace in turbulent waters.
Notice the chorus of birdsongs, of laughter,
of gentle conversation, how the water cascades
into the pot or cup as the ritual of pause that is tea
or coffee comforts you twice, with music and fragrance
and the sacrament of free-floating reflection.
To create beauty from air, use your voice to sing or hum
or speak poetry aloud, your hands to tap or clap to a remembered
dance tune, your entire internal memory to recall loveliness that is
always yours from before, you imagination to give form to what is
beautiful, loving and wise within you.
Remember, imagine, enact, sing—
and listen for the symphonies
of water falling over rock,
all of the exquisite performances
of Nature in the subtle movement of air,
of water, of positive voices from nowhere
Celebrate the beautiful
sacrament of sharing and do not limit
yourself to human company or despair,
but welcome every interesting or lovely
living creature that presents itself
to your companionship.
When food is scarce, savor whatever flavors
your mind and senses find in the wild of things,
and be thankful, truly thankful for every actual meal,
no matter how small or large it is.
Touch the grass and the warm bodies of fur friends,
lest your tactile nerves retreat and become insensitive,
lost in themselves.
Meanwhile, be mindful of the world
through which you still move and are
a specific and therefore important participant.
Keep your head down in the weeds
in the presence of danger. Be aware
that not everyone thinks or believes
as you do. Be openly kind, often.
Speak up when called to the moment
of witness, defend the defenseless and
draw from the strength of your principles,
but remember that principles alone
will not shield you from those
who do not understand them.
In horrifying times,
remember how God moves
through our histories,
our horrors, our terrible errors,
and remember that Job was
a prophet for losing everything
and refusing hollow comfort,
but simply keeping to his truth
before God and waiting, making
a prayer mound of his misery.
Redemption may be long in coming.
It may not be apparent in one’s own
lifetime, but down the decades everything
will change, and what is dark will become
light and what is heavy will also become light.
Be part of the process, whether at the beginning
or in the murky morass, or near or in the eventual
opening onto new vistas.
Do not wait for them to open before you give thanks.
Make thanks your daily practice, and not automatic,
but well-thought and specific.
Give thanks that people like Job, who railed and raged
against his losses, can sometimes live long enough
to enter a new paradise— all that was lost given back
in new forms, some more wonderful than before.
You may feel wobbly in the earthquake times
of history. You may fall. But lift up those beside you
and be lifted up as you do so.
Keep your mind and senses
sharp for accuracy, like litmus.
Live one minute at a time
Perspective is everything.
Remain your best self.
That, above all, is essential.
Be fair-minded and walk
humbly with God and each other.
Even alone, your presence
makes a difference. Let it be
a helpful and positive one.
Become someone for whom
others give thanks.
Our world, even when frightening,
is still full of miracles.
Blessed Be the Holy One. Amen!
Alla Renée Bozarth
In the work in progress,
Purgatory Papers ©2018
Alla Renée Bozarth is A Russian, Celtic, Osage American mongrel poet, Episcopal priest, Northwestern University Ph.D. in performing arts and Gestalt psychotherapist soul caregiver who lives at the foot of Mt. Hood in Western Oregon. She has published 20 prose and poetry books on feminism, spirituality, grief, hermeneutics of performance and most recently the Vietnam War— and 4 audio albums, with 14 more large poetry collections and 2 CDs ready for publication. Alla has written award winning poetry for over 40 years. Her poems are widely used all over the world, often in collaboration with visual artists, singers and dancers. For permission to reprint a poem, please send Alla your request at firstname.lastname@example.org