In Gratitude

Posted on by Martin Farawell, Poetry Director

Dodge Poetry Festival 2014 472

Asked in an interview about religion and prayer, poet Gary Snyder said, “At the very least, you should say thank you.” It didn’t matter what religious views you held. If you were sitting down to a meal, sharing company with friends or other loved ones, able to breathe or simply be alive, you should at least have some gratitude.

In Jane Kenyon’s poem “Otherwise,” she describes herself doing the simplest activities—getting out of bed, eating cereal, taking the dog for a walk—noting periodically that “It might/have been otherwise.” She ends the poem by acknowledging she knows one day it will be.

At the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival, listening to the Parkington Sisters accompany Gary Snyder as he read his poem “Prayer for the Great Family,” it was easy to be flooded with gratitude. The Festival was full of such moments, when we are stunned into silence at the beauty our fellow human beings can bring into the world. Amidst all the violence, injustice, cruelty, ignorance and indifference, there are still people who raise their voices in poetry and song.

I want to remember this every day. I want to remember that being able to run my fingers across this keyboard and peck out words as they come to mind is a miracle. That being able to pause, lift my cup, sip, taste and swallow fresh-brewed coffee is a miracle. That being able to turn my head and see out the window that snow is piling up on the back porch is a miracle. And, at the very least, say thank you.


Prayer for the Great Family

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day—
……..and to her soil: rich, rare and sweet
                              in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing, light-changing leaf
……..and fine root-hairs; standing still through wind
……..and rain; their dance is in the flowering spiral grain
                             in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and silent
……..Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
……..clear spirit breeze
                            in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
……..freedoms, and ways; who share with us their milk;
……..self-complete, brave and aware
                            in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
……..holding or releasing; streaming through all
……..our bodies salty seas
                          in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through
……..trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
……..bears and snakes sleep— he who wakes us—
                          in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky
……..who holds billions of stars— and goes yet beyond that—
……..beyond all powers, and thoughts
……..and yet is within us—
……..Grandfather Space.
……..The Mind is his Wife.
                         so be it.

after a Mohawk prayer


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