Monasteries of the Heart

August Poem

View all posts in Heart of the Matter

Poetry always goes to the “heart of the matter.” So once a month this blog will present a poem for you to play with. To get things started I ask a few questions or put in a writing prompt and then try to respond to a couple myself.

Prayers to the Earth

Earth teach me stillness
As the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me suffering
As old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility
As blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring
As the mother who secures her young.
Earth teach me courage
As the tree which stands all alone.
Earth teach me limitation
As the ant who crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom
As the eagle who soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation
As the leaves which die in the fall.
Earth teach me regeneration
As the seed which rises in spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself
As melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness
As dry fields weep with rain.
--Nancy Wood

1. Did any of these lines speak to you in a special way? Which one(s)?

2. React to this excerpt for a magazine article: At a prayer service, a Native American spiritual leader interrupts the prayer of an environmentalist who had prayed, “Please save the spotted owl, the river otter, the peregrine falcon,” with these words. “Don’t pray for the animals. Pray to the animals. You are so arrogant. You think you’re bigger then they are, right? Don’t pray for the redwood. Pray that you become as courageous as a redwood. Ask the redwood what it wants: As it says in the Bible, ‘Ask and you shall receive. ‘ Ask the pandas what they want. They will tell you. The question is: Are you willing to do it?” –Derrick Jenson, “Sun Magazine,” Sept. 2007

It reminded me of a poem by Terry Tempest Williams that began “I pray to the birds because I believe/ they will carry the messages of my heart upward.” And the poem ended: “And at the end of my prayers/they teach me how to listen.” Those lines opened a new world to me. I copied them and have been thinking about them for 4 years.

3. Write your own prayer to the earth about what you would like it to teach you.

Earth teach me to be still
As a reed on a windless August afternoon

Earth teach me to be fierce
As a lightning-driven summer storm

Earth teach me to be patient
As an iris unfolding

Earth teach me to be merciful
As snowflakes covering the scars of inner-city streets

Note: special thanks to Carol F. Peck for parts of this writing prompt.