When I Was the Forest

When I was the stream, when I was the
forest, when I was still the field,
when I was every hoof, foot,
fin and wing, when I
was the sky
itself,

no one ever asked me did I have a purpose, no one ever
wondered was there anything I might need,
for there was nothing
I could not
love.

It was when I left all we once were that
the agony began, the fear and questions came,
and I wept, I wept. And tears
I had never known
before.

So I returned to the river, I returned to
the mountains. I asked for their hand in marriage again,
I begged—I begged to wed every object
and creature,

and when they accepted,
God was ever present in my arms.
And He did not say,
“Where have you
been?”

For then I knew my soul—every soul—
has always held
Him.

–Meister Eckhart (1260 – 1328)

Here is a painting I did inspired by the above words as well the emotions of sorrow. I first heard it years ago read by Daniel Ladinsky, a very kind man whom translated this along with many Hafiz poems (including the luminous Love Poems to God). When Daniel read it that chilly night at Malaprop’s I felt parts of my then frozen heart melt open, the ice drops coming out of my eyes. It was like he was reading parts of my heart yet undiscovered, which I would soon spend the next years doing, coming back home to what is, asking again to be married to the Benevolent force or Mystery, or a coming back home to myself. There is much loss we experience in life, there is much asked of our spirit to rise again and to hold hands with the Divine, however bittersweet, however confusing. We must. We must ask for the hand again… it is how we can go on seeing the light in the shadow and shadow in the light. Then watch the Earth breathe forgiveness into your being. Watch how she dances effortlessly, without pretense. Begin to understand, or ask to understand, that which was before you took form, that which was everything and nothing, or a soul alight that came here to learn. I do feel we are spirits here on this Earth to learn. It’s a way to make sense of the dance, the immense beauty and madness.

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5 thoughts on “When I Was the Forest

  1. What a joy to find you!!! I am a Social Worker and have taught watercolors for years. Five months ago I was diagnosed with cancer and since had to stop working and teaching, and then sadly I abandoned my art!! A part of me has been withering inside, and in a search to find myself and my paintbrushes again I came upon your site. What a treasure!!! The words to this poem moved my soul and seeing your art has woke up my spirit again!! Thank you Alena for the gifts!!! I am getting my brushes out again! What a gem you are!!!

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