Over the past few years, we have all talked often of dire challenges near and far. Environmental chaos, virus related fears, economic injustices, the many “isims” that plague us and the violence thrumming through it all—there are so many categories of our humanity that cause us to worry that the very process of choosing where to look first can be overwhelming.
In this time of distress, I have become increasingly intrigued with offerings that both recognize the darkness and refuse to allow it to eclipse every shred of light; creative ways of engaging the world that insist on mindful consideration of the blessings woven through all human experience, waiting to be recognized and incorporated into our perception of what is.
Today I offer you this example: a poem titled For the Bird Singing Before Dawn by Kim Stafford, the former poet laureate of Oregon, followed by his own words about the work.
Some people presume to be hopeful
when there is no evidence for hope
to be happy when there is no cause.
Let me say now, I’m with them.
In deep darkness on a cold twig
in a dangerous world, one first
little fluff lets out a peep, a warble,
a song—and in a little while, behold:
the first glimmer comes, then a glow
filters through the misty trees,
then the bold sun rises, then
everyone starts bustling about.
And that first crazy optimist, can we
forgive her for thinking, dawn by dawn,
“Hey, I made that happen!
And oh, life is so fine.”
“Many times in my life I’ve been told by serious people that I must be very naïve to be happy, to have hope, to celebrate this little life I’ve been given when, actually, they say, everything is pretty dire. There’s war, poverty, crushing injustice all over—what right do I have to talk back to all that with flimsy little poems about the good? What can I say? The birds are my teachers, my elders, my guides. Every day before dawn, in silence and darkness, I’m at my desk making poems on the page. And then, before light, I hear the first bird outside begin to sing.” —Kim Stafford