As I said last week, Henry and I took another road trip this summer. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of what I pondered during our hours in the car. Consider this your chance to tag along….

Driving across Oklahoma, I began to reconnect with my writing life.

Over the past six months or so, my habit of beginning the day with personal writing fell by the wayside. Once a week I would conjure up a blog post, but the rest of my “personal” writing time—and more—was consumed with elements of my forthcoming website. The week before we left, I had a phone conversation with a friend who asked me how my poetry was going, and I had to admit that nothing was happening. As we talked a bit about why, I realized that I had an opportunity to change that. We would have long stretches in the car during our upcoming road trip that would give me plenty of opportunity to reconnect with poetry.

It took me a couple of days on the road to remember, as my mind and heart slowly began to shift from “getting ready for the trip” to “reconnecting with myself and with stillness.” By the time we hit Oklahoma, I was ready to open to the kind of paying attention that poetry requires. I decided to begin with the short form called haiku, because it was helpful to consider a single image or set of images, and three lines was short enough to fit on the hotel notepad I picked up that morning (having managed to forget to bring a notebook for writing…!).

It was a very windy day and the first phrase to surface was “wind-whipped cow-tail flags.” That haiku danced through quickly on bird’s wings and I gave thanks as it flew by. I stared out the window, noticing groves of trees along the edges of open fields and pondering what this land would have looked like before European settlers cut down most of the trees to accommodate their farms. The remaining trees seemed to follow rivers and streams, which meandered through the fields on a course of their own making. Alongside the road, a railroad track ran straight and narrow. The following haiku flowed forth:RoadsideRailsShirinMcArthur

Tree line meander
Rail line runs straight to heaven
Follow the water

I’ve been living on the rail line for months now, focused on the twin beacons of website fulfillment and client contentment. Those tracks are well-established and under human control. The river, in stark contrast, ambles through the countryside of life on its own terms, cutting through the terrain according to its own well-established rules of following gravity and gradient. If humans want fields, they must form them around the rambling rivers.

Humans’ “heaven” tends to be overrated—at least in contrast the long-term perspective of the river. I found myself thinking of the river as the Spirit. It flows where it wills through our days, bringing life-giving water and carving an indelible pattern through the landscape of our years.
I realized that poetry has been a tool of that Spirit for me, weaving in and out of my consciousness over my lifetime. From my first preadolescent verses to a much-needed re-grounding today, poetry is part of what sustains my spiritual life.

What is the shape and substance of the Spirit’s path through your life? How are you called to follow the water?

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