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    A Poem and a Conversation at the Edge by Wendy Sarno

    The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
    hiding then revealing the way you should take,
    the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
    to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
    when you thought you would fall,
    and the way forward always in the end
    the way that you followed, the way that carried you
    into your future, that brought you to this place,

    -from Santiago, by David Whyte

     


    In April my dear friend and fellow soul wanderer Ellen and I decided to design a retreat program together. We’d been talking about it a long time and suddenly the time was right. We dreamed of bringing together the Soulcraft practices we’d shared that were developed by Bill Plotkin and offered thru Animas Valley Institute; along with Ellen’s Shamanic Journeying skills, and my Poetry Depths discoveries thru Kim Rosen’s work. We imagined inviting people into a varied and edgy Conversation engaging soul depths, the natural world and poetry as Allies and guides into a deep encounter with Soul. We dove in, chose a theme, picked some dates which seemed a long way off at the time, found a beautiful retreat house on the Mendocino coast, created a brochure, and by June we’d sent it off to a couple of hundred people we knew. We called it Conversations at the Edge. We both felt great excitement and anticipation to be collaborating on this project and full of confidence that it would unfold just as richly as we hoped. The third week in June I left for a month in Scotland and Ireland.

    Ellen and her husband and three now grown daughters have 150 acres off the grid in northern California. It’s a wild scruffy landscape of dry hills, manzanita, redwood, oak, bears and mountain lions, dear and fox. They power their place from a small spring that they’ve piped into huge holding tanks behind the house. They have a garden, a yurt for guests and a simple deck down the road on a point that looks out over the rolling hills and valleys where you gather for morning coffee or to watch the stars and the rising moon. Ellen was a midwife for her entire career until a few years ago when she got fed up with the medical field and turned her wit and creative energies to her passion for the land and for deep soul work. Everything in this woman is committed to the labor of soul: finding, birthing, healing, and wholing. In our weekly phone conversations which we’ve been holding for four years now we help each other track our own soul’s unfolding. Ellen is a brilliant and intuitive guide.

    When I got home from Ireland the end of July the poem Santiago by David Whyte surfaced for me. I’d heard a friend give it in Ireland and loved it. So I pulled it out to spend time with: The road seen, then not seen, the hillside hiding then revealing the way you should take. I had the poem in my hand. I should have known.

    But again and again I forget that once you set out on an adventure of soul, once you give a full Yes to the journey, you have already stepped foot on the road. We are calling our program Conversations at the Edge. We forgot that this would also call us to our edges, bring us to a place of stepping over, as edges are wont to do.

    In our first phone conversation after I got home from the UK, we discovered that the retreat house we thought we’d booked back in April in fact did not have our reservation and the place was booked to others over the dates we’d advertised in our brochure. The road suddenly fell away “dropping us as if leaving us to walk on thin air”! We were stunned. We’d already sent out the flyer a month before. We already had one person registered. What would we do?


    no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
    no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:


    As it was, Ellen was leaving the next day for a weeks training in the northwest and we didn’t have a chance to talk about it for another ten days. During this time, I pretty well settled on the idea that we would just cancel it and hope to put it together next year. I let go of my disappointment and even felt some relief that I could step back from the Edge this thing was pulling me toward. It’s edgy to plan a new program with someone you’ve never worked with to be held in a place across the country, to bring pieces to it you’ve never done before, to show up in your big self, grounded, open and new.

    But then, as the poem let me know: the road catches you, ‘holding you up when you thought you would fall”. When Ellen got home she found another place to hold us, a beautiful property in the heart of redwood country and we were off again, full of excitement and anticipation.


    no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
    no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:
    the sense of having walked from far inside yourself
    out into the revelation, to have risked yourself
    for something that seemed to stand both inside you
    and far beyond you, that called you back
    to the only road in the end you could follow,


    In the weeks since then as I’ve moved closer to the time of leaving for California this poem has tracked my story along the edges as I’ve prepared my pieces, as I’ve sent prayers out to the universe for a good, full group of people to sign up. I’ve had to look at my own ideas of what it means to be a guide and a retreat leader, a poem carrier and colleague and friend. I’ve had to release again and again my own felt need to control how this goes.


    and that every step along the way, you had carried
    the heart and the mind and the promise
    that first set you off and drew you on and that you were
    more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
    than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:
    as if, all along, you had thought the end point might be a city
    with golden towers, and cheering crowds,


    Here we sit with a little over two weeks to go and we only have four people signed up. Ellen and I both have gone thru days of despondency, wondering if we should cancel or continue, realizing we both had to acknowledge our ego’s wish to have a full group in order to validate our sense of ourselves. This edge, this revelation, this wish for cheering crowds. Gladly today we are standing together committed to this thing we have so joyously created and are trusting the Mystery is guiding this just as it needs to go. That we are stepping forward on the road however it takes us. That we are feeling the words of the poem:


    to have risked yourself
    for something that seemed to stand both inside you
    and far beyond you, that called you back
    to the only road in the end you could follow, walking
    as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice
    that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,
    so that one day you realized that what you wanted
    had already happened long ago and in the dwelling place
    you had lived in before you began,
    and that every step along the way, you had carried
    the heart and the mind and the promise
    that first set you off and drew you on and that you were
    more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
    than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:


    From the road today we don’t know what the end point will look like or where the road will turn as we follow the beckoning of Mystery along the way. It’s this edge we bow to now committing again to staying in the Conversation as long as it lasts.

    If I continue to let this poem guide me, it will give me clues:


    and turning the corner at what you thought was the end
    of the road, you found just a simple reflection,
    and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back
    and beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:
    like a person and a place you had sought forever,
    like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond;
    like another life, and the road still stretching on.


    wendy-in-circle-of-trees-kneeling1

    Epilogue:

    A week has passed now since we completed the journey called Conversations at the Edge. It was a magical week for me with Ellen including the four days guiding four wise and courageous women in an exquisite landscape of redwoods and moss-draped oak, poplars and big-leafed maple turning gold against the deep green silence of that forest. Even a full moon conspired to join the Conversation that flowed with poems and deep journeys and wild wanderings and tremulous, tender stories. And as we turned the corner at what we “thought was the end of the road” we each found “just a simple reflection, and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back and beneath it another invitation… and the road still stretching on”

    A humility and a wonder in this seeing of self in the mirror of the world. A reverent holding of the Mystery and the Conversation still going on. Ellen and I are invited to another Edge, the possibility of offering this program again to another group. And with this I hear the echo of the words:

    “the sense of having walked from far inside yourself out into the revelation, of standing for something that seems to be both inside you and far beyond you, that call(s) you back to the only road you can follow..and that you are more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way than in the gilded roofs of any destination you might reach”.


    This story is the epitome of living The Poet’s Way. I am beyond thrilled to share Wendy’s blog-etry here for “Yes-vember” The Poet’s Way. From the moment I met Wendy, I’ve been inspired and blessed by the presence of someone that is grounded in earth and ancestry and one who sails through the cosmos to the very edge with wisdom, compassion, courage and deep love.

    As Wendy does, “say yes to the journey”, follow The Poet’s Way path:

    Start Authentically: Look inside. Follow your big self. Find the grounded, open and new.

    Explore Creatively: Bring your own unique self to play.  Create a wonder and an experience. Believe. Allow. Go down “the only road you could follow”.

    Live Expressively: Step to the Edge. Join the circle. Begin the Conversation. Keep the Conversation alive.

    Join our “Yes-vember” poets on Facebook in The Poet’s Way Community.

    Submit your photo, your poem and a little story about how/why this poem speaks to you (carolyn@thepoetsway.com). Say yes.