“For centuries, leaders throughout the world have turned to poetry for solace and for a call to action. Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who was jailed 27 years for his activism and in 1994 became President of South Africa, regularly recited the poem Invictus during his imprisonment. Invictus, meaning unconquerable or undefeated in Latin, was written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley.”
I, like many people all around the world, am shaken by the events in Ukraine. Inspired by their unconquerable spirits, I am dedicating this poem to President Zelenskyy and all the people of Ukraine during this reign of terror. And to all my readers who have family and friends in the Ukraine. May peace come!
Invictus by English poet William Ernest Henley (U of North Carolina)
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
What Do We Do
There is little that most of us can do about this situation in Ukraine. Yet, it is encouraging that so much of the world seems to care. Although we can do little, we can take care of our immediate surroundings. We can intentionally be kind, extra kind, to everyone we meet. It takes effort to create an oasis of calm, in our immediate lives, but it seems to me we can and need to do this. A bouquet of tulips for the table, daily walks in nature, listening to music or reading a book. A TV news fast can be helpful and making a donation. Being fully aware of who we are with. And creating occasions for laughter. Laughter and singing, friends and families and neighbours, is a time worn antidote for getting through anxious times.
I’m not talking about happiness here. Rather, I am thinking about life and humanity and how it has always been. The full catastrophe that comes with being born. The crowd of sorrows and the outpouring of love. And the pure chance of where we were born.
Several years ago an old friend had two people he love die in a short period of time. I asked him how he was managing and he told me this. “I have used this loss to become fully aware of how a life can come to an end in an instant. And how I grieve my losses is by treasuring, even more, the ones who are still alive. I now know that I will lose them too, at an undisclosed time. I no longer take my own life or the lives of my loved ones for granted.”
The paradox of not liking, and feeling helpless with what is going on in the world, yet also loving and managing the daily life we have been given. Responding to the needs of our own situations as best we can. It is a mystery – a koan – our life’s work. There are things that only each of us can do.
Thich Nhat Hanh, wrote: Be the Calm One on the Boat- When the crowded refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked, all would be lost. But if even one person stayed calm, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive. It seems to me that President Zelenskyy is that person in Ukraine. A deep bow.
1:) Sunflowers are Ukraine’s national flower. I took the ones here in Ottawa at the Experimental Farm.
2:) My son-in-law’s Mother, Barrie, captured this surprise rainbow, today. With thanks.
3:) I found a lovely BBC site with nature documentaries and short films. Here is a link to Nature’s Larder- Coral Reefs. 4 min
4:) Music Play for Change- Playing for Peace
5:) Take heart through these challenging days. I am grateful to you, for showing up here week after week. All my best wishes, Trudy