Sunday, July 11, 2010


It’s not my track,

I say, seeing

The ball of the foot and the wide heel

And the naily, untrimmed

Toes. And I say again,

For emphasis,

To no one but myself, since no one is

With me. This is

Not my track, and this is an extremely

Large foot, I wonder

How large a body must be to make

Such a track, I am beginning to make

Bad jokes .I have read probably

A hundred narratives where someone saw

Just what I am seeing. Various things

Happened next. A fairly long list, I won’t

Go into it. But not one of them told

What happened next-I mean, before whatever happens-

How the distances light up, how the clouds

Are the most lovely shapes you have ever seen, how

The wild flowers at your feet begin distilling a fragrances

Different, and sweeter than any you ever stood upon-how

Every leaf on the whole mountain is aflutter.

I have come across bear tracks and sign in the wilds of Alaska. Every near encounter focused my attention ever greater to fire side stories told by others who had actually interacted with wild grizzly bears. What would I do if I saw a bear, and if s/he charged me, what would be the best strategy for evading harm? Such goes the allure of bear stories – what would I do? Would I survive? The fascination of bear stories and spoor seems to be fueled by fear and ignites further anxiety. But what of the fragrance of flowers? When teaching Nonviolent Communication I often have given an example of the distinction between stimulus and cause with emotions. Does the bear cause us to be afraid? One person might see a bear bounce out of the berry bushes and feel extreme fear and start running .The next person might see the bear and be overwhelmed with a sense of beauty and connection (although probably also retreating to put distance between them and the bear). The bear stimulates our emotion, but isn’t the “cause” of emotion, or at least not the pure cause. Our cognition and history of bear stories informs our emotional response. So we can choose: to flee from this life or to be embraced by wondrous clarity and interconnection.

Do you have themes in your life that cause fear, such as bear stories, shark stories, or broken relationship stories?

1 comment:

  1. You are wonderful. Thank you for posting this poem. I have never read this one by Mary Oliver - a poet I adore.