I’ve been lucky to spend the past ten days out of the city, spending less time on my computer.
We’re renting a house on a lake in Maine and yesterday as I was swimming, a huge bird flew above me, circling and circling, flapping its enormous, graceful wings that seem to curve at the end like a dancers arms. The bird came closer and closer so that I could see its white head and tail—a Bald Eagle, right over me as I swam!
This emblem of America above me, circling. I remembered that I was in his or her home. That I was a visitor to his or her lake. That the eagle knows about looking for and finding what it wants and being itself.
But in America, there is so often an inherent contradiction in our identity– the discrepancy between the rhetoric and the reality, the hope and the despair that this country is for so many.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (one of my favorite books) reminds us that all Americans who are not indigenous are immigrants, in some sense disconnected from their ancestral place, and searching for a home.
I know that is true for me: my family came mostly from Eastern Europe to escape persecution against Jews. And to some extent, growing up in New York City in a family that was very close and loving but also very difficult, I grew up with contradiction, with discrepancy.
For me, writing helps me find the center, helps me thread the needle between those discrepancies and helps me hold onto the energy that I want to cultivate despite whatever other, less generous, less helpful energies there might be.
When I saw that eagle above me, I thought of the circling that we do to find our true selves, our authentic understanding in a world of contradiction, our coming to home in a complicated world.
Writing can also be a turning to that true self, and I thought of one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, Lucille Clifton.
I want to share it with you:
turning by lucille clifton
turning into my own
turning on in
to my own self
turning out of the
white cage, turning out of the
turning at last
on a stem like a black fruit
in my own season
May we remember how to turn out of what is inauthentic into our full selves, and may we help our country, too, turn into, to quote Lincoln, “the better angels of our nature.”
I invite you want to take a few minutes to write and help you break out of whatever cages might be restricting you.
Take a few minutes writing with this prompt: What do you want to turn toward?
Take a few minutes to write with these words: turning, self, cage, fruit, season, at last
Take a few minutes and write about your place in America
Take a few minutes and write about what home means to you