Freestanding and In Charge — Or Not

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway

I often think of myself as freestanding and in charge – only to repeatedly learn I’m not. I say that even as I know my best decisions, like the ones to have my beautiful children as a single person, came from a calling that was far beyond me. I read an amazing piece on that subject this week from Mark Nepo that I am posting here in case anyone else needs to hear the same thing.

Teachers Are Everywhere

Teachers arise from somewhere within me that is beyond me, the way the dark soil that is not the root holds the root and feeds the flower.

So often we think of ourselves as freestanding and in charge, because we have the simple blessing of being able to go where we want. But we are as rooted as shrubs and trees and flowers, in an unseeable soil that is everywhere. It’s just that our roots move.

Certainly, we make our own decisions, dozens every day, but we are nourished in those decisions by the very ground we walk, by the quiet teachers we encounter everywhere. Yes, in our pride and confusion, in our self-centeredness and fear, we often miss the teachers and feel burdened and alone.

In trying to hear those quiet teachers, I am reminded of the great poet Stanley Kunitz, who as a young man struggling darkly with how to proceed with his life, heard geese cross a night sky and somehow he knew what he had to do. Or how a man I know was slowly extinguishing himself, sorely depressed, when, finally exhausted of his endless considerations, he heard small birds in snow in unexpected song. He realized he was a musician who needed to find and learn the instrument he was supposed to play.

From the logic of being freestanding and in charge, experiences of this sort seem crazy-making and untrustworthy. But the soil of life in which we grow speaks a different language than we are taught in school. In actuality, truth and love and the spirit of eternity are rarely foreseeable, and clarity of being seldom comes through words.

In my brief time on Earth, I have felt the light of ageless spirit fill me unexpectedly when I thought I would die, and as water pumps its way up a slim root making that plant leaf out toward the light, I have found myself, against all fear and will, flushed with possibility in the direction of dreams I had hardly imagined.

Whether through birds in snow, or geese honking in the dark, the brilliant wet leaf that hits your face the moment you are questioning your worth, the quiet teachers are everywhere. When we think we are in charge, their lessons dissolve as accidents or coincidence. But when brave enough to listen, the glass that breaks across the room is offering us direction that can only be heard in the roots of how we feel and think.

The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo

31 thoughts on “Freestanding and In Charge — Or Not

  1. In actuality, truth and love and the spirit of eternity are rarely foreseeable, and clarity of being seldom comes through words. That is a wonderful, provocative thought that I agree with whole-heartedly. I try to be rooted in reality, but also know that spirit comes from within when you pay attention and trust yourself.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I agree whole-heartedly with Dr. Stein regarding the box people. Boxes are often a gift unto themselves when it comes to young people. Thank you for the words of Mark Nepo. The last line of his piece is profound, and personally true in my case.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh, Wynne…I’m going to try again. For some reason, my comment isn’t getting through. Another reason to sigh and say ‘TGIF”. I loved the ‘box people’ exchange between you and Dr. Stein. Hilarious…and then…I realized that your morning post and mine both included images of brown boxes. Yours is much more delightful – inhabited by Miss O and Mr. D – but I still chuckled. What are the odds of us both posting pics of boxes? Thanks for the smile – and the thoughtful sharing of Mark Nepo’s piece. xo! ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s so funny about the box photos! I love that synchronicity. One of the little signs of magic in our lives with my new friend, Vicki!

      Sorry about the commenting problems – I emailed WP and they say that are working on it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My mom often told me that there’s something to be learned from every person, if I’m just willing to learn, if I’m just willing to absorb the lesson. Even if it’s not the lesson I was looking for. It might be the one I need. Thank you for highlighting such an important lesson!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh, that is some wonderful wisdom, EW. I wonder how often I miss out on those lessons – I’m afraid it’s probably more often than not. Thanks for adding it to this post — and making me think!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway” constantly seeing this in life! Always some new spin to something old!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Love the picture, Wynne!
    Yes, indeed, we are always learning.”Teachers arise from somewhere within me that is beyond me, the way the dark soil that is not the root holds the root and feeds the flower.”
    Beautifully written.
    These boxes are so versatile in the hands of a child with imagination.
    Have a great weekend with the box people!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I love the passage that you share and agree that we are surrounded by quiet teachers everywhere. If we just pause and listen – and resist the urge to react and response to our need to be right – we might just learn something. And problems often solve themselves in silent reflection.

    Love that picture of your kids! Quiet teachers showing us to think outside the box – literally!

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  8. Thank you for sharing a part of your world and photos!!.. the heart is in charge, the rest of us just follow along… “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” (Kahlil Gibran )… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May your troubles be less
    Your blessings be more
    And nothing but happiness
    Come through your door
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Thanks for sharing this excerpt from Mark Nepo’s book. I very much needed to be reminded of this during this moment in my life. The “quiet teacher” in my life is a stunted rose bush that I rescued four years ago and have watched it bloom again.

    Liked by 1 person

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