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Earth Day Reflections

wide river on a sunny day

In honor of Earth Day, we’re sharing these poems written by our Scholar Frederick Foote, MD. We hope they offer some peaceful reflection.

 

Wild Serene

In paths of red

I licked the water’s

cool pink mouth.

 

The sweet green muck enfolds

my dots of light

a heart ablaze with heat

with no trace of salinity

to mar its percolating suck

its warmth and slide.

 

Fishes brushed

my plated underbelly

 

Ecstacy

to turn and snap

quick as thinking

fast as (dillaprine).

 

Crocodiles

steered their bulk beneath the algae

parting the eager tide

and with due caution

I paddled, paddled,

my limbs happy

under their (fracks) and (bighs).

 

Reaching the shallows

I found a pool of flowers

close against a bank

that rose and steamed.

 

Lines of passing fishes dapple

light that falls, the stream.

 

The King of the Reeds

Blue stream

dripping patch of leaves

fade and make

him swell with noise.

tonight he’ll seize

twelve flies on the wing

clammy ears await

his urgent singing.

 

Joy explodes

a world that’s pure

and paradise-wet

intends no harm

and will not let him know:

beneath the levee’s lip

a snake lives nine summers old

who’ll snare the tip of his nose

before he gets

a chance to dive

and swallow him down alive.

Broken Grass

The buzz of flies

on my trachomatous eyes

and whining cubs with batting paws

make me wake and yawn

and stand to stretch

on shocking feet

*

Always the young taste best.

This day’s design

means death to one of theirs

and life to mine.

*

a tangled loop of bowel

a dusty hoof

torn from the fury around the feast.

My cubs lie down to sleep

their sweet hot limbs

uncoiled and slack.

 

Full Circle

What did

your dying mean

to you who lived it

 

Was there a moment

great snake

that gave you freedom

 

crystallized

like black birds on an infrared sight

framed with indecision

 

Or did you simply move

like children touching a power line

as we recoil from pain

 

did you rise to strike

just as the hoe

curved like an iron rainbow

 

down to slice your neck

cutting the tender fibers in two

making your eyes squeeze shut

 

Ruptured head

falling back away from the rock

white gums chewing black dirt

 

snake

what mechanistic bubble

makes us open our lips at last

 

as if to try to breathe

mother of demons

will I writhe like you

 

at my own death

my own hypoxia, my hydrogen ion

all the magic signs

 

to which you’ve led the way

and which I’ll never know

except through you

 

your rage unable to see

the prime menorrhagia’s

only just begun

 

You drag your tooth

of bone across my boot

a touch light as an anvil

 

levitate

to string limp coils around my neck

the haunted cook with the red face

 

whose burning stew ferments the night

by always underwriting

one more question

 

© Frederick Foote, MD

 

Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. 

When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) 

“When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” 

Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. “…they gradually found relief from suffering and began to exhibit emergent characteristics: a sense of hope, self-acceptance, and a desire to help others—the immediate precursors to healing.”

 In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” 

  • Helping Others: We find meaning in helping others. “Understanding that suffering gives the strength and experience to help others in similar situations.”
  • Hope: We begin to have hope that we will not always feel this bad. A Crohn’s patient said, “I think gradually I realized that I was going to feel better. I did have days when I actually didn’t vomit, when I did feel better. And I think gradually I came to believe that maybe I could have a normal life again.”
  • Self-Acceptance: We see our inherent value and understand that we are not to blame for our suffering. A participant living with HIV said, “I’m really proud of myself. I think that now I still want to live. I don’t want to die, and I really love myself a lot. I have a lot of comfort in myself.”

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. 

There is debate about whether or not one actually needs to experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. 

“The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”

Characteristics: How predisposed someone may be to wounding/how many tools and resources someone may have to deal with trauma/illness.

Lifestages: Developmental timing plays an important role in the impact of trauma — young children often do not have the same resources as older adults.

Relationships: Relationships can provide solace and support for those suffering, while lack of healthy relationships can prolong suffering.