When you're standing in the midst of ash and rubble. When the ringing is still in your ears from the blast. When you need to pick up your feet over and over through the dusty terrain. When your hands must keep moving and cannot stop. When you push beyond, further, more, to get through. These are not the times for an aerial view. There is no room for "look at the bigger picture," and "it could be worse." You just need to keep picking up the axe and cutting down the tree, you need to keep the flood from your home, you need to force the air back into your lungs. This is not the time.
But there is a time.
When I was standing on the ash and had no ladder to see it from above I penned this prayer for my hungry soul, Soon, even though this season doesn't have words now, it will become a story. You'll be able to put the peaks and valleys into sentences and describe the moment you saw how you were being put back together by love. It doesn't have words while the wind blows. But when you look back, it will be your favorite story to tell. And now that I've begun to rebuild the house and have taken a breath easily I feel the need for story rising up in my ribs like a fire. The kind of flame you throw old letters into or spread your hands toward during a storm, your knees pressed against his.
The peaks and valleys, the days when you couldn't get off the kitchen floor and the days you were so brilliantly yourself you thought you'd never fall, they need words. They need to be made into story, they need to be spoken.
Here is the secret about stories: once you write them, they are yours. You've claimed every breath into black and white. And here is the second and sweetest secret: once a story is written, it is over. It has a close. You can say, "the end," and the storm cannot taunt you by saying it may never stop. And the sun will be visible and breathtaking.
Sure, on the ash heap there is no time for poetry. But miles away, when you're standing in your garden beginning to replant, also take out a pen. Poetry is necessary. Write about all the twists and chaos and how you couldn't catch your breath. Write until you can smell the fire and feel the heat. It should be remembered. Tell your story because it needs to be told and we are breathless waiting for each detail. But then, let the paper fall to the ground and begin to dance. Tend your garden again. Join the way forward. Tell us everything until there is enough space for a whole new breath to begin again.