Singing in the Dark Times


Ring the bells that still can ring.                       Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
                 -Leonard Cohen  

Jan. 20, 2017

Dear friends,

For the past two months, I’ve been silent here and on the page, a response I try to accept, though wish it were different. I wish I could post a wise or upbeat message for the new year, but not this year, not this month, not this week, and certainly not this day.

My heart is a shard, words creep at glacial speed from my pen. What do I do when this happens? I turn to nature, art, and poetry—and am grateful for all those who are able to write, to keep creating in the dark times when we need art most. I’m reminded of the line from Bertolt Brecht: “In the darkness will there also be singing? Yes, about the dark times.” Because I’m not yet able to sing or write about the dark times I fear may be ahead, I reflect on what sustains me:

  • The earth, which reminds us of resilience even as we elect leaders who will test her: the apple that held fast to its branch through fall storms; the owl that appeared out of the dark night, spreading her great wings before she hit the windshield, rising just in time.
  • The courage of friends–Morgaine can’t march, but has knit pink hats for eight women who are marching in Washington DC or Seattle tomorrow:
  • The optimism of strangers: the man on the beach in Cayucos who spent a sunny afternoon drawing mandalas in the sand, knowing the next tide would erase them.

In Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker Palmer reminds me why I need to keep trying to articulate what I feel, even when it’s so deeply painful: “Our lives are filled with contradictions—from the gap between our aspirations and our behavior, to observations and insights we cannot abide because they run counter to our convictions. 

If we fail to hold them creatively, these contradictions will shut us down and take us out of the action. 

But when we allow their tensions to expand our hearts, they can open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, enhancing our lives and allowing us to enhance the lives of others. We are imperfect and broken beings who inhabit an imperfect and broken world. The genius of the human heart lies in its capacity to use these tensions to generate insight, energy, and new life.”

I’ll close with the last two stanzas of a  poem by Lisel Mueller that was shared on the Panhala listserve—with gratitude to Joe Riley for curating this site. (To subscribe to Panhala, send a blank email to

cold dark forest


It is the singular gift

we cannot destroy in ourselves,

the argument that refutes death,

the genius that invents the future,

all we know of God.

It is the serum which makes us swear

not to betray one another;

it is in this poem, trying to speak.

~ Lisel Mueller ~

If you haven’t been able to write, reflect on what sustains you. March, take walks, find poems, songs, websites, or other resources to lift your spirits when the words won’t come. Allow yourself to choose the response that suits your spirit.  Let hope be your words, trying to speak.

In solidarity as we make our way together,


PS. Couldn’t post this yesterday–we’re on the road up the coast–so am posting it the day of the March, which seems fitting. Will be joining the March in Florence, Oregon…

Comments are closed.