On this second day of spring, I found a jar of poetry and bits in a bush on a neighborhood footpath. I almost left it there without a look. (Scandinavians believe in mind-your-own-business and leave-no-trace. We can take it too far.)
I picked it up, and investigated by layers. First I read the words I could see through the glass. They were David Whyte words, and beautiful. I knew then, as I had before/life is no passing memory of what has been/nor the remaining pages in a great book/waiting to be read.
I put it back unopened and walked my dog.
On the return, I picked up the jar again, opened it. JAR #15, it said. I removed two slips of paper, and twigs and stones wrapped in string. “This jar is part of an interactive poetry and art installation that started on Bainbridge Island, Washington. If you’ve found this jar you can keep it, hide it somewhere new as it is, or fill it with new words and treasures for another person to discover.”
There is a website, Jars of Words. Islander Rebecca Rockefeller says she started this project as a birthday present to herself. My present to her is Rumi: “She is a letter to everyone. You open it. It says, Live.”
I write about it here because it seems important. I cover local politics on this blog. It is strenuous, not always rewarding, but usually worthwhile. I’ve watched how we do things—people who hold office or work for our government, or express an opinion, or build something, or organize their neighbors. It is often graceless. Always passionate.
Trying to get things done in a town full of opinions involves argument. Meetings. Hearings. Positions taken, grudges held.
To be startled by poetry on a morning walk puts the whole thing in context. People live and work and love. They disagree and take offense and avoid each other. They forget and go on. This is what people do in the markets and coffee houses and streets all over the world, all over time.
The poet Carolyn Forche tells a story about a Central American human rights worker who, upon hearing that the U.S. was sending an ambassador to help in the aftermath of revolution and civil war, asked, “Why send us your bureaucrats? Send us your poets. Send us the soul of your country.”
So Bainbridge Island. Here is the soul of our island, from Jar #15. Continue Reading »