I Believe in the Healing Power of Poetry

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As a child growing up in the hills that surround Tyrone, Pennsylvania, I spent many happy days exploring the riverbank behind my home. My friends there, plants and animals, consoled me through the heartaches, and celebrated with me the accomplishments of growing up. In return for all their kindnesses, I wrote them thank you notes in child’s rhyme. These were my earliest lessons in writing poems that could heal my wounds and bless my heart.

My father was a high school teacher who was always encouraging me to learn new things and develop my talents. When I entered third grade, he gave me a gift that I have cherished through life: a book without words, filled with pages of blank lines. On the cover he drew a simple pencil sketch of a pond edged with reeds, and titled it “Beside the Still Waters.” Dad loved to take our family on walks through the woods. He shared the beauty of nature and taught us about the plants and trees. On these walks, I learned that writing my thoughts down would release the feelings the echoed inside me.

My best expressions and deepest questions of life’s journey most often come to me in the rhythms that fill my life. The turning of the seasons, the beating of a heart always invite me to write a poem. The poems I’ve written over half a century tell the stories of how my fellowship with the natural world mentored me through raising a family, becoming a nurse, moving to the flat lands of the Midwest, and weathering the disintegration of a thirty year marriage.

Two years ago, I moved back to the hills of Pennsylvania, to leave behind some of the deepest wounds of my life. Today, through my townhouse windows, I look out upon the same mountain ridge I saw through the back screen door of my childhood home. Once again, Erato, the muse f poetry, reaches out her hand, urging me to trust her. And I am gifted with this poem:

Mountain Daughter

I hike the switch backs
that hug me tight
to the bosom of the Mother Mount.
Rocking ever upward over stony ground,
I suckle timeless nourishment
in the lilting wind that croons,
drink deeply mountain daughter
to endure.
to endure.

These days I’m writing poems more frequently as I examine my new life path. Writing poetry has helped me to heal, and examining that process has made my recent poetry writing even more healing. I believe in the healing power of poetry.

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