‘The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.’
Thank you to Stephen Tame, Krista Tippett/On Being and Parker J. Palmer for showing us this beautiful poem. It resonates strongly with the writer, who holds legal title to a wood. She does not think or speak of herself as ‘owner/owning’. From the outset, the right word has felt like ‘stewardship’, which of course carries a whole other set of beliefs and values to ‘ownership’ – relationship/connection of many layers, in place of disconnection and exploitation. Her reward is to be held in the soft arms of the trees, to hear the language of the birds and to find space to breathe.
Here’s a book link (please note, we are not 100% sure this poem is in this book, although we suspect so – and even if not, there will be many other treasures…).
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling Exeter since 1994