Since this is National Poetry Month, I’m going to share some thoughts I have gleaned from several poets. I almost said favorite, but that would be unfair because on any given day, quite a few could be in the running for “favorite.”
With that, I will spend a few days sharing some thoughts from Maya Angelou’s excellent “On the Pulse of Morning.” Please look it up if it’s not familiar to you — so awesome!
Have you ever heard the expression “dumb as a rock?” Turns out, that might be a dumb statement. Listen to what Maya hears from a rock.
“The Rock Cries Out to Us Today”: Maya, History, Nature, and Us
Maya Angelou observes the state of humanity and responds to it through the natural elements of “A Rock, A River, A Tree.”
Why would she do this? It’s a literary tradition, but that’s not the reason. The reason it’s a literary tradition is the reason. Nature is the reason. Our intimate connection with and relationship to Nature is the reason.
Because of that relationship, the Romantics often used Nature to reflect the inner emotional state of humans, especially, as Maya does here, to expose the conditions of society or simply illustrate them, the aggregate expression of individuals. The Romantics were initiators of social change; the energy of their work fueled awareness and even some legislation. We are often slow to learn. We still need the lessons and always will; Dr. Maya Angelou knows that.
In the first eight lines of the poem, Maya introduces the Rock, River, and Tree as observers of history for eons, since the beginning of this whole ball of wax known as Earth. They witnessed the life, approaching doom, and extinction of the mastodon. Foreshadowing? Others in danger of extinction? Not if we listen to the wisdom of these elements of Nature, you know, the ones to which we wouldn’t normally ascribe wisdom.
And the Rock, River, and Tree point out that while we may see the dry bones of dinosaurs like those to which the Rock refers, what we have failed, Failed, FAILED to see — to perceive, to intuit, to conclude — is the “broad alarm of their hastening doom.” We did not witness the process of the destructive dynamics involved, but we should know.
Therefore, they will tell us, and we may learn, be warned, and rise to respond to the alarm, to all the alarms around us now.
“[T]he Rock cries out to us” by offering a vantage point. We are invited to stand upon its back, its solid, sure, unshakable back. For what reason? What purpose would that serve? Rock tells us that we “may stand upon [his] / Back and face [our] distant destiny.” We can see, know, perceive, and respond — if we would use Nature for the learning.
What might that imply? The Rock has a purpose that has not changed: it is solid, firm, unmoving, and collects evidence of history. Rock asks us, in essence, what our purpose is.
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Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!