Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets
“Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt – marvelous error! –
that I had a beehive here inside my heart.
and the golden bees
were making white combs
…and sweet honey
from my old failures…..” – Antonio Machado
One of my friends posted a lovely Mary Oliver poem the other day on Facebook and that sent me scurrying to a book I really love “Ten Poems to Change Your Life” compiled by Roger Housden to find an echoing refrain – to answer her back with another poem. Each of the poems is truly outstanding, but the one that leapt out at me yesterday was Antonio Machado’s poem “Last Night as I was Sleeping.”
And while each stanza of that lovely poem is worthy of a separate post (and may, over time, get one!) the one that I posted above really spoke to me.
We all like to be the hero, I think. We like to think kindly of ourselves. To be good. And accomplished. And smart. (and maybe thin and rich and all the other illusory attributes as well). And yet, with all our good intent and our earnest efforts (and most assuredly WITHOUT said intent and efforts) we fail. Sometimes miserably.
So that thought of the bees turning our failures into white combs and sweet honey “while we sleep” – I mean, really, too good to be true, ya? Can’t you just hear the carnival huckster “right over here, folks! step right up and lay on our marvelous machine. Turn your failures into honey – WHILE YOU SLEEP!”
And yet, I think redemption when it comes is like that.
Or, as Mary Oliver says:
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves. ”
What I think each of these poems is getting at, in very different ways, is grace. Grace, and acceptance and a nod towards the Mystery.
And they each have a subtle nod towards our animal, biological selves, as well. Antonio Machado with the mysterious repair of sleep and dreams; Mary Oliver with our desire nature.
I’ve seen this in my own life – how the Mystery and God and Time DO turn my failures into something far more palpable. Sometimes merely by softening me – I guess a form of honey, that. Sometimes showing a path I never would have chosen, which, as it turns out, suits me.
And perhaps the sweetest part of that transformation is that in watching that type of miracle unfold we are gifted further – with discernment and attentiveness (always a gift) and the ongoing proof that there is a God and it’s not us.
I looked for that poem yesterday and posted it on Facebook mostly for its inherent loveliness. Then, last night as I was just about to be sleeping, I got a sudden ‘aha!’ about two seemingly unrelated perplexing physical problems I’ve been struggling with. Since I pride myself on my hardiness, physical problems in and of themselves seem like failures to me. But the aha related to my egoistic stoic toughness and the travail it seemed to be creating. So today I REALLY felt like a failure – sheesh! in my effort to be hale and hearty and tough I have created chaos that will likely be more problematical than had I submitted to God’s little hint (pain) and dealt with the seeming failure of my body.
Thus, tonight when pondering the spirituality topic finding the Machado poem again, it had a much more personal feel to it. Therefore, I’ll do all the practical things for my animal body and then turn the whole mishmash over to the bees in my heart (one of God’s clever disguises) to make it into some honey.
Do you feel as though the Machado poem is fantasy? Or have you sensed that – your failures being turned into honey? And, like Mary Oliver, do you let your soft animal body just love what it loves? I’d really like to know!