Laura on rock in Commonweal

Writing as a Pathway: Re-entry Into Real Life

In the little rap I give my students about re-entry into “real life” after retreat, one of the things I recommend is not to talk too much about the experience, but rather to practice their newly-honed listening skills on their loved ones back home.

I caution them not to make any hasty decisions—like quitting their job or getting a divorce for at least a few days. They all laugh at that one.

One of the other suggestions I make since they’re far more open than they realize, is not to flip on the news in the car and if they can, to stop on the way home. To park at the beach or sit in nature, anything to slow the slamming back into “real life” sensation.

I closed the retreat with this poem:

by Joy Harjo

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is. I met her
in a bar once in Iowa City.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe. I heard her singing Kiowa war
dance songs at the corner of Fourth and Central once.
Remember that you are all people and that all people are you.
Remember that you are this universe and that this universe is you.
Remember that all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember that language comes from this.
Remember the dance that language is, that life is.

And then we stepped outside into the glorious nature of Commonweal and thanked the land: “Breathe in this air. Thank this land for holding you, for holding all of us.”

Scroll to Top