The Alchemy of Poetry

By Paul C Pritchard on Wednesday June 19th, 2019

Words to Remind Me...

Every personal journey is a kaleidoscope of human expression. Along the long and winding road, we will inevitably encounter both joy and adversity that has the potential to alchemise into the best aspects of our character and fortify us with resilience and compassion.

Every life is precious and worthy of a helping hand when times are tough. Or at least when we are so identified with the suffering that we entrap ourselves in a vicious pain cycle that the mind is always too willing to justify.

When I hear my mind starting up its victim and justification monologue, I have a ritual. I’ve done it for so long now that fortunately, I don’t have to wallow in the paralysing victim-mentality for too long.

To start, I always thank my mind for all the wonderful ways in which it tries to protect me (or more truthfully the much younger me). Then I say perhaps there’s another solution that we haven’t considered yet that might be more effective and practical. Then I bring out the ironic pièce de résistance, Mary Oliver’s wonderful poem, The Journey.

I love how the first line of this poem reminds me that I must take immediate action. I need to ignore my ‘bad voices’ and push on ‘determined to save the only life that [I] could save’ – my own life. It’s a poem that does not ignore that there is work to be done, that there are obstacles, but we must be brave and take that first step so we can come home to the grace of flow and the acceptance of the now.

Save my own lifeThis poem always reminds me to do the only thing I can do…

‘The Journey’ by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.


Let us know in the comments below how this poem moves you, and feel free to share your own rituals for remembering you have all that you need for this divine, mysterious journey.

Much love and support to you always.


How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.




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Satish Kumar: Following Your Calling

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10 Responses to The Alchemy of Poetry

  1. Just starting another part on this journey of life. I have been a rescuer my who life. Finally left my children behind and have no idea where I am going or what I am looking for. Not scared or lonely, a bit apprehensive because I don’t know what lays ahead. Determined however to stay true to the path, though.Bless you all.

    • Thank you Phyllis, I couldn’t ever put words on what I’ve been feeling my entire adult life until I just read your comment. I too have been a rescuer and I too have been struggling with carrying and trying to rescue everyone especially my children, and today I too am going to move forward as they are both in their thirty’s, smart, secure and capable. I thank God for this moment right now and that He brought me to your comment, it truly touched my heart in a way He new I needed. God bless you and your journey in life.

  2. Excellent poem. I didn’t feel lost in it. The meter conveys the quiet determination of the theme, which is universal. Well done. English language poetry is so much more complex than meets the eye. The “bumpy road” happens over and over again in our lives.

  3. Recent widow. Moved to new home in November 2018 husband passed Jan 172019. Been on a very bumppy emotional trip ever since. Married many many years. Muchmore difficult than I ever thought.

    • Hey Ronnie, be kind and gentle with yourself on your bumpy new road. I am so sorry for your loss and I wish you wellness and gentle-ness in the days and months ahead.

    • Words always fail me in circumstances such as yours; but some one’s true presence is sometimes sufficient to help us.
      Ronnie I sincerely wish you have or search for someone’s presence to help you.
      May God also be present in your difficult time.

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