Soul Tending

Ring The Bells_Leonard Cohen

This week, I have had few words. I have felt such a deep sense of despair it borders on catatonia. I am tending to my soul, and doing all the right things to begin to heal the shock and disillusionment that have threatened to sink me, and so many of us. My time-tested way to deal with trauma is to seek out words to frame it. In framing it, I think I find a slight remove from the raw feeling. Many writers are following the same course, and many who I follow have offered me succor and sense. So I read, and move, and breathe, and stay in my body, and gather with friends, and write. Here I share a few writers with you who I have found especially helpful for dealing with fear and despair.

A compassionate counselor in an online Hillary group shared this excellent list of tips to help yourself with stress, if you are having trouble with extreme anxiety, if you are surrounded by abusive people, or if you are just still strung out about this election. Please visit the link if you need help. Take care of yourself.

Staying embodied is so very important, for all of us.

One of the wisest writers I know, Rebecca Solnit, has responded to this national trauma by making her book, Hope in the Darkness, available as a free e-book to download at this link. I have shared excerpts and sent paragraphs to friends when hopelessness overtakes them. It will hearten you, and help you see a way forward.

The powerful Alice Walker writes on the importance of studying and learning, now more than ever.

The wise and wonderful Joanna Macy writes of the Great Turning and the power of grassroots movements, one of the great social revolutions of our time. This offers some ideas to consider now.

I visit hecatedemeter, an eloquent and passionate blogger, when I need an infusion of searing truth and sometimes fiery anger. She never fails me, and just reading this made me feel a little better.

And finally, saying farewell to the bard Leonard Cohen. Brain Pickings is one of my favorite places to visit for wonderful writings about writing and reading. A sanctuary of sorts. The selection of his lyrics and musings about the creative process, including our “laboratory of democracy” is well worth a read.

Good writing is often a lifeline for me, and these writers have helped keep me afloat this week. I share them with you in the hope that it may also be so for you. Go well, stay well, and keep the faith, tribe.


p.s. The art above is a piece I made about a year ago; it is paper painted red, gilded and then inscribed with the words through the gold leaf. I regret now that I did not include the attribution, but it is from a Leonard Cohen song called Anthem. Full lyrics here, and many of his other songs. You could begin your study with just reading this brilliant writer’s lyrics.

The birds they sang 
at the break of day 
Start again 
I heard them say 
Don’t dwell on what 
has passed away 
or what is yet to be.Ah the wars they will 
be fought again 
The holy dove 
She will be caught again 
bought and sold 
and bought again 
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs 
the signs were sent: 
the birth betrayed 
the marriage spent 
Yeah the widowhood 
of every government — 
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more 
with that lawless crowd 
while the killers in high places 
say their prayers out loud. 
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up 
a thundercloud 
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts 
but you won’t have the sum 
You can strike up the march, 
there is no drum 
Every heart, every heart 
to love will come 
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack, a crack in everything 
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack, a crack in everything 
That’s how the light gets in. 
That’s how the light gets in. 
That’s how the light gets in.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Robin Price 11/13/2016, 4:50 pm

    Cari, thank you so much for this nourishing post that resonates so well. — Robin

    • Cari 11/13/2016, 4:52 pm

      Thank you for reading, Robin.

  • Michele 11/13/2016, 7:17 pm

    Thanks, Cari, for your words and wisdom. We all know that change is needed, but it hurts to know that so many American are willing to sacrifice dignity, courtesy, tolerance, civility, and common human decency in an effort to get it. This has been a very difficult week for many, many people, and there are difficult weeks and months to come. But with hope and courage and a fierce desire for justice, we will get through it. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

    • Cari 11/13/2016, 7:20 pm

      It’s good to hear from you, Michele. You’ve been such a faithful reader. Thanks for the Martin Luther King wisdom, too.

  • Sally Sanders 11/14/2016, 10:04 am

    Thank you Cari, both for your beautiful piece and thoughts, and the links to others. We need to lean on and with each other. I am struggling with coming to terms with it, as many of us are. The close to home relationships with bible quoting people who proudly supported the president elect seem to be the hardest for me. What happened to the importance of the Sermon on the Mount? Thank you thank you!

    • Cari 11/14/2016, 10:58 am

      I am glad you are here then, Sally. Here is another link I forgot to post, written by a pastor in North Carolina. It speaks to you situation, and to that of many of us, I think.

  • Meridy 11/15/2016, 2:03 pm

    Oh, Cari, you have no idea (or maybe you do) how much I need this! I too have been working with such despair that I was feeling deeply anxious and yet numb (literally physically numb a few times). I was fortunate enough to be able to get away over the weekend to take some wire- and metal-working classes in the Bay Area, which at least got me out among my tribe of art-making folks and shook me out of my funk a bit…and then Saturday night my husband and I were with dear friends in Marin and just settled in together in a quiet group howl. 🙂

    Thank you so much, Cari, for the link to Rebecca Solnit’s book and for the other good suggestions for taking care…good writing, good music, good prompts to thinking–all essential and so much appreciated.


    • Cari 11/15/2016, 2:10 pm

      Thanks, Meridy. I’m glad I could share some of what has helped me. And you discovered the value of point #18, “create create create!” Yes, art heals, and not only us, but the collective as well! Thanks for being a maker and also one of my readers.

  • Laurie Doctor 11/15/2016, 6:51 pm

    I have also been reading and listening to Leonard Cohen. It is the timeless truths that re-direct the perspective of our human dilemma.
    Thank you Cari.

    • Cari 11/15/2016, 9:58 pm

      And music which can heal us. It’s always good to hear from you, Laurie.

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