Going Where You Have to Go…

“You learn by going where you have to go.” *

I often think that the most important thing we can do is to show up.

Sometimes we show up for others and not ourselves such as when we visit someone in a nursing home. Or, when we attend the funeral of someone whom we don’t know to be there for the family.

In going where we have to go, we learn. We experience. We suffer.  We celebrate.

We become more than we were before.

Theodore Roethke, 1908-1963  American Poet

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Poem by Theodore Roethke

To me, this poem is more beautiful when I read it out loud to myself.

Theodore Roethke

“Theodore Roethke hardly fits anyone’s image of the stereotypical high-minded poet-intellectual of the 1940s through 1960s.

“Born in Saginaw, Michigan, his father was a German immigrant who owned and ran a 25-acre greenhouse. Though as a child he read a great deal and as a high school freshman he had a Red Cross campaign speech translated into 26 languages, he suffered from issues of abandonment and loss, and his lack of self-esteem led him to strive to be accepted by peers. When he was 14, his father died of cancer and his uncle committed suicide.

“He attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he adopted a tough, bear-like image (weighing over 225 pounds) and even developed a fascination with gangsters. Eccentric and nonconformist—he later called himself “odious” and “unhappy”—Roethke yearned for a friend with whom he could talk and relate his ambitions.

“Poet and writer James Dickey once named Roethke the greatest of all American poets: “I don’t see anyone else that has the kind of deep, gut vitality that Roethke’s got. Whitman was a great poet, but he’s no competition for Roethke.”

“His difficult childhood, his bouts with manic depression, and his ceaseless search for truth through his poetry writing led to a difficult life, but also helped to produce a remarkable body of work that would influence future generations of American poets to pursue the mysteries of one’s inner self. ”  Poetry Foundation

*from “The Waking”

11 thoughts on “Going Where You Have to Go…

    1. He led an interesting life. His poems are so beautiful and so elusive at the same time. Part of his genius. Regardless of when I read them or how often I read them, I feel a connection. I feel as though he is speaking for me about the things that I feel.
      I hope you are well. It is always nice to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I think I know how you feel. It resonates with me. When I read it aloud I find all kinds of meaning. I think that is the hallmark of a good poem…to make us feel and think. Lori

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you. It is a beautiful and indeed haunting poem. I am glad to be introduced to it. The truth is very real when we make an effort to go where we need to go even if we do not want to…most times an incredible blessing for ourselves occurs but also for others.

    Liked by 1 person

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