“Ten years ago—feeling lost in my work, the world’s madness, the challenges of aging, and the wilds of my own mind—I spent a week in solitude and silence, hoping to be found.
I rented a small cabin with a wood-burning stove out in Wisconsin’s deep-frozen winter woods. For a week I did little more than hike, stare into the fire, read and write, nap, and make simple meals. It sounds lovely and in many ways it was. But the week was laced with deep loneliness.
Late in the week, on one of my hikes, I had the experience I tried to capture in this poem—a sense of “being found,” not by someone or something else, but by the mystery within me.
Wherever they come from, few words we can hear are better than “Welcome Home.” In a world where so many feel lost, few missions are more meaningful than extending that welcome to each other on every level of our lives.
“Welcome Home” by Parker J. Palmer
Alone in the alien, snow-blown woods,
moving hard to stay warm in zero weather,
I stop on a rise to catch my breath as the
setting sun—streaming through bare-boned
trees—falls upon my face, fierce and full of life.
Breathing easier now, in and out with the earth,
I suddenly feel accepted—feel myself stand
easy, strong, deep-rooted as the trees,
while time and all these troubles disappear.
And when (who knows how long?) I trudge
on down the trail and find my ancient burdens
returning, I stop once more to say No to them—
not here, not now, not ever again—reclaiming
the welcome home the woods have given me.”
Parker J Palmer