LINES FOR WINTER
by MARK STRAND
An immediate response to this poem was to ask,
"What is my song?"
I have a children's book by Denis and Sheila Linn titled "What is my song?"
and it relates an African fable ...
“There is a tribe in east Africa in which the art of true intimacy is fostered even before birth.
In this tribe, the birth date of a child is not counted from the day of its physical birth nor even the day of conception as in other village cultures.
For this tribe the birth date comes the first time the child is a thought in its mother’s mind.
Aware of her intention to conceive a child with a particular father,
the mother then goes off to sit alone under a tree.
There she sits and listens until she can hear the song of the child that she hopes to conceive.
Once she has heard it, she returns to her village and teaches it to the father so that they can sing it together as they make love, inviting the child to join them.
After the child is conceived, she sings it to the baby in her womb.
Then she teaches it to the old women and midwives of the village,
so that throughout the labor and at the miraculous moment of birth itself,
the child is greeted with its song.
After the birth all the villagers learn the song of their new member
and sing it to the child when it falls or hurts itself.
It is sung in times of triumph, or in rituals and initiations.
This song becomes a part of the marriage ceremony when the child is grown, and at the end of life,
his or her loved ones will gather around the deathbed and sing this song for the last time.”
A Path with Heart (Bantam Books, 1993), p. 334. Jack Kornfield
I often ask myself, "What is my song?"
What remains constant in me throughout all life's changes?
I have the children's book adaptation
and it has a profound, grouding effect on me every time I read it.
I sewed very long arms which encircle the body.
There are two strands in my life -
self-knowledge and discovering my true self, and
responding to that growing awareness in my daily life.