A poem by Margaret Atwood flips ownership and accomplishment upside-down

I planted my flag here. How could I not have? I claimed a home, when what I longed for was to be claimed, to be claimed by a place, to have Place say to me, come home, little one, rest here.

I love this poem of Margaret Atwood’s, because, hell yes, after all these years of striving, I DO want to pat myself on the back and say, job well done, you earned this, you deserve this, you did work hard. (Or maybe, if I really excavate the layers, what I long for deep down is someone, older and wiser, to bless me, instead, to say, I see what you did, and you put your heart into that. Just as Wánosts’a7, Dr Lorna Williams, said to me, when I shared the article I’d written, that came out of our conversation. “I can see that you worked hard on this,” she said, and I felt my whole body sigh and soften with that acknowledgement.

“We’re living in a time where we get a lot of affirmations, but what we don’t get, is blessings. A blessing is something where, you have been keenly witnessed in some difficult labour, and usually somebody that is older than you, takes you aside, and says, I saw that thing you did. And you will know when you’ve been blessed. Because suddenly you will feel full.”

Martin Shaw

I like the way Margaret Atwood plays with that in the poem, plays with me. Challenges me to understand that all that proclaiming is a child’s way of doing things… that the wiser path is to enter into relationship, to be invited into belonging, to be found… to receive, rather than to take. I guess this is the kind of wisdom that we need elders for. To remind us.

The Moment
by Margaret Atwood

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

Photo by Tim Walker

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