Splitting Wood — From Most Mornings

It is nearing the one year mark since I published Most Mornings. I find myself attentive today to how those poems from a year ago are now living in me. It’s one of the things that I love about poetry — it can evolve meaning and presence over time.

For this particular poem, Splitting Wood, I’m also attentive to the good work that men can do together, and need to do together over time. I’m headed to a men’s retreat this weekend, a version of which from a few years ago helped to create the content for Spitting Wood. It was such a beautiful thing to be with kind men in friendship and journey. It was the last line about “stacking friendship” that helped get the poem going in my imagination.

Most Mornings is available for purchase on Amazon. Thank you for purchases, shares, gifts to others.

Splitting Wood
Tenneson Woolf

They split the wood,
these five men working together.

One man, with long grayed beard and kind eyes,
operated the wood splitter.

Two men lifted large tree stumps,
to place just so under the chop of the modern axe.

Two men collected the split wood in wheelbarrow
to transport and stack neatly in covered shed.

This was not hard work, these five men splitting wood
that would warm many a winter morning.

This was good work, these five men helping each other,
stacking friendship, warmth, and memory.

Your Being Wishes To Know You, Just As You Are

I’m grateful again to Michael Meade for his posts and shares. I’m drawn to this one above that points toward being from a deep center.

For many of us in facilitation work, it is the deep center that we try to cultivate. To grow. To animate. To center the work of the day or the season.

There’s a poem that I included in Most Mornings, which is now coming up on a one year anniversary of publication. It was that last line — “You’re being wishes to know you, just as you are.” — that was compelling me in this poem. It was a time of trying to remember that my relationship with the deeply inner helps to clarify so much of what I do in the outer. It was a time of trying to remember the utter fruitfulness of stillness.

The poem is called Start Here.

Start Here
Tenneson Woolf

don’t start with noise.

A program,
a podcast,

an article,
a book.

Start instead
with stillness.


that honors
new day.

Your being wishes to know you
just as you are.

Much of my work continues these days, helping to bring being and the deeply inner. Helping to cultivate such sustained orientations in learning and leadership. I’m beginning to recreate, expand, and nuance some of the work that I love — facilitating, speaking, teaching, sharing poetry, coaching, and guiding — that brings more fulfilling ways of being in work and community. Perhaps some of this also calls to you and your being, in your work and in your community. The first step is always a call to begin the possibility.

A bow.

Poetry — It Invites Relationship With Essence

I love this image from a recent walk, seeing both the cones on this Pine Tree, but also the long expanding needles. Particularly in Spring, such sights nudge me to reflections on newness, on life expanding. The images — when I’m open to feel and to follow — they inspire a depth of being that comes from essence.

And so does poetry. Writing in prosed form has become one of my longest daily commitments now. It is over the last six years in particular that I’ve made habit of both writing poetry and reading more from others. It’s oodles of journal entries to reflect on what the morning and the overnight has offered. Some of those remain in rough form. Some get polished. Some get shared. What I love most about it, over these six years, is that writing poetry brings me to a relationship with essence, which I feel has been with me for 60 years. Poetry invites an attentiveness to the core of what is happening and what is unfolding, what is feeling and what is finding. Often through simple beginning points, such as new growth on a neighbor’s Pine Tree.

Hmm. Poetry invites relationship.

With essence. I find also, with structure. When I write, I’m paying attention to the way that a poem wants to appear on the page. I’m paying attention to phrases that wish to be repeated. And there’s something I love in this. An invitation to relationship with structure is broader than words that I write on page. For then, I’m also paying attention to structure in other aspects of my life. In work. In relationship. In family.

Yesterday I wrote more paragraphed, short essay style about what All Humans seek. To be loved. To be heard, seen, and loved. Belonging, safety, accomplishment. Well, there was a prosed form that came first, from morning journal writing. Again, with attentiveness to some of what is most simple.

For clarity, and love of essence.

What All Humans Seek
Tenneson Woolf

The descent to neuro-entrained fear is steep and slippery.
It is harsh deception and over-reached survival insistence.
Fear’s shouting is persistent.

Yet I don’t think what we desire is really that complicated.
I, and so many others, seek belonging — acceptance of who we are.
I, and so many others, seek safety — physical and emotional, spiritual too.
I, and so many others, seek accomplishment — excelling and contributing both solo and with others.

The first step is deeply inner.
If sought only in the outer, there is less container to hold found healing waters.

The first step also is to give what one wishes to get.
It is living and invoking belonging, safety, and accomplishment.

I am learning that there is profound necessary undoing to find way to essence.
I seek belonging — to notice and welcome what is already and undeniably here.
asdThe plethora of friends and colleagues with whom creation and joy compels.
I seek safety — to celebrate and assert what already is.
asdThis home, this car, bills paid, a meal to nourish.
I seek accomplishment — to love and accept what is already occurring.
asdThe planning meeting, the shared podcast, the collection of poems nearing publication.

Yet maybe essence is even more simple than that,

in the poetry and in the practice.

asdIn self.
asdWith others.
asdWith Life.

All Humans

I remember one of the early experiences of leadership retreats that I participated in. It was during the mid 1990s, in the era of The Berkana Institute Dialogues that were led by Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner Rogers. Many of us were in a thick conversation about what people need. It was a values conversation. It was a yearnings and longings conversation. I remember that I was starting to lose my ability to track the conversation, to hold to the essence. And then a man spoke what I remember feeling as a voice of clarity and as a voice of relief. He was sharing an essence — I don’t know if it was something already in him or if it was something that arose from the moment. “All humans desire to be loved.”

Sweet clarity spoken from an honest heart.

I remember another experience of leadership dialogue. This was toward the late 1990s, in an expanded web of people that shared affinity for Berkana and for such conversations about yearnings, longings, and practice. I remember Peggy Holman in this one, who became a loved colleague and friend. Peggy was an important contributor to the Open Space community of practitioners. She was deeply involved in convening journalists together to reimagine responsible journalism. And Peggy was prolific thinker and writer — The Change Handbook, and later, Engaging Emergence. Again, it was a conversation seeking to find what lives in the heart, shared by peoples everywhere. Peggy said, “All humans wish to be heard, seen, and loved.”

Again, sweet clarity.

This morning my waking and wondering self followed a similar path while I was thinking about a few projects that I’m connected to, and while I was thinking about a few people who are similarly wondering. All humans, it seems to me, wish three things — belonging, safety, and accomplishment.

Let me nuance just a bit.

All humans wish belonging. For me, this includes being accepted fundamentally as who we are, be it in the external qualities or in the essence of internal qualities. All humans wish welcome. All humans wish community, large or small, to affirm belonging so that both the center of the belonging can be strengthened, and, so that the edges of the belonging can be evolved with an underlying appreciation and acceptance. All humans wish belonging.

All humans wish safety. For me, I’m thinking more at the layer of Abraham Maslow’s famous framing, hierarchy of needs. I’m thinking physical and emotional safety, spiritual too. Reliable shelter. Food. Water. Means to engage with others regarding their physical safety. Emotional safety for me means access to a clear heart that isn’t lost in fear, or fallen from fear’s steep and slippery slope. It means space and support amidst harsh deceptions that can come from the fear of direct experience or inherited survival experiences. All humans wish safety.

All humans wish accomplishment. For me, this is contribution. Be that from a solo orientation or from a team or communal orientation. It means participation. It means sometimes leading out on things or on big ideas. It means sometimes offering support and busy hands and feet to help accomplish small but necessary steps of bigger works being led by others. Humans wish to fulfill purposes that speak to the needs of community, and to the needs a single heart of a person. All humans wish accomplishment.


To be loved.
Heard, seen, loved.
Belonging, safety, accomplishment.

A little further in learning, the kind of learning that is more available to me with a few added years lived, is that though we humans, all humans, seek such essences, there is profound work and practice to be done by starting with self. There is profound work and practice in the doing, and sometimes in the undoing, of these inner vessels that seek to catch and be nourished by healing waters.

Yup. A big yes to those recognizing and hunching their way forward with a few steps of starting with self. And, simultaneously, a big yes, to those offering these “All Humans” qualities with others, seeking to live, give, and practice the very same things that we seek in the deepest parts of ourselves.

Gonna follow this one for a while. Feels alive in the ways that I, and so many of us, seek to get to what is at the heart of it all in working with groups.