The Best in Art and Life — A Poem by Roger Rosenblatt

Photo Credit, WSHU

I suppose what I love in this poem below by Roger Rosenblatt, American writer and memoirist, is the invitation to notice how some things, in art and life, come into being, because they can’t not. 

I suppose what I love in this poem is a recognition that I see in my facilitation work with groups, particularly with circle — there is a clarity of insight, born in connection, that can’t not come forward.

I suppose what I love in this poem is that it orients to a certain “irrepressibleness,” interrupting the common and stressful contemporary narrative of “needing to work hard for it all,” and instead offers the possibility of “naturally arising.”

Enjoy. Thanks Roger Rosenblatt.


The Best in Art and Life

The best in art and life
comes from a center
something urgent and powerful
and ideal or emotion
that insists
on its being.

From that insistence
a shape emerges
and creates its structure out of passion.

If you being with a structure,
you have to make up the passion,

and that’s very hard to do.


Grateful this weekend for some rich and thoughtful discussion and learning on center. I’ve been on Whidbey Island, cohosting The Circle Way Advanced Practicum with Amanda Fenton (we think of it as a gathering on “advancing practice”). Very glad for the group of participants that could nuance and share inquiry about what center is. Hearth. Alter. The heart.

Several of us have been in some conversations for a while about center. About developing a relationship with center. Which sometimes means silence. Which sometimes means source. Which sometimes means a relationship with something very non-static, that catches importance, and invisible threads, and contributions from participants. Sometimes it’s just the being together that can animate unique learning.

I loved the part of our conversations that have added to the notion of a circle, and thus a center, being a container to help be in relationship with what is unresolved, yet so desperately needs attention.

Gratitude to the 13 of us that spend the last five days together in learning, connection, and centering.

Off Center, Fucking Rattled

I love these lupines growing in my yard from earlier this summer. I love their full flourishing. I love the round stone balanced on top of these other stones. The total set of three stones stands about two feet above the ground.

First, let’s be clear. “Centered” does have a context in which it is perhaps just a bit over rated, no? When I reference “centered” I generally mean grounded. Or clear. Or in flow. Those are all great things that I seek. When I reference the over rated part of centered I generally mean the blocking of needed disturbance (or some weird inherent shame of being off center). The commitment to a myth of stability. The rejection or repression of learning only available in some disequilibrium.

It was several of my teachers that helped me to learn about the value of change. The reality of change. The ever present process of change. When I reference “change” I am talking about the whole scope and scale. The inner changes in awareness and psychological maturity that have everything to do with outer world. It always does. No, seriously, always. When I reference “change” I am talking about a much more encompassing sense of time, how now connects to a perceived past and future.

I suppose it is true that belonging has always been a challenge for me. It’s a bit funny to say that because I’ve always been with good people in family, friendship, colleagueship, community. I expect belonging. And at the same time, some deeper level of belonging, with its fears and worries, the integration of life’s inherent wounds, particularly in childhood, also accompanies me. I know it is this way for many of us, living in such apparent contradictions. Some of the deepest work I know is an integration of self.

Well, with some of this as background thinking, I wrote this poem recently. I gave myself permission to amplify my description. Sometimes it is some amplification that creates access to the gem. Perhaps the greatest belonging, or the must abundant seed for belonging, is the belonging that we claim with self (and often through good friends that can remind us again and again — I’m grateful for those in my life).


Off Center, Fucking Rattled

I get off center
(by that I mean fucking rattled)
when I do not trust
in the stories I share,
in the experience that I know,
and in the teachings that I create. 

I get fucking rattled,
thinking that I need to be
something other than what I am,
that I must once again,
abandon myself
to have belonging.

That’s fucked,


I count on center a lot these days, though I think it’s always been true for me, even before learning about The Circle Way. A center in self, a source from which the rivers of perception and wonder might flow. A center for a group, a third space accessible to all, a lake, figuratively, for the the mixing of the tributary waters of experience and important questions. Center holds us. Center connects us. Lately, I’ve been involved with big, and needed big, centers.

The photo above is from co-hosting Ohio Organizing Collaborative (OOC) this week with Quanita Roberson in OOC’s All Staff Retreat. This center has been growing over the days together. It is my experience generally, and specifically this week, that the center transform a room from “just a room” to a hearth from which a pile of important things can happen.

Included above:

In preparation: The cloth, brought by Quanita. Gives it beauty. And some history with stories of other circles — if cloths could talk (which perhaps they do). The plant, a “work with what you’ve got” center. It’s living. I needed something to center my arranging of chairs. The plant became that, and stuck, propped up slightly on top of another upside down bowl.

Round 1: The candles, one for each participant. These are the 8-inch jar candles that are a dollar at The Dollar Store. Decorated with oil-based paint pens by each participant upon first arriving in our meeting space. “Make it your own; make it beautiful,” we tell them. It becomes a kind of ritual to light the candles when we start each day, and to blow them out when we leave each day. Getting ourselves to the center. And letting it go.

Round 2: The photo cards, again, one for each participant. This set comes from colleague and friend, Carla Kimble, who started collecting her photos, printed on 4 x 6 cardstock. We invited each person to choose a card (from a bigger selection) that represents an intention that they want to carry with them in the week of learning. I love having one of the access points be an image.

Round 3: Objects that represent something important to each participant in why they do the work that they do. Stones. Poems. Pouches. Photos. Necklaces. Placing an object in the middle comes with invitation to tell a story, which of course connects the group even more. It adds to the lake. It adds to the fire.

There’s other stuff in there. The lines of blue tape were used for a few exercises. The juggling balls that I put in there, just because. The bells to be used for a pause.

Centers matters. Centers hold us. Centers give us a channel to be connected with the group. They give us the transformational shift in awareness, that perhaps beyond the moment of the retreat, we are, in fact, connected. In beauty. In story. In purpose. In energy.