We often think of fruit ripening, but we might well imagine this of ourselves as we grow and change through the years. One of the great poets of our times, the late W. S. Merwin, once wrote a lovely little gem of a poem, aptly entitled “Worn Words,” where he confesses that it is “the late poems/ I turn to first now/ following a hope that keeps/ beckoning me.”i Why the late poems? Because, as he answers in the poem’s final lines, they “have come the whole way/ they have been there.” Where have they been? Presumably there where they always were, where we always were, even if they give voice to what lies at edges of the imaginable, giving us glimpses of a measure of their wisdom that was “almost in sight,” as Merwin puts it.
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The bright red berries of Ilex verticillata are favored by birds once the ground freezes and there is a limited supply of worms and insects. More commonly known as winterberry, the fruit produced by this native shrub is more palatable when it has frozen a few times and softened. Although bitter and inedible for humans and pets, this plant is extremely important to birds who will choose its berries in late fall and early winter after consuming other more delectable treats.
“The great work of our times, I would say, is moving the human community from its present situation as a destructive presence on the planet to a benign or mutually enhancing presence. It’s that simple.” Thomas Berry, CP, The Great Work.
Several years ago, twenty five people gathered to weave wreaths from greens and native plants harvested primarily from Mercy by the Sea’s property. As one of the participants, I thought I had carefully followed Sister Genie's instructions.