Earlier this week I went to write a poem about an epiphany I had at my friend Jen's house, nearly 20 years ago now. I remember this day: she and her husband had left for work, her children for school, and I was returning something to her house.

I opened the door on a September morning and something in me was pierced. I felt a flood of tenderness as I took in the ordinary, extraordinary beauty of my friend's house: at the suchness of each bike helmet and crumpled sock.

The poem that came to me was a bit different than the one I'd imagined writing. What came with the wonder of that epiphany was an awakening to mess and disorder, and how order, when I'm frightened, holds me steady. I feel compassion for the anxiety that's lived within my body and the ways this anxiety longs to be held. And I feel gratitude for the way that anxiety is pierced open, over and over, by a love that beckons me to be still.


I remember that day clearly, walking

into my friend's house after the flurry

of morning. Dishes were on the

breakfast table. A pile of shoes and

bike helmets lay by the front door.

When my house is cluttered, I mostly

see the mess. My children tease me

about the way I put papers into piles

and shoes into closets. When my house

is in order something in me stills.

If I feel ordered on the inside I can face

the disorder on the outside, the threads

of my life that I can't grasp or gather

into a semblance of sense.

But my friend's dishes and jumble

of shoes bring calm. I miss my friend.

I miss the feeling I felt each time I walked

through her door, that warm, liquid honey.

On that September morning I left my own mess

at home and walked inside. Something opened.

I saw the tenderness of shoelaces and generosity

of breakfast dishes. I saw the beauty of papers

coloring the piano.

I saw the shaggy threads of our lives and

the ways we try to clean them up. There's

an image of coping that I carry inside, and

it feels solid, impenetrable and true. It thinks

I should always be doing better.

But my life is a constant unraveling. Order

and disorder, they are never still. They

dissolve me and dissolve how I see until

I stand in my cluttered house, still.

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