The Fierce Heart of Darkness

Photo by Avery Nielsen-Webb
Photo by Avery Nielsen-Webb on Pexels

Wandering in the liminal spaces, walking between worlds, we meet her. She is the womb of all life, the essence of mystery, the resting place of souls. She is the undercurrent of rivers, depths of sea, eye of storms, the cavernous earth. She is both the soul of deep shadow and the wellspring of inspiration.

The Tao Te Ching sings of her this way:

The valley spirit undying,
ever dark her womb,
ever open her dark womb,
mother of earth, mother of heaven.
Her shadowy veil is only barely seen,
effortless, inexhaustible.
Translation by Caelan Rowan McCuen

It is hard to see what is barely there, but she is always with us. It is hard to keep one’s bearings at the liminal times, but that is when she guides us. She is not to be feared, but cherished; not resisted but embraced.

River’s are powerful, their currents deep, unpredictable.
It’s no wonder they gather myths around them
like clouds around mountain peaks.

Have you ever looked into the abyss, into her eyes? Maybe you have seen her in a terrifying dream, or at a moment of imminent death. Maybe it was in the grip of mortal doubt, or in that most dreadful gap of irrevocable loss. She comes to us in these ways, plays no favorites. How small we are in the tides of her presence.

The sea, the most mysterious of realms,
and all her waters, are inexpressibly beautiful.
When in movement they are passion;
When still, they are a soul mirror.

But what seems dark at first is often just the raw passion of our world, the same that quietly supports us in the calm. Yet whether in calm or storm, the beautiful giving earth is ever she who receives us as we are. We must love her as she is!

Waist deep in the frigid ocean, pelting rain coming sideways,
I saw nine pelicans, weaving, dipping, above gray-turquoise crests—
and seeing them was freedom.

Oh, but the things we do in our blindness, when we don’t even see the world…and yet the she goes on expressing herself, unmoved, ever-giving. It is not any profound subterranean darkness in our beloved world that we ought to fear, but the darkness of seeing only ourselves.

A Buddhist sage once wrote, “The virtues I practice are not my own”. Whose virtues can any of us practice? Certainly not our own—they are the earth’s.


Published by Caelan Rowan McCuen

Poet and writer of imaginative fiction; lover of ancient wisdom literature and mythology; one most passionate about the vibrant world, and all life, and all is all I am.

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