A Gift of Poetry at Callanish

by Joanne Reimer


I was introduced to poetry at Callanish and since I am a lover of words, this gift was a gold mine.  Whether spoken or written, words inspire personal reflection and introspection for me. One of the poets I came to love is Mary Oliver and so I was delighted when a friend gave me, Upstream, a collection of essays by Mary Oliver. The book begins with, In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed.  I had to go into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, and what I wanted to be. That passage jumped out at me and so I read on to find other gems. 

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Oliver went on to say that knowledge has entertained me and it has shaped me and it has failed me. Again, Oliver’s words resonated. As I prepared for my calling as a nurse many years ago, as an individual growing into myself, I desired knowledge and that knowledge has entertained me, shaped me and failed me. I learned that I needed something in addition to education in science and reason. So, I allowed my intuitive side to take me down other paths where uncertainty, vulnerability and hope resides. Again, Oliver’s words rang true for me, It’s about the wonderful things that may happen if you break the ropes that are holding you.  Don’t get me wrong, I remain a devourer of knowledge but I also look for more nuanced, open and generous information. 

I am still learning – and I say learning because it is a process, a state of being, certainly not a destination I expect I will ever totally arrive at. In his poem, The Guesthouse, Rumi advocates that we must welcome all visitors into our house, even if they are a crowd of sorrows.  This has been the most arduous mountain for me to climb as my natural tendency has been to resist vigorously, or attempt to control, unwelcome events. So, with baby steps and flip-flops, I am making space for living with setbacks and dwelling in uncertainty with a little more grace and equanimity. In doing so, I am also give myself permission to be especially patient and compassionate with myself as I incorporate these new ways of being. Hand in hand with compassion, I am discovering how gratitude for all that is good in my life is a precious gift that enlarges my world view.

Another favourite writer, Miriam Toews, says that writing brings her some sort of order out of the chaos. Struggling to find words that describe my personal journey helps me to be more at ease and hopeful.  

Joanne Reimer has been connected to Callanish since its inception in 1995 and has been a program assistant and baker at Callanish for the past several years. She brings many years of experience working in the healthcare system as a hospice consultant and researcher.