To finish and to begin

One day this March when I was in Guatemala, four of us hiked up a mountain near Antigua. The hike is a favorite of my friend, Wende, an American who has lived and worked in Guatemala for decades; she and her husband, Jeff, raised their three children there.

It was Wende’s idea to read a poem after the hike, and she chose one by Irish poet John O’Donohue, For a New Beginning. We each took a stanza and the poem unfolded that way, in our different voices.

I was lucky to read the first verse:

“In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.”

As soon as I said these words aloud, I knew they were intended for me. Eighteen months ago, I began an MFA program in creative writing, fulfilling a dream that, yes, had been quietly forming since I graduated from college. After my mother died, I decided not to wait any longer. Enough stalling. I was ready to emerge.

Before the trip, Wende had asked us each to choose a single word to guide and inform our actions through the year. One friend chose “Explore,” another “Create,” and a third, “Trust.” My word was “Finish.”

Finish the MFA.

Finish the Critical Paper required for the MFA.

Finish the Final Manuscript that is my MFA thesis.

Finish. Finish. Finish.

Tonight, I’m reflecting on my word because May 25 is the end of this Project Period and I’m hurtling toward that deadline. My Critical Paper is done (!!!!) and in Format Review. My reviewer has sent it back to me three times for revision: the citations must conform to MLA format, a requirement far more onerous (to me) than researching and writing the thing. What’s left now is to finish the manuscript. Or, more accurately, finish my millionth rewrite of the manuscript.

I wish the same for you, in whatever is your challenge. To finish. And first, to begin.

For a New Beginning

By John O’Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

 

 

 

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4 Responses to “To finish and to begin”

  1. Kathy says:

    I loved this poem, and related to it my life-changing search:)

  2. Jessica says:

    So glad the poem resonates for you, Kathy And I love “life-changing search.” Yes, to whatever your search is and whatever it becomes. Yes, yes. Keep going!

  3. nina vincent says:

    Jessica just remember there’s a world of us out here waiting for you to finish your manuscript so we can sink our teeth into what I know for certain is going to be another masterpiece!! Finish dear friend. Finish. You are so close.

  4. Jessica says:

    And you are now my inspiration. Onward!

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