#NaPoMo 8

The second week of National Poetry Month is dedicated to David Whyte, the poet, essayist, and speaker, who reignited my love of poetry almost two decades ago. I “studied” a fair amount of poetry for both my graduate and undergraduate degrees,  which I mostly neither cared for, nor truly understood. As a result, my early love for poetry faded away. But one day, I heard David Whyte speak at a conference and he rekindled the fire. In the midst of reading his poetry, he also preached a message about importance of bringing passion and commitment to your life and work. He lit a spark in me, which has become a flame that burns in me to this day. Here is that poem he shared.

“Sweet Darkness”

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
It’s time to go into the night
where the dark has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you
can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will make a home for you tonight.
The night
will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

When I heard Whyte speak, I was in the midst of parenting three small children. While I would not have called my life “dark,” it had certainly gotten smaller, more noisy and chaotic. I had allowed so many voices into my head – culture, church, parent, spouse, children –  I had little idea what my own voice was saying. When Whyte repeated this line – over and over again:

Anything or anyone/ that does not bring you alive/ is too small for you.

something deep within me stirred and I recognized a truth I had not dared to speak, or even recognize. My life was too small and I was ready for this time of “confinement” to be over. Something new needed to be born – the fullness of me as a woman in her own right, not simply as a wife and mother. I shared these lines of Whyte’s poetry with Tim Kirkpatrick and he met me there, convinced as I was that “the world was made to be free in.” It has been a sweet, sometimes lonely, and dark journey, but it has been worth it every step of the way.

What is too small for you right now?

Who is limiting your potential?

Where do you find yourself trapped instead of free?

Don’t be afraid to name whoever, or whatever arises as you ask these questions. It does not mean they are bad, or that you have to leave them, but it does mean you can start pushing against the boundaries, creating more freedom for everyone in the process.

gray candle lantern
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com


Leave a Comment

  1. Ali, thank you so much for allowing me to be part of your blog.. I have been able to get to know you and your family through the video you shared.. Dave Refsland, Tims uncle was my birthfather.. It is a blessing to get to know who my family is.. I live in Port Angeles, WA during the winter, and Craig, Alaska in the summer. I manage a fishing lodge.. Would love to meet up with all of you some day..
    Thank you again.


    • Joni – Thanks so much for the encouragement and companionship on this poetic journey (we call life)! I was with Ruth yesterday and was able to share your message and our connection on line. I do hope we will be able to meet some day. We are in San Diego’s if you ever come this way, let us know and if we ever make it as far north as your beautiful part of the country, we will certainly call on you!


  2. Thank you, Ali, for sharing this poem with its nourishing darkness imagery! I will read and re-read it. Upon first read, I felt instantly that the poem “got me”. At the same time I’m not sure I get it (fully)! I do love that about poetry, that it’s meant to be lived. Your commentary (reflections) are amazing, revelatory, illuminating. I think I need to get rid of the part of myself that is too small for me. In this I’m reminded of your words in yesterday’s post, “as your ego dies, so you are reborn.” Thank you and Love!


    • So so grateful for your walk with me this month and in life. You are in that liminal mothering space Nancy – precious and too often overlooked as a crucible for change and growth. I am so honored to perhaps be encouraging you to take notice of it!


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