Nourishing Wholeness in a Fractured World

Note: This essay was originally published at Feminism and Religion in 2020. “List for Today” also appeared in We’Moon, 2022.

List for today:

Rescue tadpoles from the evaporating puddle
in the driveway.
Look for pink roses in the field.
Look for wild strawberries
along the road.
Listen to the crows in
the compost pile
and try to identify them
by their different voices.
Plant basil and calendula
and a few more rows of lettuce.
Examine the buds beginning
on the elderberries
and check blackberry canes
to see if the berries have set.
Watch the yellow swallowtail butterflies dance.
Wonder about action and apathy
and what bridges gaps.
Refuse to surrender belief in joy.
Listen for faint echoes of hope.
Feel the tender beat of humanity
pulsing in the world.
Feel the sun on your face
and water seeping
into your jeans.
Remember that even if you have to
move one tadpole at a time,
change is always possible.

It is easy to become exhausted and overwhelmed by the volume of things there are to say, the things there are to think about, to care about, to put energy into, to love, to be outraged about. I want to invite you, at the moment of this reading, to breathe it out, to let yourself come into your body right where you are this second, and put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Remind yourself that you’re whole right here, right now. There is suffering and there is fear and there is pain and there is joy and there is beauty and there is life, and we can hold it all. Let yourself settle and feel, present in this moment, in this unfolding. And, with whatever you feel, whether you feel hopeless or joyful or angry or happy or thrilled or enthusiastic or creative or drained, whatever it is, with your hand on your heart, accept those feelings as okay right now: how you feel, is how you feel; where you are, is where you are; who you are, is who you are.

When the world is spinning fast and when there’s a lot to keep up with and there’s a lot of action to be taken, I find it can also be easy to lose track of those things that nourish you and that keep your soul going, to lose touch with the things that feed your soul or keep you feeling present, feeling whole and here and healthy.

There’s a puddle in our driveway that gets pretty big when it rains. We pass it multiple times a day, when going for our nightly walks, or getting the mail, and we noticed that a frog had laid eggs in the puddle. The eggs hatched into tadpoles and despite the fact the UPS trucks drive through the puddle and despite the fact that it is only a puddle and not a pond, the tadpoles managed to grow into pretty big tadpoles. Finally, we could tell that their luck was out and the puddle was going to evaporate by the end of the day. All the tadpoles were gathered together in little clusters trying to stay in whatever remaining water there was and we couldn’t stand it. We didn’t want to walk by the next day and see all the tadpoles dead in a dry puddle and we decided we were going to rescue them.

It was very laborious and time consuming because it’s hard to catch tadpoles even when they’re in a puddle that’s drying up in the driveway. I was sitting there in the sun sweating by this shallow puddle of muddy water full of tadpoles with fishy-smelling water seeping up into my jeans. And, as I sat there, hunched over in the sun, scooping up tadpoles in a yogurt tub, suddenly in that moment, I became aware that I felt as if I had returned to my self, returned to my soul. I had a palpable sensation of coming back home to joy, coming back home to wholeness. I was no longer inside the house on my computer and I was not scrolling through things on my phone and I was not caught up in anger or sadness or confusion about what to do next, I was just there in the sun scooping tadpoles. It felt amazing to become aware of how little an action or how little an experience it can take to bring you back home. And I write today to encourage that for you too:

  • What are the ways that you bring yourself back home?
  • How do you bring yourself back into your body?
  • How do you bring yourself back into wholeness?
  • How do you bring yourself back to joy?

This is not to say at all that you should not care about current events and not at all to suggest that you should not pay attention to what’s happening around you and in the wider world. It is instead to say that if we let ourselves spin out completely or spin away completely and we lose the anchors to our wholeness and we lose our capacity to center in the moment, we will become so depleted that we will not have anything left to give. There is always something terrible somewhere and there’s always something beautiful somewhere. Looking for what is beautiful does not mean shutting your eyes to what is terrible. But, looking for what is beautiful will keep you sane and whole and present. If you only look for what is terrible you risk losing yourself and losing the heart of your own humanity.  When I write of beauty and when I write of joy and when I write of delight and when I write of wonder, it is not because I do not know that there are terrible things as well.  It is not because I have turned my back on the terrible, it is because the beauty is what brings me back home. I find I must actively seek out the beauty of this world so that I can continue to exist, so that I can stay alive to share things with others. Beauty is not all that exists for me, but it is what I rely on to bring forth goodness to share with other people and what I use to fuel myself so that I can go on and that I can continue.

What you need might be very different from what I need, but it’s important to acknowledge that there are things for each of us that bring us back to wholeness, that bring us home, that bring us home into wholeness. There are also things that fragment us and fracture us up. We need the wholeness in order to survive the fracturing. What do you have in your life that feeds your wholeness? What do you have that brings you home? How can you take action to make sure those things are a part of your life? Every day if at all possible. We have to take care of our hearts so that we have the strength to give to others.

Words don’t feel like enough, can’t be enough, are never enough. And, yet, still I want to tell you about the hawk in the blue sky above the field, about how the June air is scented like roses, about how I watch the green berries on the blackberry and raspberry canes with glee and anticipation. I want to tell you of the black snake across the road, long, sinuous body stretched over six full feet of ground. I want to tell you of standing by curved pools of rock, the slow-dripping water steadily filling them and then draining away in an inexorable march to the sea. I want to tell you how two crows raised the alarm call about these humans in their woods and then swooped low to investigate us, black eyes peering from the trees as we stood motionless and barely breathing, trying to be invisible as they conversed between themselves about our motives and then how the slight, shadowy form of a lone coyote loped across the stones and into the oaks. I want to tell you about the milkweed that is about to bloom, the mulberries that are about to ripen, the cool, green globes of gooseberries hanging quiet in sun-dappled groves where the wild foxglove flourishes.

If there is one thing I know to be true, it is that great currents of love and beauty coexist right beside great stripes of pain. Please look and see what is outside your own front door. Please listen to the birds. Please remember to pause and feel your own steady pulse beneath your skin and the soft breath in your belly that tells you of your place here between sunshine and thunder. Crows on the wing. Sun on the leaves. Joy in your throat. Wonder in your eyes.

Note: My role at Feminism and Religion has never been one of writing about current events, but rather to write about small magic, everyday enchantment, goddess art, and the poetry of daily life. I had a great deal of difficulty deciding where to focus my attention for this post–whether to risk performative allyship or white posturing or virtue signaling by writing an activism-oriented post, whether to risk perpetuating white silence and denial or even a type of toxic positivity, by saying nothing and just writing about tadpoles. So, I decided to postscript my essay this month with some useful resources for white people, like me, who are seeking appropriate resources for anti-racist action and our own inner work of unpacking white privilege and systemic racism in our lives. 


Molly Remer’s newest book of poems, In the Temple of the Ordinary volume 2, will be published in October. Molly has been gathering the community to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, mini goddesses, and more at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of WomanrunesEarthprayerthe Goddess DevotionalShe Lives Her Poems, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon, Brigid’s Grove, Feminism and Religion, and Sage Woman Magazine. She the creatrix of the unique devotional experience #30DaysofGoddess and she loves savoring ordinary magic and everyday enchantment.

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