I will arise and go now

Poetry and anxiety – Why you should read “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

“What’s the point?,” I asked.

Their eyebrows collectively rose.

“Why should we read a poem like this on an internal medicine rotation?”

Four medical students and two residents looked at the printed copy of W.B. Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree in their hands.

Twelve lines in three quatrains stared back at them.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

And here is how they answered.

“It reminds me of my home back in Hibbing. I am an outdoors person and I think of the trees and wide-opened spaces. Here I feel a bit trapped by the concrete, the buildings and the lack of time to even be outside. This poem brings me home even when I can’t physically be there.”

“I love this poem. I’ve read it countless times and even remember singing choral version once upon a time. It is a vision of where you can go amidst stresses to find peace. Simple, but beautiful.”

“It got me thinking about all the times I say to myself, ‘After the MCAT, it’ll be better.’ or ‘After Boards, I can relax.’ or ‘Once I’m through with residency, my life can begin.’ I’ve come to realize that I can’t live that way. You need to live now…or else you wake up at eighty and realize you’ve wished your life away.”

“I think it is the phrase ‘I will arise and go now’ that struck me most. It reminds me that I don’t have to physically go to a place of peace – I can go there emotionally. And I can find peace in the midst of my stresses.”

Wow.

They got the point.

Awash in a sea of information and parched a desert of time, coping with an excess of stress and a shortage of support, these students and residents need a Lake Isle of Innisfree. Because too often they are “standing on the roadway or on the pavements grey.” Too often their lives are inundated with pagers buzzing, nurses with quick questions, family members anxiously arriving, attending physicians awaiting the presentation. They are expected to be efficient and caring, cool and engaged, wise and approachable, confident and humble, well-rounded and singularly focused. It’s quite simple: they are to be nothing less than superhuman and infinitely human.

But they are only human.

These young men and women need to find peace. They need to fill up their tank. They need to remember why they chose to do this – to eat Ramen noodles, and carry backpacks and study in empty libraries and live in apartments and work over Christmas and Thanksgiving and miss their families and sleep through the first movie they have seen in months while their friends have houses and time with their spouses and 401Ks and energy. They need to remember that spark which informed the personal statement they wrote for their medical school application. That was the statement where they talked about a personal joy, tragedy or journey that made them want to help someone, to make a difference, to change the world one person at a time.

But one thing I have learned is that every person makes it through the trials of life by having their own personal Lake Isle of Innisfree. It is that deeply personal place of peace and wholeness. For one it is the outdoors of Hibbing, for another it is with friends singing choral music. Perhaps, for one it is playing with their giggling children and for another it is engrossed in a book by a roaring fire. We all have that visual that pulls us through. It is the place we can (and must) arise and go now. 

The famous writer and wilderness guide, Sigurd Olson, once wrote about what he heard and saw among his stressed out clients after a week of canoeing and camping in the Boundary Waters wilderness.

“What gets me,” [said] the surgeon, “is the peace and quiet up here. In the big hospitals a man is apt to forget that there is anything but tension in the world. You come back here, and the tension is gone. The world is quiet and peaceful again, and there is no pressure.”

“You’re right,” agreed the judge. “It’s good just to know that a place like this exists. When I get all tied up in a knot over some legal problems, I’ll shut my eyes and remember.”

I watched these men for a week. Now freed of the mental strain, taking vigorous, pleasurable exercise, and breathing pure air twenty-four hours a day, they became normal human beings…I have found that people go to the wilderness for many things, but the most important of these is perspective.

That’s what these students, these residents – heck – what we allneed. Perspective. We need to shut our eyes and remember. We need to sense the quiet and peaceful world that we are overlooking every day. Every day.

Oh, sure. We have jobs to do, demands to meet, people to satisfy. But we need to find peace while we do it. We can’t obsess about what we are doing to the utter exclusion of why we are doing it. Every so often, we need to “arise and go now” to that place that reminds us of our deeper purposes. Periodically, we need to reclaim our humanity and the sense of what our life is truly all about.

As the judge on the trip said, “It’s good just to know that a place like this exists.”

“What is the point? Why should we read this poem?” I asked.

It seems that these students and residents knew.

More than I ever expected.

Originally posted here.

A poetic journey through the Japanese year

This is fascinating and so poetic: reposted from Nippon.com

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Japan’s 72 Microseasons

In ancient times the Japanese divided their year into 24 periods based on classical Chinese sources. The natural world comes to life in the even more vividly named 72 subdivisions of the traditional Japanese calendar.

The traditional Japanese calendar marks the passing of the seasons and changes in the natural world through the names given to different times of year. There are 24 major divisions, or sekki, from Risshun (Beginning of spring) in early February until Daikan (Greater cold). Originally taken from Chinese sources, these are still well-known around East Asia.

The 24 divisions are each split again into three for a total of 72  that last around five days each. The names were also originally taken from China, but they did not always match up well with the local climate. In Japan, they were eventually rewritten in 1685 by the court astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai. In their present form, they offer a poetic journey through the Japanese year in which the land awakens and blooms with life and activity before returning to slumber.

The dates in the following table are approximate and may vary by one day depending on the year. There are no standard readings in Japanese for the kanji names of the 72 , so other sources may give different readings.

立春 Risshun (Beginning of spring)
February 4–8 東風解凍
Harukaze kōri o toku
East wind melts the ice
February 9–13 黄鶯睍睆
Kōō kenkan su
Bush warblers start singing in the mountains
February 14–18 魚上氷
Uo kōri o izuru
Fish emerge from the ice
雨水 Usui (Rainwater)
February 19–23 土脉潤起
Tsuchi no shō uruoi okoru
Rain moistens the soil
February 24–28 霞始靆
Kasumi hajimete tanabiku
Mist starts to linger
March 1–5 草木萌動
Sōmoku mebae izuru
Grass sprouts, trees bud
啓蟄 Keichitsu (Insects awaken)
March 6–10 蟄虫啓戸
Sugomori mushito o hiraku
Hibernating insects surface
March 11–15 桃始笑
Momo hajimete saku
First peach blossoms
March 16–20 菜虫化蝶
Namushi chō to naru
Caterpillars become butterflies
春分 Shunbun (Spring equinox)
March 21–25 雀始巣
Suzume hajimete sukū
Sparrows start to nest
March 26–30 櫻始開
Sakura hajimete saku
First cherry blossoms
March 31–April 4 雷乃発声
Kaminari sunawachi koe o hassu
Distant thunder
清明 Seimei (Pure and clear)
April 5–9 玄鳥至
Tsubame kitaru
Swallows return
April 10–14 鴻雁北
Kōgan kaeru
Wild geese fly north
April 15–19 虹始見
Niji hajimete arawaru
First rainbows
穀雨 Kokuu (Grain rains)
April 20–24 葭始生
Ashi hajimete shōzu
First reeds sprout
April 25–29 霜止出苗
Shimo yamite nae izuru
Last frost, rice seedlings grow
April 30–May 4 牡丹華
Botan hana saku
Peonies bloom
立夏 Rikka (Beginning of summer)
May 5–9 蛙始鳴
Kawazu hajimete naku
Frogs start singing
May 10–14 蚯蚓出
Mimizu izuru
Worms surface
May 15–20 竹笋生
Takenoko shōzu
Bamboo shoots sprout
小満 Shōman (Lesser ripening)
May 21–25 蚕起食桑
Kaiko okite kuwa o hamu
Silkworms start feasting on mulberry leaves
May 26–30 紅花栄
Benibana sakau
Safflowers bloom
May 31–June 5 麦秋至
Mugi no toki itaru
Wheat ripens and is harvested
芒種 Bōshu (Grain beards and seeds)
June 6–10 蟷螂生
Kamakiri shōzu
Praying mantises hatch
June 11–15 腐草為螢
Kusaretaru kusa hotaru to naru
Rotten grass becomes fireflies
June 16–20 梅子黄
Ume no mi kibamu
Plums turn yellow
夏至 Geshi (Summer solstice)
June 21–26 乃東枯
Natsukarekusa karuru
Self-heal withers
June 27–July 1 菖蒲華
Ayame hana saku
Irises bloom
July 2–6 半夏生
Hange shōzu
Crow-dipper sprouts
小暑 Shōsho (Lesser heat)
July 7–11 温風至
Atsukaze itaru
Warm winds blow
July 12–16 蓮始開
Hasu hajimete hiraku
First lotus blossoms
July 17–22 鷹乃学習
Taka sunawachi waza o narau
Hawks learn to fly
大暑 Taisho (Greater heat)
July 23–28 桐始結花
Kiri hajimete hana o musubu
Paulownia trees produce seeds
July 29–August 2 土潤溽暑
Tsuchi uruōte mushi atsushi
Earth is damp, air is humid
August 3–7 大雨時行
Taiu tokidoki furu
Great rains sometimes fall
立秋 Risshū (Beginning of autumn)
August 8–12 涼風至
Suzukaze itaru
Cool winds blow
August 13–17 寒蝉鳴
Higurashi naku
Evening cicadas sing
August 18–22 蒙霧升降
Fukaki kiri matō
Thick fog descends
処暑 Shosho (Manageable heat)
August 23–27 綿柎開
Wata no hana shibe hiraku
Cotton flowers bloom
August 28–September 1 天地始粛
Tenchi hajimete samushi
Heat starts to die down
September 2–7 禾乃登
Kokumono sunawachi minoru
Rice ripens
白露 Hakuro (White dew)
September 8–12 草露白
Kusa no tsuyu shiroshi
Dew glistens white on grass
September 13–17 鶺鴒鳴
Sekirei naku
Wagtails sing
September 18–22 玄鳥去
Tsubame saru
Swallows leave
秋分 Shūbun (Autumn equinox)
September 23–27 雷乃収声
Kaminari sunawachi koe o osamu
Thunder ceases
September 28–October 2 蟄虫坏戸
Mushi kakurete to o fusagu
Insects hole up underground
October 3–7 水始涸
Mizu hajimete karuru
Farmers drain fields
寒露 Kanro (Cold dew)
October 8–12 鴻雁来
Kōgan kitaru
Wild geese return
October 13–17 菊花開
Kiku no hana hiraku
Chrysanthemums bloom
October 18–22 蟋蟀在戸
Kirigirisu to ni ari
Crickets chirp around the door
霜降 Sōkō (Frost falls)
October 23–27 霜始降
Shimo hajimete furu
First frost
October 28–November 1 霎時施
Kosame tokidoki furu
Light rains sometimes fall
November 2–6 楓蔦黄
Momiji tsuta kibamu
Maple leaves and ivy turn yellow
立冬 Rittō (Beginning of winter)
November 7–11 山茶始開
Tsubaki hajimete hiraku
Camellias bloom
November 12–16 地始凍
Chi hajimete kōru
Land starts to freeze
November 17–21 金盞香
Kinsenka saku
Daffodils bloom
小雪 Shōsetsu (Lesser snow)
November 22–26 虹蔵不見
Niji kakurete miezu
Rainbows hide
November 27–December 1 朔風払葉
Kitakaze konoha o harau
North wind blows the leaves from the trees
December 2–6 橘始黄
Tachibana hajimete kibamu
Tachibana citrus tree leaves start to turn yellow
大雪 Taisetsu (Greater snow)
December 7–11 閉塞成冬
Sora samuku fuyu to naru
Cold sets in, winter begins
December 12–16 熊蟄穴
Kuma ana ni komoru
Bears start hibernating in their dens
December 17–21 鱖魚群
Sake no uo muragaru
Salmons gather and swim upstream
冬至 Tōji (Winter solstice)
December 22–26 乃東生
Natsukarekusa shōzu
Self-heal sprouts
December 27–31 麋角解
Sawashika no tsuno otsuru
Deer shed antlers
January 1–4 雪下出麦
Yuki watarite mugi nobiru
Wheat sprouts under snow
小寒 Shōkan (Lesser cold)
January 5–9 芹乃栄
Seri sunawachi sakau
Parsley flourishes
January 10–14 水泉動
Shimizu atataka o fukumu
Springs thaw
January 15–19 雉始雊
Kiji hajimete naku
Pheasants start to call
大寒 Daikan (Greater cold)
January 20–24 款冬華
Fuki no hana saku
Butterburs bud
January 25–29 水沢腹堅
Kiwamizu kōri tsumeru
Ice thickens on streams
January 30–February 3 鶏始乳
Niwatori hajimete toya ni tsuku
Hens start laying eggs
[2015.10.16]