Courage for when the bridge is down

David Whyte has had a fascinating life. He grew up traipsing through the moors of Yorkshire, England and was pulled into the world of travel one day as he watched Jacques Cousteau on television. David’s work as a marine zoologist took him to the Galapagos Islands, and his curiosity took him  to the Himalayas where he explored temples and Zen Buddhism.  David uses all of his experiences when he writes poetry, even those that scared him.

The bridge you need to cross
The bridge you need to cross

How many times do you come to a place in your life where you are afraid to move forward? Where you’d rather do anything, no matter how difficult, than take that next step?  What resources can you call on to take you over that bridge? In this poem, David invites the reader to share his experience of an impossible bridge in the Himalayas. I hope you are inspired with the way he handles his challenge.

THE OLD INTERIOR ANGEL
by David Whyte, from Fire in the Earth, 1992

Young, male, and
immortal as I was,
I stopped at the first sight
of that broken bridge.

The taut cables snapped
and the bridge planks
concertina-ed
into a crazy jumble
over the drop,
four hundred feet
to the craggy
stream.

I sat and watched
the wind shiver
on the broken planks,
as if by looking hard
and long enough,
the life-line
might spontaneously
repair itself,
–but watched in vain.

An hour I sat
in silence,
checking each
involuntary movement
of the body toward
that trembling
bridge
with a fearful mind,
and an empathic
shake of the head.

Finally, facing defeat
and about to go back
the way I came
to meet the others.

Three days round
by another pass.

Enter the old mountain woman
with her stooped gait,
her dark clothes
and her dung basket
clasped to her back.

Small feet shuffling
for the precious
gold-brown
fuel for cooking food.

Intent on the ground
she glimpsed my feet
and looking up
said, “Namaste.”
“I greet the God in you”
the last syllable
held like a song.

I inclined my head
and clasped my hands
to reply, but
before I could look up,
she turned her lined face
and went straight across
that shivering chaos
of wood
and broken steel
in one movement.

One day the hero
sits down
afraid to take
another step,
and the old interior angel
limps slowly in
with her no-nonsense
compassion
and her old secret
and goes ahead.

“Namaste”
you say
and follow.

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