Look upward some evening in December, the month of the longest starry nights.
Ten Million Stars, from Spirit Walker, Doubleday, 1993, by Nancy Wood
Inside each raindrop swims the sun.
Inside each flower breathes the moon.
Inside me dwell ten million stars,
One for each of my ancestors:
The elk, the raven, the mouse, the man,
The flower; the coyote, the lion, the fish.
Ten million different stars am I,
But only one spirit, connecting all.
Nancy wrote this poem around 1971, after her second marriage had crumbled and she was a single mother with four children and a writer's income.
When Trouble Comes to Me, from Hollering Sun, 1972, by Nancy Wood
When trouble comes to me
I have to go and dance.
I dance until the dust receives my trouble.
The dust takes my trouble to the mountain.
The mountain grows with the dust of trouble.
The place for my trouble to be.
Dave, Nancy's boyfriend from her later years, says she visits him as a presence or spirit. He keeps this poem near as words of those times past and present.
Old Woman, from Many Winters, 1974, by Nancy Wood
It is you.
It was you even when
I did not see you except
In the eyes of my spirit.
With you I saw
The dead log giving life
And the mid-winter stream
Rippling up for spring and
The mountains a long way off
Telling us of beginnings.
With you I knew
The peace of high places
And the meaning of a flower
Curled up against the wind
Or leaning toward the sun.
In small things always
There was you as if
All nature contained your thoughts and so
I learned from rocks and rainbows
Tall trees and butterflies.
There was you in the eagle
Flying free and lonely
And in the eyes of a deer
I saw once in an untamed place.
There is you in all good things
That awaken me and say
My life was richer, fuller
Because you lived with me.
Nancy's best friend, John Eastham, passed away this month. Some of his last words were, "I have had such a wonderful life." John was a sunbeam for all who knew him.
Gathering Sunbeams, from Dancing Moons, Delacorte Press, 1995, by Nancy Wood
The way to gather sunbeams is carefully, making sure
they do not break or become
mere shadows of your uncertainty.
The way to gather sunbeams is hopefully, bending
to catch the light between your fingers
before storm clouds devour opportunity.
The way to gather sunbeams is crazily, putting
them in your pocket if you catch any,
laughing at their feeling of mobility.
The way to gather sunbeams is joyfully, keeping
step with the dance they do across the earth,
drawing you into their world of fragility.
Two of Nancy's grandchildren enter college this month as freshmen. This poem is for Ryan and Charles.
Migration, from Dancing Moons, Delacorte Press, 1995, by Nancy Wood
Going from this place to another place
requires surrender of your old ways,
the honoring of sacred wisdom and not
anticipation of the journey only. The soul's
Migration between the old place and the new means
that you must recognize your path
to an unknown destination, risking all
with the chance of gaining nothing. You are merely
The connection between growth and suffocation,
the link that joins possibility to pain,
and thus you become the keeper of your own flame.
Going from this place to another place is like
the bird in winter who remembers
the beauty of her springtime nest
just to keep herself from freezing.