We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Renewal is one of the oldest story archetypes we have. It has many shades of meaning: to make something as if new again, to revive, to recover youth or strength, to restore or replenish, to make, say, start or do something again.
In broader cultural mythology, it’s often told as a story of sacrifice, descent and resurrection or rebirth. In honor of spring and the Easter season, we might reacquaint ourselves with the stories of Inanna, Osiris, Persephone, Jesus, Orpheus, Psyche, Kuan Yin, Baldr, Lazarus, Izanami, Castor and Polydeuces. Renewal in a mythic story may mean the retrieval of some quest object such as a loved one, special or secret knowledge, a second chance at life, defeat of death, immortality or the return of nature’s fertility.
This movement of going below and then rising again is a pendulum’s dip and swing, a change of season, a transition from light into darkness and then back into light again. The action of renewal is another function of time and nature – seeds descend into the murk and must themselves partly decay before springing forth into life. Renewal requires the fading of the year’s light into the deathlike state of winter, before the sun king or the grain maiden returns to renew the world. Renewal is a time of graftings, seedlings, new fires, hope and grim determination.
On a personal level, we may experience periods of trauma, stress or other dark times as a precursor to renewal. Unemployment, divorce and periods of depression are a few examples of decline and descent. What we hope is that we can renew our commitment to our own lives, to the world around us – we do this with a willingness to evolve and be transformed by adversity. We choose to re-engage with life. Like the heroes, gods and goddesses of myth we come out of the darkness with some new status, a new perspective on things and the energy to act upon the world again.
Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you. – John Muir
We can also choose to renew ourselves or some aspect of our lives when we simply become tired or stuck in patterns that don’t serve us. If we give ourselves some quiet time to honestly examine our lives we can refresh our thinking and find clarity and order. Even short periods of retreat, rest or solitude can aid us in renewing our perceptions, our emotional state or our health. Daily, we sleep. And daily the sun rises. Sometimes, that is enough.
However we make ourselves new again, we see with new eyes. The familiar becomes meaningful, comes back into focus again. Our lives, our writing and our poetry get a surge of sap, a rise of blood and vitality.
* Write a poem about the ways in which you emerge from winter – what household or other activities do you undertake in spring?
* When have you consciously made a renewal? Some people renew wedding vows or make annual pilgrimages to see old friends, or home, or some other source of strength.
* Have you ever purposely withdrawn from the world for any length of time? Write about a time of retreat.
* How do you invigorate yourself against writer’s block?
* Describe the place inside yourself where you are always alone, where you renew whatever is in you that does not dry up. If you don’t have such a place, try inventing one in a poem.
* What does solitude mean to you?
* Do you ever hold back, fearing that if you use everything you’ve saved for “just the right poem” or other project that you will have nothing left, that the well will run dry? Or do you have faith in your own flow?
* How do you reach for healing?
* What gives you a melting feeling, a physical relaxing in the area of your heart?
* How do you unwind at the end of a bad day, a long week?
* For a challenge, rewrite an existing resurrection myth, or invent a new one.