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Letters from Zeynep: Poetry & Nature


Letters from Zeynep

February 3 · Issue #3 · View online
Biweekly letters that nurture you to find everyday wellness.

Dearest friend,
I have been thinking of writing to you all week, and while my mind has been running with everything I want to say, my fingers kept still. My heart was loud but my throat wanted quiet. It felt like words would take up too much space as they escaped me. I retreated back into myself. I was tired, for no good reason, sleepless at night, and irritated during the day. I was aching at a cellular level. An emotional pain, simmering, deeper. I was communicating with trees, the weather and memories, responding to humans when I must.
Symptoms of grief, these were. I welcomed them and watched them as old friends I had not seen in years. They were only natural after losing my devotedly loving grandmother last Saturday.
A hasty travel to reach the funeral in time, five weirdly sunny days in Istanbul, and here I am back in Paris.
The letter I had prepared for you before her passing was coincidentally one of poetry and nature. Then, the funeral happened, which was also of poetry and nature. Turkish (Muslim?) funerals are bare. Away from music, symbols, speeches, we witness the meeting of body and soil. We listen as words pray for love and sit as someone fills our bellies with food. Neighbors come we had never seen, stories come we had never heard, relationships find a place for mending. All this happens in the mosque down the street, in the living room where the now dead person spent her every day, in the kitchen where she made tea.
Death feels familiar.
Still, how many days do we spend forgetting about it?
This funeral got me thinking, again, about touch as a continuous thing and humans as a thing of nature.
I found, few hours after the funeral, her favorite poem on her bedside table, copied by her in 1950, when she was 16. It’s called Sessiz Gemi, written by Yahya Kemal Beyatlı.
I had been thinking about poetry the past weeks because I had a revelation: Poets are, among many other things, mindfulness teachers and activists.
Poets know how to look at the world, they know how to bring compassion into it. Mary Oliver was one of those mindfulness teachers in disguise. I was elated to discover her reading of some of her poems the other week. I was pained when I read, two days later, that she died. This interview she gave became a true treasure. In it you will find her accepting presence, her pain (she was sexually abused by her father, poor, lonely), and her love of life despite. Mindfulness at its best, if you ask me. 
My favorite poem by Mary Oliver, which I had the fortune of reading on a summer day.
Poets also speak of the most important matters in a way that moves us into urgency. Wendell Berry, an American poet and farmer, is also an environmental activist. A documentary called Look & See tells of his life, but also describes the huge impact industrial farming has had on farmer families. Never had I understood this problem from the eyes of the man born into farming. Never had I thought about industry through poetry. You can find the documentary on US Netflix.
As expected, Berry also had some fabulous mindfulness advice: “Accept what comes from silence. / Make the best you can of it. / Of the little words that come / out of the silence, like prayers / prayed back to the one who prays, / make a poem that does not disturb / the silence from which it came.”
Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry Trailer
Let’s see. What other gifts do I have for you this week?
I have the Princeton dean guiding a meditation before a classical concert “to soften the constructions in your mind that get in the way of experiencing what’s in front of you”.
I have proof that “that clutter can negatively impact mental well-being, particularly among women.” (Let’s hope my partner’s reading me.)
I have a look on where things come from and how to return them home. I’m talking about giant art pieces that should have had a home in Africa.
I have more people than just me horrified by tech investors.
I also have a funny piece on how I feel most days working from home.
I leave you with Beannacht, a poem, a prayer, a lovingkindness meditation and a portrait of nature by John O'Donohue.
Until next time,
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Paris, France