This poem by William Butler Yeats has lingered in my mind through many years. Though for a long time it puzzled me, it also always touched me with some intuition that it was important. Most of the poetry I read in my high school and college years affected me like that: there often was something in the words that moved me deeply without really understanding them or knowing exactly why they resonated.
This poem comes back to me now speaking more clearly of the unrecognized but significant impact that events and people have had on my life, the “unknown instructors” that have shaped me.
GRATITUDE TO THE UNKNOWN INSTRUCTORS
— William Butler Yeats
What they undertook to do
They brought to pass;
All things hang like a drop of dew
Upon a blade of grass.
In a way everything that happens to us and everyone who comes into our lives (even if only for a short time) come as instructors who teach and help us to grow . I’m more aware of that now than I was at 16 or 19, or whenever it was that I first read this.
It’s the “all things hang like a drop of dew / upon a blade of grass” that especially stirs something in me. It’s such a delicate image. It speaks of the barest touch, fragile and fleeting, of the dew on grass that comes in the night, lingers briefly in the morning, and soon is gone. Without the freshening, life-giving gift of the dew we would wither and die too soon. With it, we survive the heat of the day and grow another inch or two.
I’m moved to think of those people who were like life-giving dew in my life: my 6th grade teacher… my college advisor Mr. T…. Amos, the guide for our busload of tourists in Israel… my spiritual directors… members of my congregations… the friend who tried to encourage me to hike the trails in the Chama River canyon… and so many other friends who came into, then passed out of, my life… so many people to give thanks for!
Each has been the gift of God — not only those I appreciated, but also those who were like hair-shirts, irritations that made me grow in spite of myself. I’ve come to know that everything that happens in life is grist for the mill and every person or event that touches our life is a teacher. The Divine Hand moves mysteriously within it all, and it’s daunting and thrilling at the same time to catch occasional glimpses of that.
May you receive whatever particular blessing you need today, to be refreshed and fed. And may we both wallow in gratitude — wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?! Blessings, and peace to you.
P.S.: “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, grow, grow.” — The Talmud