Written By:

In Unsettled Times Poem and Prose


A plant’s way of sensing itself at home is
sidling or seeding its way to nurturing
sun and water.

Our plant selves
find our way to nurturing
stores of food and sources of water,

feel safer.


An animal’s way of sensing itself at home is
scanning for relevant signals and
pauselessly responding, while
living its everyday life.

Our animal selves
by nature
stay alert for signals,
hone social and physical skills for
instant responses, while
going about our days,

feel more ready.


When we
look for what needs doing,
listen for what we’re called to do,
and do it

all with
simplicity and peace,
integrity and community,
equality and sustainability,
and gratitude for what
grounds us,
supports us,
enlivens us,

we and those
near to us and
far from us,
more settled,
more at home.


In the language of science and engineering, there are two kinds of equilibrium: static and dynamic. A parked car is in static equilibrium. A car being driven “straight” down a highway is in dynamic equilibrium—bumps on the roadway and movements of other vehicles are being compensated for by small tugs on the steering wheel.

I think of static equilibrium as being plant-like. In a stressful time, a plant might grow wider or deeper roots or grow more nuts or seeds. A similar human response to uncertain times might be “spreading fine roots” to family and friends by visiting in person or sending letters, “sending down a deep taproot’ to what grounds and enlivens us (perhaps by learning by heart the texts that speak to us), or, more tangibly, setting up stores of water and freeze dried food. Establishing a rich root system is a way of feeling more safe.

I think of dynamic equilibrium as being animal-like. On a windy day, a bird can ride a swaying branch by keeping a little crouched in the knees and a little loose in the wings. A similar human response to unsettled times might be for us always to keep an ear open for relevant, trustworthy news sources (and be those ourselves), to get stronger and more limber physically, or to make a point of getting to know new people and new people-skills and any other skills. Maintaining ourselves in a mental and physical balance similar to the crouch-like dance that tennis players do when they are about to receive a serve is a way of feeling more ready.

Humans are resilient and resourceful; there are many useful responses to unsettled times. And, as my father would say, they’ve repealed the law that we have to adopt only one of these living strategies.