As the pace and chaos of life press harder upon us, as Yeats’s observation that “the centre cannot hold” seems more apt, and as I grow toward my allotted seventy years (or eighty if I am strong), the treasure that is this day, this present moment, seems at once more fleeting and more necessary to grasp. In his poems, William Stafford helps make me more aware of it. Here’s one that, when I turn around, assures me that center can, indeed, hold.
“You Reading This, Be Ready”
by William Stafford
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. The interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life—
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?