• Jørn Earl Otte

"Slowing Down" -- April 25, National Poetry Month

Slowing Down

Greenland sharks,

with their ugly blunt

snouts, their lumpish

backs, their mouths

that hang gaping

like an empty tomb,

they look like Zeus’s discarded


They swim languidly

in the frigid waters, rarely

disturbed by human intervention,

and if they are caught by seafarers’ nets,

they are as welcome as mold

on crusts of bread.

Yet some of them are alive today

who were born before Columbus.

Pando is a colony of trees,

swaying in the heat of a Utah summer,

shaking along with the waves of wind

blessed to be anointed as quaking aspens.

When the breezes come,

they do not fight,

when lighting strikes, they do not surrender.

No one tree

is alive for forever,

but the roots bind them all

to the earth in which they were born,

and the colony has been there for 80,000 years.

I mention these things

because I wake some mornings

wanting to be productive,

proactive, grinding, working,

making sure no one thinks I am lazy,

making sure everyone knows

how hard it is to be.

But other mornings,

I wake wanting to slow down, take deep

breaths, be alive in every present moment.

On these mornings I remember Greenland sharks,

Pando quaking aspens,

redwoods, coral reefs,

sea turtles, whales,

and thankfully the written word.

I wake and remember

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi,

a fig tree alive now for 2,308 years,

and while there are older trees around the earth,

this is the oldest one known

to have been planted by human hands.

This makes me smile.

That is what I really want:

To carefully, gently, reverently,


plant something that I will

never see grow old,

to slowly tend to its roots,

to pour water over it like a daily baptism,

to watch it blossom,

to see it bear fruit,

to close my eyes beneath its ever-widening shadow,

and to fall asleep, content,

knowing it will still be there.

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