The Grove: Gifts Out of Grief

The story of Orpheus and Eurydice comes from the ancient Greek world and is told in many versions by both Greek and Roman writers.  According to them, Orpheus was the superlative poet–musician–prophet–seer–wizard of the  Mediterranean world.  He fell deeply in love with an equally superlative human being, Eurydice. In the midst of their perfect love and perfect wedding, utter tragedy strikes.  During the festivities after the marriage ritual, Eurydice was bitten by a poisonous snake and fell dead.  Orpheus called upon all of his powers, journeys to the Underworld and tried to wrest his love back from the grips of death.  He sang and so charmed the King and Queen of the Underworld that they allowed him to take Eurydice back to the land of the living on one condition:  that as they leave, he not look back at her until they are out of the Underworld.  Just as you might imagine, as they approach the opening to the world, Orpheus reflexively turns to Eurydice who immediately fades from him and returns to the land of the Dead forever.

Orpheus had a gift.  Everyone else acclaimed it as the greatest in the world.  But, it was just who he was; just what he did; just how he lived his life.  And through some terrible, unexpected events, he had to lay the gift down.  It changed him. He disappeared for a whole year, and everyone thought he was dead. He likely just wanted to die. And then, the Wild Ones go through to him. We don’t know how.  Ovid doesn’t tell us, and it’s a good thing he doesn’t. We’d just try and turn it into a formula, a doctrine, and requirement of domesticity.

He emerged from that experience and Orpheus was able to sit on a bare hill and play his music.  As he did trees of all kinds came into being.  From his music, a gift now reshaped by his loss and anguish, he created a grove there.  Specifically out of the sacrifice and anguish he had been through he offered his gifts back to the community.  From within that grove, he began to tell stories, and all gathered there to hear them.  He had musical, poetic and bardic gifts beyond compare, but his most painful experiences finally brought him to offer these gifts back to the domesticated community.

What are your gifts–the things you have learned to do and are talented to do, but which through various sacrifices in your life you are learning better to give back to the community?  It may well be that who you are, what you do, and how you live in the world touches others most deeply because of the things you have journeyed through.  Notice your gifts today, and honor them.

Bob Patrick

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