It is many years since my youth, when I recall I was able to gain a merit badge for tying knots. Knots themselves are not that difficult to learn, the real skill is being able to untie the many knots we inadvertently tie. If we are honest we have tied knots at times in our families and amongst friends in our zealous pursuit to make a point or score a victory. The poet Carl Dennis writes “So you spend your life untying knots the slowest work of all.” We have all been caught up in this slowest work, might we have the stamina to unpick the tangles we have tied! I hope Dennis’s poem offers you a moment to reflect. Perhaps we learn the ropes of life by untying the knots.
I respect your plan to slip into the graveyard
One of these nights and topple your father’s stone
And dance on your mother’s grave
To the tune of your old grudge.
One night while you were sleeping,
They crept into your little attic room
And tied all the furniture to the floor.
So you spend your life untying knots,
The slowest work of all. And every morning,
After a night spent dreaming of rearrangements,
You wake up to find it all roped down again.
Still, you might picture brave young sailors,
As they boomed along in a gale off Cape Horn
With creaking spars and strained lashings,
Thanking their lucky stars for the bowline,
That ingenious knot passed down for so many years
From old sailors to young
With care, with patience. Carl Dennis
for all the things
we have inadvertently tied,
help us to untie.
Give us the courage to recognize our mistakes.
Grant us strength to mend what our words
or our actions have broken.
may we have the wisdom to
know what needs to be untied,
and what needs to be left alone.
Bind us together,
family and friends,
with love and grace.