Is the soul solid like iron?

In my previous post I shared D.H. Lawrence’s poem Humming-bird when the poet was pondering “some otherworld Primeval-dumb, far back” “Before anything had a soul” As I read his poem I recalled the poem by Mary Oliver in which she asks in the opening line “Is the soul solid, like iron? Somewhere between Lawrence’s imagination and Oliver’s questions falls a wonderful slim novel by Katherine Applegate Wishtree. Perhaps written with 4th graders in mind, it is a book we can all enjoy. The author takes us to a place where a tree can talk. “Red” is a red oak and Red tells us quite a story. “You might be surprised to learn that all red oaks are called Red. Likewise all sugar maples are called Sugar…That’s how it is in tree world. We don’t need names to tell one another apart. Imagine a classroom where every child is named Melvin. Imagine the poor teacher trying to take attendance each morning. It’s a good thing trees don’t go to school.” Check the book out, you will be pleased you did!

If Lawrence imagined a time before there was a soul, Oliver attempts to answer the question – who has a soul and what is it like?

Some Questions You Might Ask

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?
Who has it, and who doesn’t?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another.
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it, and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?
Come to think of it, what about the maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass? Mary Oliver

Lord God,
let me be honest today
as I pray to you.
There is much, oh so much
about you that I don’t get.
As a child at school
algebra was always a mystery
and at times, all too many times,
I just didn’t get it!
The Holy Trinity
is holy algebra.
Square roots were always tricky
and trying to square three into one
and one into three so meaningless.
Help me O Lord to hold on,
not to certainties but to mysteries,
not to formulae but to faith,
not to dogma but to delight.
Yes Lord, if I am honest
I have many questions –
what is the soul?
But for now, let me breathe
deeply and slowly,
that I might live without answers,
trusting that you hear my questions
and still you love me. Amen.

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