those who’ve fallen through ~mark nepo

Lyn Hartley is an independent educator who lives in the wilds of the Yukon. She tells the story of two skiers crossing a frozen lake at night. Sliding through the snow with flashlights, they came upon a moose fallen through the ice. The enormous creature was stuck shoulder high. It was clear the moose couldn’t get out and they alone couldn’t pull it out. The temperature was dropping. So they stayed through the night and, though the moose resisted, they covered it with their tent; settling in to shine their small lights on its face and on the edges of broken ice, to keep the ice from freezing into shards that would cut the moose. In the morning, when the sun reappeared, they went for help. Together they roped the moose and slowly pulled it to the edge till it could find its own way out.

This is a powerful metaphor for how to listen to and be with those who have fallen through: stay close and keep them warm, resisting the urge to prematurely solve the situation. If nothing can be done, sit with them, resisting the urge to abandon those who seem stuck. Offer your tent and stay with them long enough till the way out presents itself, not forcing a rescue. How I need to hear this. For life is long enough that we will have our turn at falling through and being stuck, and at coming upon the fallen not knowing what to do.

I love how we root in the earth and sprout in the world. I love how I learn from others as we find our original face. I admit that I need everyone when I fall through. I confess that I need to hold nothing back when I come upon you struggling in the hole of your own making. How I need the skill of heart that lets love meet truth like small lights on ice. In the truth of each other, there is a way out.

~Mark Nepo, Three Intentions blog


12 thoughts on “those who’ve fallen through ~mark nepo

  1. This was a wonderful analogy.

    When I was going through many years of depression in my life…there were those people that just wanted to ‘fix me’. While I understood that they couldn’t understand that it was just not that simple, it also didn’t help me.

    The people that ‘stayed the course’ with me and were just ‘there’ for me if I needed to vent, cry, bemoan my condition or whatever, were the ones that helped me.

    Without them doing that…and through God’s grace in never letting me go….I wouldn’t be here today to say that I can and did make it through that darkness of time.

    • Yes, there seems to be a general discomfort in today’s society with sadness, grief, depression…the dark night of the soul that enters our life for one reason or another. We want the quick fix, the magic bullet…to make it go away. I, too, went through some periods of deep sadness and loss, and, like you, I had people who wanted to either fix me or urged me to get one of the magic bullets that would (supposedly) dull the pain. While I agree that there are times when depression can become debilitating, mostly I think that we just need to remember/realize that there are painful things that we have to go through sometimes, and the only way to get to the other side of them is to do just that—go through them. I’m glad you had friends that were willing to just be with you while you went through your dark night…such friends are precious. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Viki

    • Yes, it is. I think it will be a story that I’ll “keep in my back pocket” and pull out when needed. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Viki

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