The Next Step

By Nita Baer, Mental Health Counselor Certified in Lifespan Integration

What to do when the texture and smell of our world changes? When everyone I dearly love poses a risk? Every. One.


The shaking, full stop, and uncharted ground - many and many have known a version of this place.


Diagnosis, divorce, disownment, refugee, assault, and death. Humanity lives on the razor's edge.


Here, we perch together.


I am sorry, my children, and I am sorry, friends. I am sorry, those who find it difficult to take the next step.


Because the next step, just one step, is all we have. Do this moment. Take that next breath.


In January of 2009, I was sitting on the ferry boat in Puget Sound sobbing out of control. Too much loss. Way too much. My divorce was pending, finances were a complete loss, parents were disavowed, children were scrambled, and home was for sale.


Driving off the boat to finish my education was paramount, but I couldn’t see to drive.


God help me.


Do the next thing.


Still crying, I picked up the box of books for class,...


Decades ago, as a teenager in a small midwestern town in 1978, I went on a field trip to the big city of Des Moines, Iowa to visit an art gallery.


My heart was just beginning a long, slow process of warming to a love never known.


There was a print of Jules Breton’s “Song of the Lark” that was painted in 1884: A peasant woman gazing across the field with a look that pierced some longing place within. Hot tears, foreign to me, streamed down my cheeks.


An artist living one hundred years before my time validated the ache long carried; her gaze held hope for something more.


That day, I could afford a postcard. In time, I bought a copy, and all its loveliness hung in my home.


Now, thirty years later on the ferry when there was no possible way forward, I opened a box of textbooks to find Jules Breton’s painting on David Whyte’s book of poems. Shaking, I opened the first page to read: “This silence is the seed in her / of everything she is / and falling through her body / to the ground from which she comes, / it finds a hidden place to grow / and rises, and flowers, in old wild places, / where the dark-edged sickle cannot go.”


David Whyte put words to what I felt so long ago, and once again, love saw me.


I was not alone. If I was not alone, there was hope. Hope was all I needed to take the next breath.


On this day, March 19, 2020, dear ones we are not alone.


Love is real and ever-present.


Do that one next thing.


Song of the Lark by David Whyte


The song begins and the eyes are lifted but the sickle points toward the ground, its downward curve forgotten in the song she hears, while over the dark wood, rising or falling, the sun lifts on cool air, the small body of a singing lark.


The song falls, the eyes raise, the mouth opens and her bare feet on the earth have stopped.


Whoever listens in this silence, as she listens, will also stand opened, thoughtless, frightened by the joy she feels, the pathway in the field branching to a hundred more, no one has explored. What is called in her rises from the ground and is found in her body, what she is given is secret even from her.


This silence is the seed in her of everything she is and falling through her body to the ground from which she comes, it finds a hidden place to grow and rises, and flowers, in old wild places, where the dark-edged sickle cannot go.


-from River Flow: New & Selected Poems



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