Waiting in the Whispering Dark by Sarah Steinke


To be awake in the dark is to be alert in a wholly other way. We’ve just passed through the darkest night of the year and anticipate but do not yet know the growing light. This season of night is one of deep vulnerability, where the mind of daily tasks and to-do lists eventually gives way to something more lunar, less solar; here, we find a hush that blankets our daytime sensibilities with something like the acoustics of snow and allows what’s quiet during the day to become loud. This is the only time I hear my husband’s breathing. And I’m reminded that in the dark, we hear what has been with us all along.

Night is also anxious making, fear provoking—we’ve all known nightmares—and what if the ache that's slowed us down and brought us here is bottomless? What if we hear the monsters that since childhood have lurked under the beds, who whisper, "Look at what you’ve done, and there is no forgiveness," or "It's all too broken, and there's no fixing it.”

We’ve all heard these whispers. They come when we’re most vulnerable. But these aren’t the only whispers. There’s something even more true here in the dark.

The Canadian poet Lorna Crozier, in paraphrasing Nietzsche, said people do not like to be alone as they are afraid that something will be whispered in their ears; by contrast, artists wait with fierce attentiveness for that whisper. The truth is, we all are artists, we all are makers. And we all have reasons to doubt this. Partly because we’ve been told in our waking lives by too many people that what we make doesn’t really matter.

This is a lie. And partly because it’s frankly easier to consume rather than create. Because the act of creating calls us to confront our own dread, and our own dreaded hope. But woven into the cloth of our very being is this—we are made to create, no doubt about it.

You are a maker. And you have what it takes—whether you make poetry or paper snowflakes, clear clutter or ivy, sing the most haunting music or longing howl, maybe you draw or dance or color or entrain with the ocean, maybe you dig with your hands in the earth, or work at teaching your children that we all are neighbors, even the trees. Whatever draws you nearer to life, do it. It matters.

This is poiesis, making something that is not yet. Every time we live out our poiesis, we grow our capacity to listen, to see, to know that wholeness includes and incorporates the dark.

Emmanuel. God is with us. Maybe even especially in the dark. Crozier says that every work of art begins and ends with silence. Can we bare the silence? Can we lean into the dark? For it’s here that we see how even the smallest light pierces. Shine.

Sarah Steinke.jpg

Wonder resides in places of quickening, those moments where new life is first felt, and where words often fall short. And wonder, for Sarah, is what compels her to stay and listen. And then to enter more fully, senses alert. As a yoga instructor and poet, she finds these are both practices of quickening. She believes the longer we tolerate this place beyond words, the more deft we become to movement—allowing what needs to drop to the ground to drop, and allowing shape to what needs to take shape. Sarah’s yoga and writing practices reflect her commitment to the poetry of the ordinary, and she invites others to awareness and connection, the places of quickening in their own lives.

Sarah’s teaching has had the benefit of much practice—over twenty years of writing and editing experience, and ten years of yoga practice. She is a RYT 200 certified yoga instructor who received her MFA in poetry from UW. She currently teaches yoga classes in a local studio in Silverdale and corporate sessions in Seattle. Her work has appeared in the Laurel Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Crab Creek Review, the Other Journal, the Southern California Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Words Could Not Make It More True, was published in 2014 by Finishing Line Press. Find out more about Sarah at her website

Sarah will be guiding daily yoga sessions on the North Beach of Iona, Scotland for the 2018 Waymarkers Iona Pilgrimage. If you would like to engage your personal poiesis and with a guide who will assist you in listening to your own quickening,        register for the Iona Pilgrimage today!