What Will Not Let Me Forget – A Personal Story of a Poem and Synchronicity (Meaningful Coincidence)

My poem “Voices”, long forgotten but demanding to be remembered!

In a series of synchronistic events a poem I wrote has come back to me more than thirty years after I wrote it and almost twenty years since I had disavowed it and forgotten it! I had forgotten that a dear friend, Sarah Wilson, copied out the poem in her distinctive and wonderful script with a water-coloured background (see above) and we had made multiple copies on sturdy rag watercolour paper and given them away! Well, the poem is forgotten no longer.

A number of months ago here on a far-west shore of Canada I received an email from Susan R. from far away in Port Colborne, Ontario. She said she had picked up “Voices” for fifty cents at a Mennonite thrift shop a number of years ago in Port Colborne, made copies and gave it to friends! I was flummoxed, couldn’t remember any special rendering of the poem, let alone Sarah’s rendering.  Wondered what the heck it was. Then Susan sent a photocopy. Just like you see above.  But not this copy! That’s the second surprise!

A few days ago an friend I had known in Calgary years ago and whom I hadn’t seen in more than thirty years emailed me from Falmouth in Cornwall, England. She had a dream a few days before she wrote me that directed her to go looking through old boxes to find the poem I had given her years ago called “Voices”. That’s her copy above! Two times in a few months! No simple coincidence I say!  And Falmouth? You’ve got to be kidding! That where my Osler great great grandparents were born and lived before leaving for Canada in 1837 a few weeks after they were married! Wonderfully strange. Synchronicities. What needs to be paid attention to!

First, the poem written down here with a few new tweaks today:


A need for…
a need for…
want for, a voice
that speaks out of oceans
language of whales.

If I knew brail
I would clamber down
toward low-tide ocean slope
past logs, tumble-down scatter-wood on the beach
and scramble on sea-spawned ocean stones
and read with my hands
dictionaries of water words
and I would hear ocean noise,
the crushed sibilance of water’s
rise and fall.

And if I could make a thread
from whale song I would cloak the moon
in magic made of ink-black and pearl,
give it flukes to leap further into the firmament
and never tire of its second hand glory.

And, if I, mirrored in such an ocean
on a night awake with memory,
could with my calloused fingers
feel the deep ocean’s thrum
under the skin of stones
might my heart beat,
with a beat as big as oceans
and a roar from a god.

Richard Osler from an original version in Baboon in the Mirror, privately printed, 2002

Second, some background. In my early twenties my poetic voice withered as I pursued business success and raised a family that included two children each from two separate marriages. But one day around age forty, while on a small rocky beach on the south side of South Pender Island, one of the Canadian west coast gulf islands, a poem spoke to me and I wrote it down. It was the poem above – Voices.

Even though I wrote Voices and had been dabbling back into poetry some years before it was more than ten years before I began to seriously study the craft of poetry and find teaching mentors like Patrick Lane, Heather McHugh, Jeanine Hathaway and Julia Kasdorf.  Voices was written during a time that now feels like a false dawn for the beginning of my true poetry journey. During this time I also wrote a chapbook-sized manuscript of poems that I sent to the great Canadian poet Lorna Crozier, the partner of Patrick Lane.

I had “met” Lorna on a nationally broadcast CBC radio show on New Year’s day around 1985 or 1986. I shared the mic with Lorna; Morley Callahan, the Canadian novelist; Ken Dryden, the hockey great and author; and a few others. I was so taken with Lorna on that show I found the courage a few years later to find her contact information and write her with my poems! Yikes. I had no idea what an imposition that was! But Lorna graciously wrote a multi-page response and invited me to the Sage Hill writer’s retreat. For some reason I ignored that invitation without thinking. A new family and new start-up self-owned business got in the way!

It wasn’t until 2003 after I had self-published a poetry collection in 2002 called Baboon in the Mirror, which included Voices, that I began the serious work of seeking out teachers and poetry writing workshops and retreats to learn the craft of poetry. That journey continues today but it began with American professor and poet Julia Kasdorf at the 2003 Glen Workshop sponsored by Image journal. What a generous and encouraging teacher she was. But as I started this learning adventure I began to be embarrassed by my earlier poems  and emotionally disavowed them. Voices was an early casualty. Was it too baroque, gushy and over-written? Perhaps….

But now, I have Baboon in the Mirror back on my desk and I have re-read Voices countless times. And in the typed version above I have made minor changes. And I choose to reclaim this poem. To honour it. A dear poet friend whom I trust wonders if our shared mentor Patrick Lane would have suggested edits? Perhaps. But I will stand by my “tweaked” version and celebrate it.  And take it as a sign of my need to stop, look back into my life and listen and see what I have forgotten in my rush to move on, to find success and acknowledgement. This reminder to embrace the largeness of all the beauties around me and bring them back into a heart that is open and attentive to a larger life.

Some say like the 19th century preacher, Jonathon edwards, that beauty is a reminder of God’s presence in our lives and as I read Voices I sense that may be its message for me today.  To open up a heart that may feel stone-like and listen for a power and voice far larger than mine. And perhaps this poem coming back to me in such a surprising way is itself a clear whisper from that voice. But whatever this all means I am glad to have my poem back here in my heart at a time when I am searching for a deeper spiritual way of being in my life! To focus on being more of a human-being and less of a human-doing! (This was the original end to my blog post.)

Now, to add to my web of synchronicities this one from right now! I finished reading James Smith’s recent editorial  in Image journal since writing the previous paragraph. It was Image journal which sponsored the workshop where I truly began my serious poetry journey. Synchronicity. And in the editorial, Jonathan Edwards is mentioned and the theme of synchronicity is mentioned as seen through the lens of the difference between chronos and kairos time. Chronos the time of the day to day, the quotidian. Chronological. Kairos: time out of time, a deeply experienced moment that might change everything. Might be a moment of synchronicity. Here is Smith:

“……with kairos hovering over everything, you never know when an ending isn’t the end. When the dead are raised, not even death is the end. The question isn’t “What time is it?” but “Which time is it?” The absolute is available to everyone in every age. That means any blip of chronos holds the possibility of being kairos, a moment pregnant with possibility. As Daniel Weidner has said, speaking about the theologian Paul Tillich, kairos means “every moment might be the small gate through which the messiah will enter.” It might even mean that those moments of serendipity aren’t random coincidences but gifts, a sign that someone is whispering just to you.”

I would use the word synchronicity or in my definition: meaningful coincidence, not random moments of serendipity. And I might not use such obviously Christian language or metaphor but what a stunning coincidence or dare I say synchronicity that what was going to be my last paragraph has a similar phrase to Smith’s last paragraph: someone is whispering just to you.” vs ” a clear whisper from that voice.” I am grateful. This is how I feel more deeply connected to the mystery that lies at the heart of life.





  1. Yvonne Turkenburg
    Posted July 29, 2021 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful story of synchronicity! Thanks for sharing your poem and how it came back to life.
    All the best, Yvonne

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted July 30, 2021 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Yvonne: Thank you. Thank you. Don’t usually write on such a personal basis. But wanted to share this! All best to you. And thank you for being a reader of my blog!

  3. Sheila Conner
    Posted July 30, 2021 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    This is wonderful Richard. I’ve always loved and appreciated synchronicity, although I haven’t experienced as much in the last few years. I may be too bogged down in all the garbage happening here, but I DO love hearing that it’s still at work. This is really, really lovely.

  4. Richard Osler
    Posted July 30, 2021 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Thank you Sheila: Sending you so much love! Thinking of Lake Jackson a lot. After the death of Joy Zabala. Four of our band gone now. Andy, Bill, Glynn and Joy! Enough already!

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