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Turn to Nature

The Rev. Rita Powell
June 13, 2019

With summer approaching, I find I am missing my beloved Block Island.  I will get to go later in the summer.  As I think about what that place has meant to me and my family —past, present, and future—I am reflecting on how my racial identity shapes that. 


For me, it is all story of nature and narrative.  I know it is my white economic privilege that has given me reliable access to this place.  The island itself, almost entirely culturally white, can be for me without race.  This is an illusion of white-dominant culture. 


As Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, even though we oppress the world with our trade, our behavior, “for all this, nature is never spent.  For the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast, and with, ah! Bright wings.” 


“Turn to nature for inspiration” is a cornerstone of anti-racism work.  So, here is my reflection on all of these things in the form of a poem.


Devil’s Causeway



For over sixty years, three generations, my family subscribed

To the fearful myth of Rodman’s Hollow.

Its deep plunging gorge, covered in forest

Of a scale that doesn’t make sense-

               Too small and too big-

The devil’s causeway.

Where would you go if you dared its paths?

The rest of the island is fair

Game; towering bluff, green meadow

Rocky cove and sandy beach.

We left that one Hollow a secret.



My own children

Are here with me now.

The world threatens

Rodman’s Hollow does not.

We dare the paths!

Green and spacious

Bejeweled with suspended raindrops

    On purple thorns

    Black twigs

    A few new leaves

Laced with songs of many birds.

What were we afraid of?

We know the devil better now

And this isn’t his doorway.



The blue blue sky meeting

The blue green sparkling crash of wave

An invitation that wont be refused

Despite the April chill.

They have to take their clothes off

And madly dance and shriek and splash.

The sun gleams on their small dazzling white bodies.


Let their white be white

A part of the details of the day

Not a curse, a poison they must carry

The devil’s causeway.


May you have a blessed summer,

The Rev. Rita T. Powell


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