On Labor Day, my husband and I went off with a couple of friends to explore Limon, Colorado.  The key motivation for the trip was curiosity and a chance to spend time with people whose company we enjoy.  Limon, once known as the Gateway to the West (website) lies out on the plains of eastern Colorado.  To pass the time on the long car trip,  I invited my friend Barbara to join in a little exercise of gathering snippets of conversation and random phrases on signage to turn into a “found poem”.  We had a great time on our adventure and when I returned I reviewed my three pages of captured notes in an effort to make poetry of an experience.  My resulting poem- at least the first pass version- is on the blogcast.  What struck me most were the two voices that were framed in the captured phrases:  one offered big promises, the other stern prohibitions. 


Everyone has these two voices, although one or the other tends to predominate in most people.  The promise voiced people consistently look on the bright side, the possibility side and dream of a bigger, brighter future.  Life, in their view, has infinite potential for greatness (or at least to be pain-free, miraculous, and consistently happy). The voice of promise invites stretch and growth, is the fuel for change. It’s the voice of eternal optimists, visionaries and dreamers. The prohibitors, on the other hand, keep the wagons in a tight circle, focus on the rules and are certain that coloring outside the lines will get you a smart smack on the knuckles with a ruler.  This is the voice that seeks to minimize risk. These folks are conservators and preservers, maintainers of lineage and traditional knowledge.  Both voices can have their uses and both are needed to some degree.   In excess, though, the voice of promise and the voice of prohibition interact with each other in ways that create a bitter wind that erodes even a semblance of vegetation from the landscape of an idea.


Voice is an intangible characteristic. We speak so often in our given voices that after a while, we lose sight of the fact that it’s an individual “mine” and assume it’s the voice of universal truth.  The voice of promise may be fueled by overwhelming positive emotions and the voice of prohibition may be fueled by fear.  Both emotions are catalytic.  An exorbitant promise taps a tiny fissure of fear which the respondent seeks to seal up quickly with a plug made of protocols, commandments and rebuke.  “Thou shalt not…” lights a fuse and explodes a thousand questions. Why not?  What if….?  How do we know?


The eastern plains of Colorado, like those in the surrounding states, are unimaginably vast to us city dwellers.  On the trip with our friends,  we could not begin to guess how far away the near mountain range we were seeing might be, and even less so for the distances of the range visible behind that, and the one visible behind that (even with a physicist and a rabbi among us!). We only knew it was many, many, miles.  The sky stretches out in three dimensions; the gentle roll of the plains disguises the actual acreage of a ranch or a farm.  More importantly, the land endures because it is constantly changing, evolving in response to wind, weather and all of the imprints of humankind.  So the little tug of war between yes/no doesn’t mean much in the bigger picture.  But the voices do give clues.  The voice of big promises shines a spotlight on possible resources to draw upon in problem-solving; what’s working, what might be working if we tinker with it a little.  The voice of prohibitions gives shape to current boundaries and prods us to think about how to refine our solutions before we go wandering off into canyon country and get lost in unmapped terrain.  A journey through this landscape invites us to quiet down and to listen to all of the voices.  And to see if we can find a poem. 

To download an audio version of this post, along with the poem and a thought exercise, click here.