Ann Keiffer

Winter Vision Quest

Vision Quest: A sacred rite of passage; a quest for vision, guidance, and renewal in nature. In Native American cultures, a rite of passage into adulthood. Normally carried out under rigorous conditions in wilderness settings, with fasting, living in the open, and solitude. Urban/Suburban Vision Quest: A more accessible way for us to seek, be taught, be changed by world around us. Walk with question or problem, holding it lightly, observing what we encounter. When something arrests our attention, take it as a vision, ponder symbolic connection between vision and our question. What does it say about what we need to know?


Unnamable sadness,
holiday-excess distress,
and a strange solitariness
move me outside to do
a walking meditation,
a suburban vision quest.
Why, I want to know,
am I so inward, so low;
what do I need to know
about why I hang back
alone on the bank of the
rushing social stream?

I begin my walk, just noticing:
leaves of crimson, bluest sky,
freshening face from dewy air.
Such beauty…and I step on a
liquid amber pod, turn my
ankle on the spiky ball, and
go crashing to the sidewalk,
split-second-mindful of
my recently broken and
dislocated fingers, thrusting
my left hand aloft, my body
flooded with the tang of fear.

Rattled, I get up slowly, flex
my still intact fingers for
assurance, take a breath
to calm myself down,
then resume my walking,
considering this question
about what I need to know
about feeling so low and
needing to be alone…

Minutes later,
I step on a second liquid
amber pod, turn my ankle
again, crashing down on
the sidewalk again, like
a cow with a broken leg.
Hands, arms, shoulders, hip.
Shock. Absorbers. I get up
bone-by-bone. Two smack-
downs have arrested my
attention. But what are
the smashups telling me
about what I need to know?

It doesn’t take a lot of
imagination or tea-leaf reading
to see these falls as the answer
to my quest and question:

Pay attention to my path,
both literally and symbolically.
The symbolic path, for me,
is my writing life, one that
often requires me to pull back,
spending time alone steeped
in quiet and reflection that have
a way of turning into poems.

The literal-path message is
somewhat more blunt.
It’s 10:29 AM, do you
know where your feet are?
It’s 10:30 AM, do you know
where your feet are?
Called to a basic in-the-body
spiritual practice known as

Ann L. Keiffer
January, 2011

 Photo Credit mfoley25 Creative Commons License


About Ann

I am interested in the strange beauty of brokenness, in transforming possibility in difficult times, in how we heal even when we can’t get better, in the alchemy of surrender, in the interplay of light and shadow, in the bounty of everyday wonders, in the gift of laughter…and writing about it, all and everything.

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