Course: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys through Creative Arts Exploration (2022)
Faculty Mentor: Peggy Caton
Editor’s Note: Archie Abaire, a retired Bahá’í from Beaverdam, Virginia, wrote the following poem to express his learning in the course The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys through Creative Arts Exploration. He also created a Mandala (top of page). Peggy Caton, the faculty member for the course, said “Archie, I am just about speechless after reading your poem, but not quite–for me your poem represents the essence of what can be learned and integrated in the Seven Valleys by the creative process. How to internalize and make these words and concepts one’s own.” A student added “Archie, What a lovely poem embracing all seven valleys. This course has opened my eyes (and ears) to poetry by the book itself and the contributions of the participants.”
Reflections on The Seven Valleys
These seven valleys map a way
through divine realms.
These signposts guide the seekers
to places beyond study and meditation.
Let the seekers ponder that true map
with their own eyes—borne on two wings
that carry the nightingale’s vision aloft.
This valley leads our seeker toward certitude,
beckoning her to begin a journey
whose duration may be a lifetime,
or may be a single breath.
How can the seeker leave her self,
that she not be wearied
by the weight of its darkness?
Only the Word is light enough to carry.
How gloriously mad is this lover:
she daily seeks traces of her Beloved
in specks of copper and gold,
not sure which is which.
Yesterday’s certainty transmutes
into today’s puzzle.
Cities, valleys, realms lie ahead of her,
stations not standing
beside any well-traveled road.
She sets forth boldly on her journey,
her only map of the path ahead
the one she herself must draw.
Fragrances of love permeate this valley:
parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
dogwood, redbud, myrtle and pine,
attar of roses, hyacinths and wine.
Songs of love resound in this valley:
breezes breathe through waving grass,
thunder descends from skies overcast,
crinkly dry leaves foretell winter blasts.
Yea, by these scents and melodies
the Beloved calls to her heart,
these richly adorned curtains
that, for a moment, she may part.
Knowledge gained by gazing through a lens:
whether looking inward or outward,
she can discover yet more worlds,
always one fresh to find,
always one more to touch,
connections formerly denied now granted,
spheres upon spheres within spheres.
Knowledge gained by gazing in a mirror:
the universe folds into herself.
She can see the many
and can see the strands of the many
woven in the fabric of the One
whose designs extend farther
than any soul can see.
“My calamity is My providence…”
How can she be content
when she gazes upon the multitudes
of her neighbors’ calamities?
Jim, too lame to walk,
cannot visit his doctor unaided.
Fred wrestles with demons
of heart, mind and soul.
Friends whose only crime was loving
their neighbors sit in prisons.
Lily’s children Rose and Violet search
other people’s trash for scraps of food.
Her weak hands and small wealth
can touch only these few dear hearts;
She entrusts all others to her neighbors—
even those yet to be born—
who bear drops of that elixir
that transforms copper to gold
Wealth of words about anything
her companion could want
to spend time and effort to hear.
Enough to make him content
many times over.
His own wealth of words given.
Enough to make her content
many times over.
The world prospers.
How different they are
and yet the same.
Each becomes the other
according to which glass
she views them through.
Can she see
through many glasses at once?
Many a soul proclaims to her:
“My Beloved will be sufficient unto me
once I get my act together.
It sounds easy—give away all that I own.
I’m trying to show everybody I can.
In the meantime, I buy
the garb of poverty at the thrift store.
I will resign from the presidency
of Toastmasters when they find
a suitably eloquent replacement.
I give away my opinions.
They keep coming back,
along with a surfeit of others.
Man! Becoming poor is hard work!”
A soul’s embryo
set out at the foot of the first valley
leading to heights but dimly seen.
It grew as it traversed
valleys said to number seven,
or perhaps seventy times seven.
It advanced under the eyes
of watchful spirits
that reside on the heights of grandeur,
spirits that mark progress,
guiding souls through vast valleys
that extend past eternity.
Ponder these seven valleys, that true map,
with your own mind and spirit,
that map through realms leading to glory.
Two wings carry the nightingale aloft;
hear its songs and follow.
But put this poem aside
before you take the next step.