Wisdom of Thumbs and Soil

A poem celebrating the knowledge that comes with age and experience of the world, and ancient wisdom.

2005 Powwow

2005 Powwow (Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution)

Wisdom Of Thumbs And Soil


Our elders walk in the way of the wise,
they know but wait to be asked
questions by those who have
forgotten their thumbs. The young
cannot sign, are left to wander in
cold wearing the skirts of summer, their
feet frozen in January snows, blue toes
poking through sandals, eyes not yet
mirrors of what and who has passed.


Zulu woman making pot at reconstructed traditi...

Zulu woman making pot at reconstructed traditional village, South Africa (Photo credit: gbaku)

Our elders are skilled in the craft
of beads and skins, knives curving
along the hides, knuckles curved
white under the tension of the leather,
fingertips delicate as they knot threads


to bind beads to a silken cord.  


Withering hands spin in the shadow
of grief, as the mind grows and the body fades.
Those who begin to question hear
the dead whispering stories in the roots
of trees. Those coming after will
rest among the roots of ancestors,
will take from the soil knowledge of
seed and root and branch. This tree
bears the seed of all trees yet to come,
as it was born of all trees that
have come before.  



Tree (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Carol A. Stephen
October 14, 2011


some of the phrases in this poem based
on Stephen Jenkinson’s Orphan Wisdom teachings


6 thoughts on “Wisdom of Thumbs and Soil

  1. These are my favorite lines:

    This tree
    bears the seed of all trees yet to come,
    as it was born of all trees that
    have come before.

    So very true…not only as it applies to trees but also applicable to humans as well. Beautifully penned.

  2. Yes with age can come wisdom–at least I hope there is that compensation! Those poor young who have lost their thumbs.

  3. I was wonder at what point the transition happens…but then I guess, it is always happening. The reason the elders have eyes in the back of their heads is that they have visited these places in there summer skirts, even if the skirts might have been longer…lol. I so love this poem, it speaks volumes and outlines the in bright white the edges of a life so worth living. Loved this.

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