The Everywhere Oracle: A Guided Journey Through Poetry for an Ensouled World
Reviewed by Valerie Brown
By Caryl Ann Casbon. Wyatt-MacKenzie, 2015. 112 pages. $17.99/paperback; $7.99/eBook.Buy from QuakerBooks
There is a deep part of every human being that seeks meaning and purpose. We search for meaning along many paths: walking a rough terrain, negotiating boulders on whitewater, windsurfing along the leeward side of a fast current of change. We are seekers in the great mystery of life’s twists and turns, often not recognizing guidance as it appears in many forms: the chance meeting of a stranger who becomes a soul friend; a career path that falters, inviting us into redirecting our lives; a birth or death.
Caryl Ann Casbon in The Everywhere Oracle has written a brilliant guidebook for the soul, a mini-instruction manual to discover meaning and purpose through her beautifully evocative poetry. Capturing passages of Casbon’s own life, bravely transparent and self-revealing, The Everywhere Oracle is organized into two chapters. The first chapter, which focuses on “The Alchemy of Change” is organized in three sections: poems on inheritances, poems to explore change and growth, and poems to reflect on your relationship with the lifecycle over time. The second chapter, “To Live Inside an Ancient Rhythm,” offers “Poems for the Inner Life” that take us within, and again is organized into three sections: poems to invite inward reflection, poems to invite listening to the everyday world around us, and finally, poems to reflect on the mentors in your life.
To help readers toward this inward journey, Casbon offers personal storytelling for each section and chapter. Appendix I contains useful guidelines for exploring the Circle of Trust process, making it an ideal guide for reflecting on the inner life for individuals and groups, for Quaker meetings, gatherings, and book groups of any kind. Casbon’s reflection questions in Appendix II are particularly skillful and masterfully presented, clearly drawn from her life’s work and experience. She is an ordained interfaith minister, spiritual director, poet, writer, and retreat leader for the Circles of Trust Retreat Programs developed by American Quaker Parker J. Palmer and the Center for Courage and Renewal.
Written with grace and heart, The Everywhere Oracle is particularly useful for Friends. Her poems on the clearness committee process, “The Four Directions for an Awakening Edge” and “From the Perspective of Eternity,” speak to the depth, power, and integrity of the soul revealed in the safety of community, prepared to listen as an act of love. This book will greatly help Quaker meetings throughout the United States and throughout the world to strengthen bonds of connectedness and create an atmosphere for trustworthy and authentic conversations.
Recently, I attended a retreat with Casbon set in a deep valley in Oahu, Hawaii, and experienced again her skill as a retreat leader and poet. I was greatly moved by her willingness to share the heart-opening stories of her life’s journey—the hard lessons as well as the moments of unbridled joy—with our group as she has done so beautifully in this book. Casbon is right: The oracles are everywhere, waiting to be revealed.