Sunday, March 22, 2015

HOPE FOR THE PAST

Robert Frost
(1874 - 1963)
Photo by Walter Albertin

The concept of hope is usually reserved for the future.  As Robert Frost and David Ray's poem remind us, however, it may be that a more pressing question is whether there is hope for one's past — all of the actions, decisions, and indecisions that undergird what one has become.

                                                 Thanks, Robert Frost
                                                         by David Ray

                                Do you have hope for the future?
                                someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
                                Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
                                that it will turn out to have been all right
                                for what it was, something we can accept,
                                mistakes made by the selves we had to be,
                                not able to be, perhaps, what we wished,
                                or what looking back half the time it seems
                                we could so easily have been, or ought . . .
                                The future, yes, and even for the past,
                                that it will become something we can bear.
                                And I too, and my children, so I hope,
                                will recall as not too heavy the tug
                                of those albatrosses I sadly placed
                                upon their tender necks.  Hope for the past,
                                yes, old Frost, your words provide that courage,
                                and it brings strange peace that itself passes
                                into past, easier to bear because
                                you said it, rather casually, as snow
                                went on falling in Vermont years ago.

Credit:  David Ray's poem, "Thanks, Robert Frost," is published in Music of Time: Selected and New Poems (The Blackwater Press, 2006).  Thanks also to Parker J. Palmer's column, Meaning Changes As Life Unfolds, published March 18, 2015, on Krista Tippett's excellent site, "On Being".


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

WELCOMING ALL GUESTS



                                               THE GUEST HOUSE
                                                          By Rumi
                                             (Translation by Coleman Barks)

                                     This being human is a guest house.

                                     Every morning a new arrival.

                                     A joy, a depression, a meanness,

                                     some momentary awareness comes
                                     as an unexpected visitor.

                                     Welcome and entertain them all!

                                     Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
                                     who violently sweep your house
                                     empty of its furniture,
                                     still, treat each guest honorably.
                                     He may be clearing you out
                                     for some new delight.

                                     The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

                                     meet them at the door laughing, 
                                     and invite them in.

                                     Be grateful for whoever comes,

                                     because each has been sent
                                     as a guide from beyond.




Saturday, January 31, 2015

THE RED-SHOULDERED MESSENGER

Red-shouldered Hawk

Sometimes we grow forgetful of what is vitally important to our sanity.  Sometimes we are simply distracted by the clutter and clatter of life.  And then, if we are lucky, a small miracle comes our way — something unexpected that breaks through the mind chatter and invites us to be still, to rest in the unfolding beauty of the world.

This was my experience late yesterday afternoon.  After a chaotic week of dealing with various issues too nettlesome to mention, I discovered a magnificent red-shouldered hawk perched in one of the sycamore trees in my yard.  I have encountered this hawk many times before, and I've spent considerable time trying to get close enough to make a decent photo.  On every prior occasion, however, my slightest movement sent the hawk screeching into the nearest heavily wooded area.

Yesterday was different.  I felt instinctively that the hawk was approaching me, no less than I was approaching it.  It was all about connecting with each other and with things that matter in this world.  Once the connection was made, the petty problems of the week dissipated and I was overcome with the kind of peace that Mary Oliver describes in her fine poem, "Messenger," which appears in her 2006 collection, Thirst.  Like Oliver, I simply want to "keep my mind on what matters . . . which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished."


                                                       Messenger
                                                    by Mary Oliver

                             My work is loving the world.
                             Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
                               equal seekers of sweetness.
                             Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
                             Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

                             Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
                             Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?  Let me
                                keep my mind on what matters,
                             which is my work,

                             which is mostly standing still and learning to be 
                               astonished.
                             The phoebe, the delphinium.
                             The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
                             Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

                             which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
                               and these body-clothes,
                             a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
                               to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
                             telling them all, over and over, how it is
                                 that we live forever.




Saturday, January 17, 2015

SAYING "YES" TO THE SAVAGE AND BEAUTIFUL JOURNEY

Derry, The Zen Master

Here's an inspirational thought for the beginning of 2015, or for that matter, the beginning of tomorrow and every day thereafter:

The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one's curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day.  Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.  It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.
Diane Ackerman
from
A Natural History of the Senses 

Monday, January 12, 2015

LISTENING IN THE SILENCE OF WINTER



Here I am in the middle of January, sitting by the fire with a cup of tea and a book of poetry, thinking of how comfortable it is to slow down in winter, to concentrate on the infinite pleasures of just being in the world — not doing, not resolving, not producing, not winning, not succeeding — just being.

The book in my hands is The House of Belonging, a collection of poems by David Whyte, and it contains a lovely poem that captures much of what is coursing through my thoughts on this particular day.  It's a poem about listening — listening for the sounds of a world being constantly renewed, listening for the quiet whisper of one's inner voice, listening for the unique music of every thing and every person, listening for the myriad joys that are about to be born into the world every moment, even as some of the old familiar joys are passing away.  Here it is:

                                            The Winter of Listening
                                                    by David Whyte

                                            No one but me by the fire,

                                            my hands burning
                                            red in the palms while
                                            the night wind carries
                                            everything away outside.

                                            All this petty worry
                                            while the great cloak
                                            of the sky grows dark
                                            and intense
                                            round every living thing.

                                            What is precious
                                            inside us does not
                                            care to be known
                                            by the mind
                                            in ways that diminish
                                            its presence.

                                            What we strive for
                                            in perfection
                                            is not what turns us
                                            into the lit angel
                                            we desire,

                                            what disturbs
                                            and then nourishes
                                            has everything
                                            we need.

                                            What we hate
                                            in ourselves
                                            is what we cannot know
                                            in ourselves but
                                            what is true to the pattern
                                            does not need
                                            to be explained.

                                            Inside everyone
                                            is a great shout of joy
                                            waiting to be born.

                                            Even with the summer
                                            so far off
                                            I feel it grown in me
                                            now and ready
                                            to arrive in the world.

                                            All those years
                                            listening to those
                                            who had
                                            nothing to say.

                                            All those years
                                            forgetting
                                            how everything
                                            has its own voice
                                            to make
                                            itself heard.

                                            All those years
                                            forgetting
                                            how easily
                                            you can belong
                                            to everything
                                            simply by listening.

                                            And the slow
                                            difficulty
                                            of remembering
                                            how everything
                                            is born from
                                            an opposite
                                            and miraculous
                                            otherness.

                                            Silence and winter
                                            has led me to that
                                            otherness.

                                            So let this winter
                                            of listening
                                            be enough
                                            for the new life
                                            I must call my own.


From The House of Belonging: Poems by David Whyte (Many Rivers Press, Langley, Washington (1997).

Sunday, January 11, 2015

WAITING FOR HOPE AND HISTORY TO RHYME



Humankind cannot bear very much reality.
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Against the backdrop of this week's horrendous massacres in France, and now the outpouring of more than one and a half million people of good will on the streets of Paris, I offer the hopeful words of the late Irish poet and playwright, Seamus Heaney:

                                         Human beings suffer.
                                         They torture one another.
                                         They get hurt and get hard.
                                         No poem or play or song
                                         Can fully right a wrong
                                         Inflicted and endured.

                                         The innocents in gaols
                                         Beat on their bars together.
                                         A hunger-striker's father
                                         Stands in the graveyard dumb.
                                         The police widow in veils
                                         Faints at the funeral home.

                                         History says, don't hope
                                         On this side of the grave.
                                         But then, once in a lifetime
                                         The longed-for tidal wave
                                         Of justice can rise up,
                                         And hope and history rhyme.

                                         So hope for a great sea-change
                                         On the far side of revenge.
                                         Believe that further shore
                                         Is reachable from here.
                                         Believe in miracle
                                         And cures and healing wells.

                                         Call miracle self-healing:
                                         The utter, self-revealing
                                         Double-take of feeling.
                                         If there's fire on the mountain
                                         Or lightning and storm
                                         And a god speaks from the sky

                                         That means someone is hearing
                                         The outcry and the birth-cry
                                         Of new life at its term.

                              From Seamus Heaney's The Cure at Troy

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

BEANNACHT: A BLESSING FOR THE NEW YEAR


Happy New Year to all of my wonderful friends in the blogging world.  Here is a fine poetic blessing that the late John O'Donohue wrote for his mother, Josie. Subsequently, the blessing was included in O'Donohue's book, To Bless the Space Between Us, and was offered as "A Blessing for the New Year."  The words and Celtic sentiments embodied therein resonate deeply with me as I embark upon yet another year.   May they also resonate with you.


                                                     Beannacht
                                                            by 
                                                 John O'Donohue

                                        On the day when

                                        The weight deadens
                                        On you shoulders
                                        And you stumble,
                                        May the clay dance
                                        To balance you.

                                        And when you eyes
                                        Freeze behind
                                        The gray window
                                        And the ghost of loss
                                        Gets into you,
                                        May a flock of colors,
                                        Indigo, red, green
                                        And azure blue,
                                        Come to awaken in you
                                        A meadow of delight.

                                        When the canvas frays
                                        In the curragh of thought
                                        And a stain of ocean
                                        Blackens beneath you,
                                        May there come across the waters
                                        A path of yellow moonlight
                                        To bring you safely home.

                                        May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
                                        May the clarity of the light be yours,
                                        May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
                                        And may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

                                        And so may a slow
                                        Wind work these words
                                        Of love around you,
                                        An invisible cloak
                                        To mind your life.