Jane Kenyon wrote this thoughtful poem about happiness. It is the flip side of a country song that suggests we look for love in all the wrong places. Happiness is right there in front of us. We see it and struggle to recognize it. Perhaps, it is just too obvious for us to see it and grasp it. There is just no accounting for happiness, because it just shows up and finds us.
There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.
No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.
It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
The Holstee Manifesto
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I am beginning to feel the leaving part. It is hard after almost 15 years in a place that helped me find my voice as a teacher, a learner, and, most importantly, as a person. Here, I watched young people grow and flourish. What I want to try to remember is the Buddhist understanding of departure. We take something with us from each experience and leave something behind. We are never fully gone from where we were or separated from those we were with. There is something indelible left on both sides of the relationship.
One thing that the leaving part has done is given me some words to write. That has been the gift of the last year: I find words in many places and experiences.
A true paradox this space-
Not always quiet–
Still a sanctuary;
In this space–
Grew as one,
Not easy things to do.
Built inseparable bonds.
In this rectangular circle,
Welcomed each others presence
Witnessed each others human essence
Called each others name
Called those names from the heart.
When we leave–
And, we must,
We look at our time together
Look back with reverence
With no regret.
We had a very good day. We are beginning to say good-bye. It has taken many years for me to reach this place. As May Sarton suggested, I ran madly many times seeming to think that busyness was the order of the day. Or I wore the faces of other people. I think these faces were often mine, but that they masked the real me. It was hard to let the guard down and be my self at times. It is easier and easier and I can stand still right here in this moment and now in this moment. Ah, what a feeling.
Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before—”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!
and there are days after days when
this gritty world holds so liitle appeal
...to be anyplace but where i stand
in submerged pain when this history
so swift a snare in its bear claw trap
jailed in recall...in tragic rerun memory
i tire of these arms these familiar legs
so weary of this face i already know
and a name i never asked to own…