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Category Archives: Sabbath

When I Am Wise

I am not sure which Mary Gray wrote this poem. I found it, enjoyed it, and wanted to share it with others.

The poem has a Mary Oliver quality to it. Something speaks to us when we give it time and space. When we listen carefully, the wind blows through the grass giving its a voice we hear when we slow down resting our head on the ground. Humbling ourselves, we are closer to the voices of small things, the dankness of humus (the root word for human and humility), and the friendliness of weeds in our life.

As children, we often forgot our names losing ourselves in precious moments in a world larger than we were. It enveloped us and everything it revealed was wondrous. We recall running with outreached hands into the world, its silence, its disarray, and the inviting of small things in the grass which were more at our level. I remember the ladybugs, spiders, ants, etc. which were smaller than I was, entranced by them and by all that was immense. It was in those moments I was wise as I listened in ways that sometimes escape me as an adult.

When I am wise in the speech of the grass,
I forget the sound of words
and walk into the bottomland
and lie with my head on the ground
and listen to what grass tells me
and small places for wind to sing,
about the labor of insects,
about shadows dank with spice,
and the friendliness of weeds.

When I am wise in the dance of grass,
I forget my name and run
into the rippling bottomland
and lean against the silence which flows
out of the crumpled mountains
and rises through slick blades, pods,
wheat stems, and curly shoots,
and is carried by wind for miles
from my outstretched hands.

The Loon

I woke up Friday morning at about 2:30 AM and could not get back to sleep. Finally, I turned the light on and read from a book by Jacques Derrida. It was not as exotic as hearing a loon out on the lake Mary Oliver writes about, but I found refuge reading about the Derridean concept différance.

The word is a deliberate misspelling of the word difference in French and the verb differer which means both to defer and differ. It is the space and time we defer to what and who is different as we encounter it and them. A person would not hear the difference (différance) in speech, but would see it in print. Still, if I did not know the word, I could easily not see the difference in writing.

Needless to say, I found my way back to sleep in the magical reading I found in the hour or so that lapsed. Today, I recalled the times camping, hiking, fishing, etc. where the loon called and I stopped wondering whether it spoke to me or someone else in that moment? Was it deferring to some difference I could not sense and imagine.

Not quite four a.m., when the rapture of being alive
strikes me from sleep, and I rise
from the comfortable bed and go
to another room, where my books are lined up
in their neat and colorful rows. How

magical they are! I choose one
and open it. Soon
I have wandered in over the waves of the words
to the temple of thought.

And then I hear
outside, over the actual waves, the small,
perfect voice of the loon. He is also awake,
and with his heavy head uplifted he calls out
to the fading moon, to the pink flush
swelling in the east that, soon,
will become the long, reasonable day.

Inside the house
it is still dark, except for the pool of lamplight
in which I am sitting.

I do not close the book.

Neither, for a long while, do I read on.

The Guest House

Rumi wrote this beautiful poem 800 years ago. The message rings true today although we might resist it at times. Perhaps, in busyness and haste, we avoid the messages received in the guest house that our being and becoming entails. When we slow down encountering each guest as a transient event moving on, we learn lessons learned readily and easily.

In sabbath moments, whether a few minutes, hours, or days, we welcome these unexpected visitors. We recognize they will leave and, in treating them honourably, they may move along quickly allowing delight to return.

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 are 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 whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Good Night

I was not in the US for the first time in several years for July 4. Yesterday, I recalled how it was unusual and refreshing to greeted with “Happy 4th” when I would meet people and go into various businesses in Spokane. For one day, I found differences seemed to be set aside and there was a celebratory feel in the air.

Carl Sandburg suggested there are many ways to say good night. As I enter my week-end Sabbath, the July 4 weekend ends. The word spell has several meanings. We can think spelling words in a living and celebratory story and we can think of it as a magical feeling experienced in living life with the fullest awareness possible.

Many ways to say good night.

Fireworks at a pier on the Fourth of July
spell it with red wheels and yellow spokes.
They fizz in the air, touch the water and quit.
Rockets make a trajectory of gold-and-blue
and then go out.

Railroad trains at night spell with a smokestack mushrooming a white pillar.

Steamboats turn a curve in the Mississippi crying a baritone that crosses lowland cottonfields to razorback hill.

It is easy to spell good night.
Many ways to spell good night.

Words

I read Emmanuel Levinas today. He suggested we experience phenomena in sensual immediacy. There is no recapturing the full essence in words. Humans are blessed with words which transform what we experience into something less or something other than its essence.

I attended a meeting the other night and another person commented when we name something it creates a permanency and assumes characteristics according to categories. In a way, the experience become inert.

Dana Gioia points out words’ shortcomings. This is not positive or negative, but is about awareness. When entering into each moment, it is important to fully experience that very moment which is indescribable. The world is filled with wonder and is thus wonderful. We recall that nature, living and non-living, needs no verbal praise. Our relationships and living in the world we co-inhabit are praise the praise. We need not summon airy words, but can sink into the living world’s sensuality. Sabbath provides opportunities for silence, deeper exploring, and the praise we offer without words.

The world does not need words. It articulates itself
in sunlight, leaves, and shadows. The stones on the path
are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.
The fluent leaves speak only the dialect of pure being.
The kiss is still fully itself though no words were spoken.

And one word transforms it into something less or other—
illicit, chaste, perfunctory, conjugal, covert.
Even calling it a kiss betrays the fluster of hands
glancing the skin or gripping a shoulder, the slow
arching of neck or knee, the silent touching of tongues.

Yet the stones remain less real to those who cannot
name them, or read the mute syllables graven in silica.
To see a red stone is less than seeing it as jasper—
metamorphic quartz, cousin to the flint the Kiowa
carved as arrowheads. To name is to know and remember.

The sunlight needs no praise piercing the rainclouds,
painting the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving
each lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered it.
The daylight needs no praise, and so we praise it always—
greater than ourselves and all the airy words we summon.

 

Biology: A Course Review

I read this poem several times. It brings to life the hidden reciprocity of life. Humans take for granted the way living happens and all phenomena are co-dependent. I read a bit of Alphonso Lingis today and he pointed out life is contingent upon relationships enveloped in reciprocity placing us in vulnerable spaces in this world we cohabit with all phenomena.

Maryiln McEntyre‘s poem reminds me of the vulnerability we encounter in life without realizing it. Life is, at once and paradoxically, strong and precarious. We cannot own something we hold in common with another and others. Humans encounter life as a covenant when we accept both its strength and fragility.

If you forget what axons do,
or how a virus invades a cell,
remember this—

that light becomes food.
That the seasons rhyme,
a different word each time

turning soil into living song.
That all things work together.
Even death.  Even decay.

That this is the way
of the world we got: what is given
grows by grace and care

and knows what it needs.
That life is strong, and precarious,
full of devices and desires.

That what we hold in common
may not be owned.  Control
is costly.  Close attention

is the reverence due
whatever lives and moves,
mutant and quick and clever.

That our neighbors—
the plankton, the white pine,
the busy nematodes–

serve us best
in reciprocal gratitude:
what they receive, they give.

The way the heart accepts
what the vein delivers and sends it on,
again.  Again.

Wind, Water, Stone

We continuously act on the world and it acts on us. There is a constant interacting shaping us and the world. Sabbath represents a space when we take time, a few moments, an entire day, and try meet the world more fully. We step beyond the busyness and entering a welcoming spaciousness that holds us.

Octavio Paz provided a beautiful metaphor that brings the continuous interacting to life. Humans, similar to water, wind, stone, hollow spaces, disperse their gifts, and provide shelter for each other. We act in ways offering uplifting opportunities to others . As we step into Sabbath’s spaciousness, we encounter the sculptures, the holding spaces, and the transforming that is always happening around us and in us. We take time and sing, whisper, and find stillness in those spaces.

The water hollowed the stone,
the wind dispersed the water,
the stone stopped the wind.
Water and wind and stone.

The wind sculpted the stone,
the stone is a cup of water,
The water runs off and is wind.
Stone and wind and water.

The wind sings in its turnings,
the water murmurs as it goes,
the motionless stone is quiet.
Wind and water and stone.

One is the other and is neither:
among their empty names
they pass and disappear,
water and stone and wind.

Not dawdling

Sabbath activities are crossroads where we bump into wonder when we are awake, aware, and attentive. We can walk with clarity and keep a sharp eye. It is in the attentiveness we gain insight, let go, and become enlightened. The wonder is two-fold. It uplifts ordinary acts/events we pass over often and they become extraordinary.  As well, we take time and check those things that are different. It is not in sameness we find freedom. It is in opening up and accepting difference that we free ourselves from impenetrable prejudice, prejudgment.

James Broughton used wonderful metaphors and imagery. In letting go, we become intrepid, bold, and fearless explorers. We cut though strings binding us to the familiar and step towards lucent surprises which are always there, but paradoxically block our vision and hide from us.

A paraphrase of St. Benedict suggests we listen with the ear and see with the eye of our heart. In this we elevate the invisible and unheard in Sabbath moments.

Not dawdling
not doubting
intrepid all the way
walk toward clarity
with sharp eye
With sharpened sword
clear cut the path
to the lucent surprise
of enlightenment
At every crossroad
be prepared to bump into wonder

Variation on a Theme by Rilke

Denise Levertov wrote mystical poetry which applied to daily her life. Her poetry contains qualities similar to Rilke who explored life through the spaces provided in poetry. In a sense, poetry acts as a form of Sabbath.

We read poetry’s words and the silence. In the latter, the former come to life asking questions of our whole self. There is no answer in the strictest sense. What emerges in the silence are new questions and as Rilke said, “We live into the questions.”

The silent spaces are important as they enrich the active moments of life. In those silent spaces, we become present in life which confronts us as a sword striking shoulder sending us honorably forward fulfilling life’s tasks and believing we can.

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me–a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic–or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

The Wisdom of Peace

Lao Tzu wrote this poem as part of his work many centuries ago. The hard work of transforming life begins internally and closest to home. Sabbath practice and the mindfulness that comes with it are essential ingredients to living life in a fuller, honest, and moment-to-moment way.

We only bring peace to the world when there is peace in our hearts. From there, we gradually move outwards and the ripple effects are felt gradually first in our home, then our communities, cities, in our nations, and finally in the world. It is not the work of one person and one life time, but the work of many and many life times.

In this rippling, leading is not leading others as much as it is leading my self in the world and touching others with new-found peace.

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

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