RSS Feed

Category Archives: Sabbath

Wild Geese

Mary Oliver wrote this beautiful poem about sensing and perceiving Nature through direct experiences. Maurice Merleau Ponty wrote about the phenomenology of perception which is the about the way body and its senses act as gateways in perceiving the world. Our body is not an only a thing, it is an object that researches the world.

When we “the soft animal of your body” experience and sense Nature, we are in Nature. We have images for our imagination that fill our hearts and souls so fully. We belong in ways that we cannot as an observer standing outside. We are part of a community that includes all of Nature.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Happy Birthday, Albert! | Catherine M Johnson

Happy Birthday, Albert! | Catherine M Johnson.

I am a big Albert Einstein fan and it is his birthday today. I enjoy his eccentric behaviour and wild hair.

Several years ago, a student asked who the guy was in a poster in our classroom.

Without hesitating, I said, “My Dad!” A second student expressed skepticism, but I answered with “Look at him. He has wild hair, is eccentric, and tells great stories. Its my Dad!”.

A third student responded, “It’s Albert Einstein. His name is on the poster.”

For the rest of my teaching years, students, parents, and I were always careful when I began to say something about my Dad. I clarified whether it was my real dad or my figurative dad. The two had interesting quotes in common.

My real Dad would say, “When you stop beating your head against the wall it feels better.” I shared that with students when we talked about Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Friendship

Octavio Paz wrote this short poem which despite its length I read it in several ways. The poem raises more questions than it answers. Perhaps, he wrote about sleep, a lover, or night itself? Whatever it is, this friendship embraces without being named.

Maybe in sleep this friendship arrives only to be brushed aside as we awake in the morning. Or, is it the waiting for this friendship that makes it more worthwhile? When we are mindful and attentive in living, it pokes through and rewards us with momentary glimpses that are so rewarding.

It is the awaited hour
Over the table falls
Interminably
The lamp’s spread hair
Night turns the window to immensity
There is no one here
Presence without name surrounds me

Eliminating the Horizon

We need boundaries. They create structure in our lives. Having said this, I think Linda Nemec Foster asks a great question, “Who needs boundaries?” Can we close our eyes and imagine where the earth ends and the sky begins? Or, where the stream wanders it disappears from our sight?

Many years ago, Kathy and I camped with friends at Quesnel Lake, a beautiful and isolated glacially-fed lake, in central British Columbia.

There is a waterfall, named Niagara Falls, that flows into the east end of the lake.They are 30-40 metres high and narrow. As we approached the falls, we cut the boat motor and heard them thundering from about 1 km away.

We chatted and wondered about the waterfalls’ source. We arrived at a consensus is small lake at the base of a distant mountain fed Niagara Creek. I imagined what that looked like as we climbed to where the falls cascaded over the edge. There was a mountain in the distance which seemed to confirm our guess, but our view – our horizon – was obscured.

That evening, as we sat around the fire, we pulled maps out and found the river did not seem to be lake-fed, but just began at the base of a mountain. Today, I see different possibilities in my mind’s eye. It might be glacial fed, spring fed, or emerge from an unmarked, small lake.

When we close our eyes, we imagine what is beyond the boundaries and their limits. We move past horizons as our imaginations lead the way. There are no lines there.

Who needs boundaries?

If your eyes fail to imagine

where the earth ends and the sky

begins, think of a place bereft

of lines: the blue depths of a stream

flowing like hair that will never

be combed. Deep indigo of nothing

but fluid memory ebbing around

blossoms of white asters. “I remember

how flowers feel when you barely

touch them,” says the water. Like leaving

one world and embracing another:

seeds bursting into wildflowers,

clouds changing into rain,

the image of our borders

a mere outline the soul ignores.

Gospel

The world gospel comes from the Greek and Latin meaning “a reward for bringing good news.” When we walk through life and notice what we experience we are rewarded. It requires a mindful and thoughtful approach noticing the old and the new sharing space with each other; dependent upon each other.

We are dependent on what is there. Thich Nhat Hanh suggested a garden’s weeds enable the growth of new plants. Farmers plow the previous year’s growth under avoiding erosion, adding nutrition to the soil, and helping keep moisture. We do not know whether the news is good until we pause and remember the context behind the news. What did that “bad” news really mean? When we listen more closely, we hear the music of the world singing a different refrain for us.

Philip Levine wrote this wonderful poem. I thought about what it means to receive news. Perhaps that letter in his pocket was not bad news, but, once he was over the pain, he found something new that he had not sensed before.

The new grass rising in the hills,

the cows loitering in the morning chill,

a dozen or more old browns hidden

in the shadows of the cottonwoods

beside the stream bed. I go higher

to where the road gives up and there’s

only a faint path strewn with lupine

between the mountain oaks. I don’t

ask myself what I’m looking for.

I didn’t come for answers

to a place like this, I came to walk

on the earth, still cold, still silent.

Still ungiving, I’ve said to myself,

although it greets me with last year’s

dead thistles and this year’s

hard spines, early blooming

wild onions, the curling remains

of spider’s cloth. What did I bring

to the dance? In my back pocket

a crushed letter from a woman

I’ve never met bearing bad news

I can do nothing about. So I wander

these woods half sightless while

a west wind picks up in the trees

clustered above. The pines make

a music like no other, rising and

falling like a distant surf at night

that calms the darkness before

first light. “Soughing” we call it, from

Old English, no less. How weightless

words are when nothing will do.

Love’s Exquisite Freedom

The Trappist Monk Thomas Merton wrote that we call it falling in love because it does bring painful moments and it is in overcoming the pain we experience that love means so much in our lives. Maya Angelou shared a similar view of love in this wonderful poem. When we look back on life and love, we remember the pain that come with both as strengthening our lives and love. Real love costs us all that we are, but it makes us more whole than who we are.

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient memories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Straight Talk From the Fox

Mary Oliver, one of my many favourite poets, speaks often of our relationship both to and in nature. We are not separate from nature, but a part of it and relate to all its elements, sentient and non-sentient. We relate to nature and all its elements as a participant and not an external, passive observer.

Our observations are not something we can full grasp and write down. The closest we come is expressing what we feel in writing poetry and sharing photography.

Quite often, we are dumb to what happens around us. Other moments, we awake and soak it in through all our senses, embodying what the fox tells us and feeling so close to what we experience in those moments.

Listen says fox it is music to run

over the hills to lick

dew from the leaves to nose along

the edges of the ponds to smell the fat

ducks in their bright feathers but

far out, safe in their rafts of

sleep. It is like

music to visit the orchard, to find

the vole sucking the sweet of the apple, or the

rabbit with his fast-beating heart. Death itself

is a music. Nobody has ever come close to

writing it down, awake or in a dream. It cannot

be told. It is flesh and bones

changing shape and with good cause, mercy

is a little child beside such an invention. It is

music to wander the black back roads

outside of town no one awake or wondering

if anything miraculous is ever going to

happen, totally dumb to the fact of every

moment’s miracle. Don’t think I haven’t

peeked into windows. I see you in all your seasons

making love, arguing, talking about God

as if he were an idea instead of the grass,

instead of the stars, the rabbit caught

in one good teeth-whacking hit and brought

home to the den. What I am, and I know it, is

responsible, joyful, thankful. I would not

give my life for a thousand of yours.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,488 other followers

%d bloggers like this: