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Category Archives: Sabbath

The Art of Blessing the Day

I am taking a few days off from digital technologies. I am traveling to an area where the only Internet access is via dial-up. It is not that remote, but it is probably the imperfect alignment of satellites, mountains, and other geographic features.

Having said this, it is nice to take a break. I spend considerable time between social media and dissertation writing on computers. Sometimes the imperfections of the world and the universe act in ways that bring about a necessary change.

Marge Piercy’s poem suggests we bless everything we can. In the busyness and hurry of life, we run past much of life and forget blessing. I have a few days to count my blessings in quiet moments away from the hectic.

This is the blessing for rain after drought:
Come down, wash the air so it shimmers,
a perfumed shawl of lavender chiffon.
Let the parched leaves suckle and swell.
Enter my skin, wash me for the little
chrysalis of sleep rocked in your plashing.
In the morning the world is peeled to shining.

This is the blessing for sun after long rain:
Now everything shakes itself free and rises.
The trees are bright as pushcart ices.
Every last lily opens its satin thighs.
The bees dance and roll in pollen
and the cardinal at the top of the pine
sings at full throttle, fountaining.

This is the blessing for a ripe peach:
This is luck made round. Frost can nip
the blossom, kill the bee. It can drop,
a hard green useless nut. Brown fungus,
the burrowing worm that coils in rot can
blemish it and wind crush it on the ground.
Yet this peach fills my mouth with juicy sun.

This is the blessing for the first garden tomato:
Those green boxes of tasteless acid the store
sells in January, those red things with the savor
of wet chalk, they mock your fragrant name.
How fat and sweet you are weighing down my palm,
warm as the flank of a cow in the sun.
You are the savor of summer in a thin red skin.

This is the blessing for a political victory:
Although I shall not forget that things
work in increments and epicycles and sometime
leaps that half the time fall back down,
let’s not relinquish dancing while the music
fits into our hips and bounces our heels.
We must never forget, pleasure is real as pain.

The blessing for the return of a favorite cat,
the blessing for love returned, for friends’
return, for money received unexpected,
the blessing for the rising of the bread,
the sun, the oppressed. I am not sentimental
about old men mumbling the Hebrew by rote
with no more feeling than one says gesundheit.

But the discipline of blessings is to taste
each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet
and the salty, and be glad for what does not
hurt. The art is in compressing attention
to each little and big blossom of the tree

of life, to let the tongue sing each fruit,
its savor, its aroma and its use.

Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.

In Silence

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk known for essays, letters, and writing books. He was an artist and poet, as well.

Sabbath is a retreat from the busyness encountered in daily life. It is less about separation from the world and more about finding bridges linking us with the world and others in the world. The word treat suggests healing and making whole.

We seek bridges allowing us to let go of baggage we carry and skeletons we dance with. Parker Palmer used Thomas Merton’s writing explaining the need for peace, solitude, and silence in life. This is not a withdrawal, but a different way of encountering the world and hearing the words it speaks more clearly.

Part of Taoism is seeking principled paths and ways forward. Parker Palmer and Thomas Merton drew on this thinking in expressing a need for silence in life otherwise the noise of daily life is deafening.

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
to speak your

name.
Listen
to the living walls.

Who are you?
Who
are you? Whose
silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
are you (as these stones
are quiet). Do not
think of what you are
still less of
what you may one day be.

Rather
be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one
you do not know.

O be still, while
you are still alive,
and all things live around you

speaking (I do not hear)
to your own being,
speaking by the unknown
that is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
to be my own silence:
and this is difficult. The whole
world is secretly on fire. The stones
burn, even the stones they burn me.
How can a man be still or
listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
when all their silence is on fire?”

Untitled (Where are you going)

We flew across Canada today, returning from holidays. We spent time in nature and exploring historical roots in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Maine but is nice to be going home.

We discussed that this is the first time we went on an extended holiday in many years. We spent over two weeks on the road and it is tiring. The days we stayed put and did not move from one place to another allowed us to recoup.

This poem reminded me of home’s importance. When we stop and take a moment to see the place we call home through new eyes, we see and feel its heart, the rhythm of what home means. Peter Levitt concluded it is in extraordinary moments  we find the place closest to our hearts.

I am reading James Hillman and he suggested we sometimes limit our thinking about the heart to a physiological pump. The heart serves a greater purpose in that we find our purpose within it and have courage to follow those purposes. It is being in the moment we find courage and confidence to feel at home in each moment. The heart is a rhythmic source for our moment-to-moment journeying. We are always going somewhere and it is important to be at home wherever we end up.

Where you are going

and the place you stay

come to the same thing.

What you long for

and what you have left behind

are as useless as your name.

Just one time, walk out

into the field and look

at that towering oak—

an acorn still beating at its heart.

O Slave, Liberate Yourself.

The second stanza drew me into Kabir‘s poem. We search for homes throughout life. It is right there embedded in each moment. When I am awake in each moment, the search is easier. I become aware and attentive sensing each moment’s  transience.

When we let go and stop grasping, we are released from slavery and tyranny chasing tails and tales. When we fail and chase, the feeling enslaves us and it is worse than death. Living each moment is the antidote to this feeling and is liberating.

O Slave, liberate yourself.

Where are you, and where’s your home,
find it in your lifetime, man.

If you fail to wake up now,
you’ll be helpless when the end comes.

Says Kabir, listen, O wise one,
the siege of Death is hard to withstand.

Walking Meditation

We attended a wedding yesterday and it was late when I got home. I prepared this post in advance and took a few minutes today to post it. After this, I begin or re-begin sabbath, which was largely a Saturday and Sunday event this week.

When the boys were young, we would get up on weekends and go for a walk. The boys wanted to hold our hands. One son always checked my hands out. He often started with my left hand and I felt his fingers checking my palm. Not finding what he wanted he moved to the right side and completed the search. My right hand is scarred from various events and scar tissue built up leaving a bump. As we walked, our son would hold that hand and now and again rubbed the scar and bump. I don’t know if it was that reassured him, he was reassuring me, a combination of those things, or none of the above. In those moments, it was easy to sense being, linked together and holding hands.

In today’s world, we hurry to get somewhere. It is not clear where somewhere is and we are victims to trying to get out of this moment. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us we should walk peacefully, not thinking of arriving anywhere but here. When we do this, we walk in peace and walking is peace. In holding hands, we touch each moment and kiss Earth with our feet. We feel Earth through and in our feet, its scars and make it safer for us and Earth.

We see commercials with people holding hands singing about making the world a better place. In hand-holding, we are linked physically and united. It is not an abstraction as we feel other people and Earth in linking and walking.

Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Walk peacefully.
Walk happily.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.

Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.
We walk for ourselves.
We walk for everyone
always hand in hand.

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Print on Earth your love and happiness.

Earth will be safe
when we feel in us enough safety.

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.

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