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Category Archives: Synchronicity

The Race

Today, as I walked back to my humble abode, I noticed a squirrel on the sidewalk ahead of me. Squirrels are plentiful around the neighbourhood and I enjoy playing games with them. I know a simple man is taken by simple pleasures. Usually, the squirrel hides or tries to hide. I softly say, “I see you” and it scampers further up the tree.

This time I saw something different. A cyclist came along. The squirrel waited purposely for the cyclist to draw even and then it scurried up the walk in a straight line. The cyclist cast a sideward glance much like Usain Bolt might in a 100 metre race. Suddenly, it veered off in the middle of the race presumably drawn to some other target.

I am reminded of the Buddhist concept of ‘monkey mind’ where we cannot hold a thought and flit from one task to the next. Perhaps, in Spokane or Edmonton, I call the same concept ‘squirrel mind’. When I hold my thoughts in this moment, attend to them one at a time, the reward is real. When I flit from place to place, I might finish the task at hand but it seems a more hollow victory.

Locked into imaginary blocks,

Poised at the start line,

He waited.

The race was engaged,

The cyclist broke the imaginary sensor

They were off.

The rider glanced over,

Suddenly, her opponent veered off course

Defaulted the task at hand.

After all, what is more important to a squirrel>

The promise of food?

Or fleeting fame?

To the winner, no time to celebrate

It is a hollow victory

Won by default.

Ask Me

Last night, I read, more like re-read, the first two chapters of Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. I find it so interesting to read something for a second, third, or fourth time. I always discover something new in the process. It might only be a word, a sentence, a turn of phrase, but it provides new insight. As I read last night, it was no different. Parker included this poem by William Stafford. I had to read several times, because the words are not in perfect order, but life is not either.

Parker Palmer is on Facebook and I follow him. Today, he posted a July 4th tribute with Leonard Cohen performing Democracy on Youtube. The link is Parker Palmer for those interested.

I am in Spokane and somewhat settled in. As I struggle a bit with making sense of my dissertation topic, this poem makes perfect sense. It is precise and piercing in its questions and somewhat disquieting. In those moments of perturbation, life makes more sense and I learn.

Sometimes when the river is ice ask me

mistakes I have made. Ask me whether

what I have done is my life. Others

have come in their slow way into

my thought, and some have tried to help

or to hurt: ask me what difference their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say

You and I can turn and look

at the silent river and wait. We know

is there, hidden; and there

are comings and goings from miles away

that hold the stillness exactly before us.

What the river says, that is what I say.

Dirty Face

I was professionally developed today. I am tired and struggled to find a poem that I wanted to write or post. I perused my library and found this Shel Silverstein poem. I wonder if I had shown up with a dirty face if I could have answered with such wonderful words? And, when I got to the last line, would someone scold me? Oh, do I need to find out? Is it just that teachers just want to have fun?

Where did you get such a dirty face,
My darling dirty-faced child?
I got it from crawling along in the dirt
And biting two buttons off Jeremy’s shirt.
I got it from chewing the roots of a rose
And digging for clams in the yard with my nose.
I got it from peeking into a dark cave
And painting myself like a Navajo brave.
I got it from playing with coal in the bin
And signing my name in cement with my chin.
I got if from rolling around on the rug
And giving the horrible dog a big hug.
I got it from finding a lost silver mine
And eating sweet blackberries right off the vine.
I got it from ice cream and wrestling and tears
And from having more fun than you’ve had in years.

Monet Refuses the Operation

I came across this provocative poem today by Lisel Mueller. It reminded me life is less about certainty and more about uncertainty. Today, I find beauty and wisdom in the uncertainty that I refused to acknowledge in my youth. Then, I desired an impossible certainty in life I could not be promised. When I sat down and wrote today and post, I was certain it would be a one of my poems, but this one spoke to me more clearly. It found a space to enter my world that I would not allow for in my youthful days. In uncertainty, questions are unanswered and answers have a hazy quality similar to haloes around streetlights in Paris. What does the future hold? What a beautiful question which is only be answered moment by moment.

Doctor, you say there are no haloes

around the streetlights in Paris

and what I see is an aberration

caused by old age, an affliction.

I tell you it has taken me all my life

to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,

to soften and blur and finally banish

the edges you regret I don’t see,

to learn that the line I called the horizon

does not exist and sky and water,

so long apart, are the same state of being.

Fifty-four years before I could see

Rouen cathedral is built

of parallel shafts of sun,

and now you want to restore

my youthful errors: fixed

notions of top and bottom,

the illusion of three-dimensional space,

wisteria separate

from the bridge it covers.

What can I say to convince you

the Houses of Parliament dissolve

night after night to become

the fluid dream of the Thames?

I will not return to a universe

of objects that don’t know each other,

as if islands were not the lost children

of one great continent.  The world

is flux, and light becomes what it touches,

becomes water, lilies on water,

above and below water,

becomes lilac and mauve and yellow

and white and cerulean lamps,

small fists passing sunlight

so quickly to one another

that it would take long, streaming hair

inside my brush to catch it.

To paint the speed of light!

Our weighted shapes, these verticals,

burn to mix with air

and change our bones, skin, clothes

to gases.  Doctor,

if only you could see

how heaven pulls earth into its arms

and how infinitely the heart expands

to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Only on Special Days

We changed the tires on my car today. An acquaintance has a mobile tire service and comes over each season. I opened the big garage door to retrieve the tires. When  I closed the door, Kathy moved a bag out-of-the-way and retrieved a book from it by Leonard Nimoy called Will I Think of You. Nimoy writes poetry and this is one of his books of poetry.

I chose this poem, because it reminded me that each day is special when I am with those who care for and love me. It reminded me that I sometimes take those people for granted, but they make each day special.

Only on special days

Birthdays, Holidays

And other days….

When those who

                Give to each other

                                And live for each other

                                                Travel

                                                                For hours or day

                                                                                Or for an instant

To hold

                                Or dream-hold

Each other

To exchange

                Heart-warmth

                                And body-warmth

When we commemorate

                And celebrate

                                The Special days

                      Of a life of love

                Then and especially then

Because the day is special

                As your glorious being

                                                                Is special

                                                                                I will think of you

                Only when we’re together

And I can think of nothing else

                And everything else

                                Because we together

                                Are everything

And our togetherness is

                                                                All things

                                Then as always

                                                And forever

                                                                I will think of you

Ode to a Bookstore

Kathy and I escaped Phoenix relatively unscathed. We love bookstores and on several occasions we bought extra suitcases to carry trophies home.

Despite escaping relatively unscathed, there was still a close call and it found its way into a poem.

There it sat

I had sensed it

Even heard it call my name

Oh so furtively and seductively.

There it was

I knew it was close by

It sat in the back corner

A harsh piece of asphalt

Yet, so compelling and inviting.

I hurried

Some might even say I scurried

But, I heard a cautionary voice

Some might even say threatening

“You only get one!”

“That is your allowance!”

I entered that sanctuary

That quiet, hallowed place

Ah, a bookstore

Not just some Internet siren

It was a real live bookstore

What a treat!

Fluent

Kathy and I made it to Phoenix, but it was quite a day. The flight was delayed for four hours due to mechanical problems. Considering the alternative, I am grateful, but it made for an incredibly long day including a time change. I leave you with a short, poignant John O’Donohue poem which echoes Life is a River.

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.
It was a day full of surprise. I look forward to my weekly digital sabbatical and the unfolding that I will witness.

Manifesto of a Mad Farmer

Tony at A Way With Words asked if I like Wendell Berry. I do and rank him among my favourite poets. When I hear or read his name, I think of this poem.

What does it mean to be radical? The word radical comes from Old English and means going to one’s origins or roots. When I read this poem, it reminds me of the possibilities in a radical life. I can seek out my roots, the wisdom of those who came before me, and lived on the land. I love the second stanza and it just carries on from there for the rest of the poem.

Do something that does not compute, make many tracks, and sometimes confuse the world of where I go. Go against the grain.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Grace

Although I am not American, I think this poem’s theme is universal. A colleague shared this lovely poem that speaks eloquently about today wherever we live. The poet is Rafael Jesus Gonzalez.

Thanks & blessings be
to the Sun & the Earth
for this bread & this wine,
this fruit, this meat, this salt,
this food;
thanks be & blessing to them
who prepare it, who serve it;
thanks & blessings to them
who share it
(& also the absent & the dead).
Thanks & Blessing to them who bring it
(may they not want),
to them who plant & tend it,
harvest & gather it
(may they not want);
thanks & blessing to them who work
& blessing to them who cannot;
may they not want – for their hunger
sours the wine & robs
the taste from the salt.
Thanks be for the sustenance & strength
for our dance & work of justice, of peace.

Warrior’s Quest

I sat today and was going to post a Lao Tzu poem, The Uses of Not. I typed a short preamble and realized it was a Sabbath poem. Sometimes it is in paradox I find the most sense. It is in questions that I deepen conversations. I am in service of the questions. Earlier this week, I said I spent much of my life chasing answers. This is an echo of Father Richard Rohr who says  maturity leads us to stop chasing certainty. I seek eloquent questions with no ready answers: and invite others into conversations. I might have used pirate, but I began reading Shambhala:The Path of the Sacred Warrior by Chögyam Trungpa recently and it offered a new understanding, for me, of the word warrior.

Paradox–

Seemingly incompatible tempest

Space invites space

Forms a spacious meadow.

Deepen conversations–

Without ready answers;

But, eloquent questions

Be open, surprised.

A warrior’s quest–

Lighten the load

Be grateful and receive the gifts

Serve the journey.

Shape paths–

Ready each step

Because it is right

And not fully known.

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