RSS Feed

Tag Archives: community

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.

Axe Handles

I mentioned in The Wild Rose I am reading Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry. I read this poem several times over the last few months trying to make sense of it. At first, I thought it was a personal and it begins that way. Gary Snyder describes his work teaching his son to throw an axe and shaping the axe handle to fit the work.

As I reflected on the poem, I realized it is about important traditions passed from parents to children. We hone and polish what we wish to retain forming the axe handle. It is a handle for us and our children which provides security as we polish and remove the unwanted.

Most of the time, we are unaware of the work we do without taking time and reflecting. In those moments, we realize what changes, what remains, and what is added knowing each generation makes its own adjustments.

To do it well, we mindfully and attentively approach the work remaining fully present.

One afternoon the last week in April
Showing Kai how to throw a hatchet
One-half turn and it sticks in a stump.
He recalls the hatchet-head
Without a handle, in the shop
And go gets it, and wants it for his own.
A broken-off axe handle behind the door
Is long enough for a hatchet,
We cut it to length and take it
With the hatchet head
And working hatchet, to the wood block.
There I begin to shape the old handle
With the hatchet, and the phrase
First learned from Ezra Pound
Rings in my ears!
“When making an axe handle
the pattern is not far off.”
And I say this to Kai
“Look: We’ll shape the handle
By checking the handle
Of the axe we cut with-“
And he sees. And I hear it again:
It’s in Lu Ji’s Wen Fu, fourth century
A.D. “Essay on Literature”-in the
Preface: “In making the handle Of an axe
By cutting wood with an axe
The model is indeed near at hand.-
My teacher Shih-hsiang Chen
Translated that and taught it years ago
And I see: Pound was an axe,
Chen was an axe, I am an axe
And my son a handle, soon
To be shaping again, model
And tool, craft of culture,
How we go on.

What Fills Your World?

What Fills Your World?.

There was no re-blog capacity on the site so I went with pressing it. The Inuit song/poem is a great piece and speaks to the smallness of our troubles and the awareness we need to recognize the small gifts we overlook which make life so extraordinary.

The Swedish proverb speaks to the song as in sharing we find more joy and less sorrow. Someone and something is always present with us even when they are not there physically.

Love After Love

Derek Walcott wrote this wonderful poem about celebrating life. He suggested we greet ourselves offering hospitality as we realize that we let other things take the place of getting to know the person who was us.

The poem describes a wonderful (wonder filled) companionship in the second stanza. Companionship is sharing meals as we sojourn. Journey is the daily, perhaps moment-to-moment work we do while sojourning. Jacques Derrida drew on an Algerian-French-Jewish background in writing about greeting the stranger, but I don’t know if he meant ourselves.

I considered this today as I prepared a presentation. The world speaks to us and we speak to it, but are we listening as the conversation unfolds? It is in listening to our self that we make sense of the world and it in turn makes sense of us.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

The Bright Field

About a year ago, Kathy and I picked up her mom about an hour away from where we live and drove her to the hospital for tests. She is non-verbal, but it does not mean she does not communicate. It was early morning and the sun lit up fields of freshly cut hay in furrows and bales.

Despite the early hour, about 6:00  AM, the scene was spectacular. Suddenly, I sensed movement beside me and turned to see Kathy’s mom waving her arm, smiling, and trying to form words. I think the treasures of those bright fields lit up the day for her filling her with rich memories reminding her of early mornings on the farm.

R. S. Thomas reminds us we live in each moment, not in dim futures and idealized pasts. There is brightness in moments when we realize that even when something cannot be spoken and words fail us, its essence is communicated and shines like a sun illuminating each field we pas in life.

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

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.

Travelling at Home

Wendell Berry is one of my favourite writers. He writes fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. There is an honesty and sparseness in his writing that speaks to me deeply. He bares his soul in ways that poets should. Even in the country we know by heart it is hard to go the same way twice. It is more likely impossible, but I would give Mr. Berry the benefit of the doubt and believe that is likely what he meant as he suggests we attempt to make intent with what happens by accident.

I chose the forming of the person, more specifically the teacher, as a central theme in my dissertation. Actually, the theme chose me. It was unintentional and strictly by accident. As I read and write, I find myself drawn to the topic and new thinking emerging where any word can be the bud of new direction.

Judith Butler suggests becoming is the vehicle forming each particular identity and subjectivity against a cultural backdrop which is always changing itself. Even when we name something, it is traversing the land. We can never plan our becoming even in a country we think we know by heart.

Even in a country you know by heart
it’s hard to go the same way twice.
The life of the going changes.
The chances change and make it a new way.
Any tree or stone or bird
can be the bud of a new direction. The
natural correction is to make intent
of accident. To get back before dark
is the art of going.

Monarch

The universe we live in is magical. As Tere Sievers pointed out, nature arranges itself with slight of hand. A caterpillar slowly becomes a monarch butterfly. The caterpillar transforms from something we usually pay little attention to. In fact, we often see it as something that strips the last green leaf, but somehow nature keeps in balance in the caterpillar`s metamorphosis.

The striped suit fat worm takes a two-week nap and emerges bedecked in the ballroom gown of the monarch butterfly ready to begin its dance. When we take time and are mindful of the relationships that exist in nature, even those we do not sense immediately, there is something sacred in that process. Humans join in those relationships even when we do not see them. There is a co-dependency shared, yet not fully sensed. We live in community and communicate with all nature’s phenomena.

Black antennas twitch

as the caterpillar

strips the last green leaf

from the naked milkweed.

Striped flesh shed,

the green skin below

becomes a jade pendant

rimmed with gold,

hung by a black thread.

Nature, that green magician,

arranges a slight of hand.

The fat worm in a striped suit

slides into its chrysalis

naps for a fortnight

wakes,

draped in orange,

ready to dance.

Travelling Together

I finished reading a book by Jacques Rancière and am reading another by Emmanuel Levinas. Their philosophic writings suggest a preexisting ethical condition exists in when encountering another person. There is an empathic quality calling humans to walk in the other’s shoes as we encounter each other.

In my dissertation, I argue a teacher’s subjectivity forms in placing themselves in relationship with others, students and topics. Rancière argued humans take part in life, and are not merely external observers at a spectacle. Teaching is relational and is one where the relating with students and topics is the matter that matters.

W.S. Merwin’s poem proposes even when separated humans can wait on the other person’s side of things. In mindfulness and attentiveness, humans place themselves in the shoes of the other. Today, as I read, talked to my advisor, and chatted with Kathy a question came to mind. What has happened in the world today that we struggle with the ethical and empathic living that might heal the world we live in?

If we are separated I will
try to wait for you
on your side of things

your side of the wall and the water
and of the light moving at its own speed
even on leaves that we have seen
I will wait on one side

while a side is there

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,257 other followers

%d bloggers like this: