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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.

Dialogue

Dialogue.

The linked poem uses the word nature in an ambiguous and lovely way. Perhaps, we want to know our nature? Or, is it that we wait for nature to reveal itself more fully to us?

When we wait quietly and listen deeply, we hear the questions which are essential to dialogue. It is in the quiet we hear.

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.

ordinary gateway

ordinary gateway.

This is another post that I tucked away some time ago. The image is intriguing. Bert took a picture of a mushroom from underneath which is not where we look at things from quite often. Here, we find an ordinary gateway where the Sun lets us see things differently shining through the mushroom’s folds.

Martin Heidegger, a brilliant philosopher and not so great person, wrote that we can only see the face of an object unless we change our place in relationship to the object gaining a new perspective and insight.

When we change our point-of-view, it is like a new gateway into something we have not experienced. As well, when we go to the backside and underneath, perhaps there is an un-experienced silence. It is like driving past a mountain on a busy highway with its busyness that does not exist on the other sides. When we find those quiet spaces, the silence speaks to us from the object’s essence and something new reveals itself.

 

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.

More than a tree

More than a tree.

When we look at a tree, is it just a tree? Or, is there more to that tree? It is likely the home to birds and other animals. Perhaps, rather than a home, it is a resting place during the day or seasons that pass. It is a place of shelter provides food, offers shade, and many other things that are overlooked in our daily passing of the tree. What story does it tell? We only know when we stop, close our eyes, and listen to the tree.

Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Today, is the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s birthday. He was an activist, mystic, artist, and poet, as well as a priest.

His poetry contains St. Francis of Assisi qualities. He wrote in psalm-like ways thanking God, praising all creation and seeing humans and nature as intertwined in their creation.

It is in our creation that we give praise for the creation. When we live the life we are meant for, we fulfill the essential work we are created for in life.

I was reminded of the biblical passage: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” When we live our lives simply, we find the most fullness.

Today, Father, this blue sky lauds you.

The delicate green and orange flowers of the tulip poplar tree praise you.

The distant blue hills praise you,

together with the sweet-smelling air that is full of brilliant light.

The bickering flycatchers praise you

with the lowing cattle and the quails that whistle over there.

 I too, Father, praise you, with all these my brothers,

and they give voice to my own heart and to my own silence.

We are all one silence, and a diversity of voices.

You have made us together,

you have made us one and many,

you have placed me here in the midst

as witness, as awareness, and as joy.

 Here I am.

In me the world is present,

and you are present.

I am a link in the chain of light and of presence.

You have made me a kind of center,

but a center that is nowhere.

And yet also I am “here.”

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