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HIROSHIMA, JAPAN IMAGES: THE SIMPLEST THINGS IN LIFE

HIROSHIMA, JAPAN IMAGES: THE SIMPLEST THINGS IN LIFE.

I mention my favourite poets regularly i.e. Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry and want to mention my favourite prose writer Paulo Coehlo. This post begins with a quote from Manuscript Found in Accra asking we let the simplest things reveal there extraordinary nature. The photography underscores this point.

It is in the ordinary the extraordinary is revealed is one of my favourite quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh. When I am mindful, present, and attentive, I sense the extraordinary I rush past in my haste to get to the next moment.

Mindful

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets and this is likely my favourite poem that she wrote.

Whenever, I get stuck this is a poem I turn to and get unstuck. I had bogged down in my writing and it simply was not moving. This morning, as l listened, ideas flowed into my conscious view. Most of what I was looking for was waiting to be seen.

Interestingly, I did not rush and write things down. I took time, finished sitting, and by the time I wrote things down more appeared. I often look for things in places they are not and they appear as part of what is waiting to be seen.

Poetry’s beauty is it does not always speak directly to what I am looking for, but approaches me in different ways and I encounter it afresh in those moments.

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for -
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Riprap

Yesterday, I walked downtown and bought some books at Aunties Bookstore. It offers a combination of new and used. I wandered and found an eclectic riprap of books. There were poetry, philosophy, and spirituality books mixed in.

Gary Snyder wrote a poem using that word: riprap. I felt a little that way as I wrote today as I tried to fit new words in among the old words. The old words are somewhat concrete and the new ones found it challenging to fit into the spaces. Actually, some of the new words were old and were previously used by others who went before. Even those words were not always easily fitted into the seams I tried squeezing them into. But, I tried not to force too hard out of concern I might break the space wide open and let something else come flooding in.

We probably live that way at times. We fit the new among the old. It causes some perplexity this complexity.

Lay down these words

Before your mind like rocks.

placed solid, by hands

In choice of place, set

Before the body of the mind

in space and time:

Solidarity of bark, leaf, or wall

riprap of things:

Cobble of milky way,

straying planets,

These poems, people,

lost ponies with

Dragging saddles

and rocky sure-foot trails.

The worlds like an endless

four-dimensional

Game of Go.

ants and pebbles

In the thin loam, each rock a word

a creek-washed stone

Granite: ingrained

with torment of fire and weight

Crystal and sediment linked hot

all change, in thoughts,

As well as things.

The Road Not Taken

Several asked asked  several times what I would do after the end of the school year. There is no set plan, but we spent a fair amount of time on the weekend beginning a website and some design of a logo for my next adventure. This is an opportunity to continue with several loves: learning, writing, and try make a difference, albeit a small one in the world. There is no certainty of where it takes us. Unlike the bureaucracies I tangled with my entire adult life, this is an opportunity to, as Robert Frost said, “take the road less traveled.” Where I go will not be planned out, but will be an opportunity to make a mark on the trail that others might find and follow.

I get to do this with Kathy. She is much sharper than I am when it comes to the details of a website, planning a logo, and setting the direction the first steps need to take. I get to combine a number of things I love deeply in this new adventure.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Leaving Home

I posted Taylor Mali’s poem, Undivided Attention, the other day and found my way to his website. He taught for several years in the New York City school system and he has lesson plans on the site. I tried one with the students that examines the difference between the literal and figurative on Thursday.

Mali posed provocative questions and students wrote short paragraphs. Examples of these questions are “What happens to the dreams you don’t remember?”; “Which letter of the alphabet is the most intelligent”; and “Do leaves look forward to falling in autumn? Or do they hand on for dear life?” Students struggled as one of the instructions was to not explicitly name the thing in the question. They were to artfully describe their letter, the leaves, or what happens to dreams and present them in figuratively and not literally. There was a lot of conversation and some writing.

I took matters into my hands and wrote a short paragraph. I wrote on the fly so the language is a bit passive and words i.e. visage were not the right ones. Visage is French for face so would not have glanced around. When I model, I find the students make more progress.

“He frantically clung to life fighting a losing battle against nature and her forces. At wit’s end, he valiantly, vainly hung on not submitting to a cyclical reality. He sensed loneliness and not solitude. Assisted by gentle breezes his discoloured visage glanced furtively around. He was in this alone. His colleagues humbly had moved on ahead of him finding their way to become humus and rebirth in the next spring. What to do now? He realized this was not the end he had planned for and took his leave that autumn day. His job done and he wafted towards his destiny.”

Today, I crafted this into a poem. The language is a little more active and I hid the topic. The answer is in the tags.

Frantically he clings to life,

He wages a futile battle versus Nature,

Against all her marshaled forces.

Valiantly, he struggles,

Unwilling to let go,

He wages this vain battle.

He senses loneliness;

His, a solitary stance–

Sans ally.

Today, a gentle breeze rustles only him;

His discoloured visage turns–

And, he glances furtively about.

Colleagues, long departed

Humbly headed home

They add a new, rich layer.

Silent humus and rebirth whispers,

Come, ready Mother Earth

Help prepare Her new garden.

Not the end he desired,

But, this past season’s calling is complete,

Wisdom speaks and he lets go.

Downward, he gently falls

And, his job is complete

Gracefully, he alights.

Thank You, A Simple Word

Yesterday, was a great day. We hung out, but, when I checked email, I found one that made my day. I submitted an article for publication several months ago and received notification yesterday it is going to be published. I am not sure of details such as the when, but, because it is peer-reviewed, it is important for my scholarly journey.

Yesterday, a radio interview I did several months ago as part of a series about servant-leadership, mindfulness, and their potential in education was broadcast. The interview is at Blog Radio. It is long, so do not feel obligated.

Sylvia Chidi wrote this poem about a word I occasionally forget to use, thank you. She described it as “a simple word that feels new.” When I wrote the article, it was a particularly difficult process, but many encouraged me and more will I am sure as I move forward. Kathy was essential to the process. She edits my work, but the article was in such disarray, I had to use a professional editor for the first time. Those advising me kept telling me I needed a softer voice in the article. I was not happy with all that, but the feedback received from the reviewers suggests a softer voice and professional help worked. I am grateful and it moves me along the road.

For all those who have encouraged me and those who are yet to.

Thank you, Thank you
A simple word that still feels new

All I want to hear from you is
Thank you, Thank you
Thank you for been so true
Thank you for kindness
Thank you for your love
Thank you for friendship
Thank you for loyalty
Thank you for humour
Thank you for ideas
Thank you for showing care

All I want to say to you is
Thank you, Thank you
A simple word that still feels new

Thank you for reading my works
Thank you for your encouragement
Thank you for your comments
Thank you for showing excitement
Thank you for your strength
Thank you for your votes
Thank you for influencing my growth
Thank you for been there in the morning
Thank you for been there at night
Thank you for believing in me.

Compassion

Thich Nhat Hanh provided this beautiful quote about compassion and embracing who we are in this world. I need to be inside of someone else`s skin to build compassion.

The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the physical, material, and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves “inside the skin” of the other. We “go inside” their body, feelings, and mental formations, and witness for ourselves their suffering. Shallow observation as an outsider is not enough to see their suffering. We must become one with the subject of our observation. When we are in contact with another’s suffering, a feeling of compassion is born in us. Compassion means, literally, “to suffer with.”

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