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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Music on Mondays — When the night is cloudy

Russel tells a beautiful and short story from his life as a segue to three Beatles videos which are always worth listening.

Cloud Painter

I came across this thought-provoking poem that reminded me of a post several days ago, Slowly, Slowly Wisdom Gathers. We to lay on our backs and let clouds above drift across the sky. They paint their pictures in that blue; we remember our stories in them as we close our eyes, and we drift along with them. We know something is beyond the horizon of both the sky and our immediate life. Slowly, it drifts into view and it sharpens with detail as it enters this moment only to drift away. Nothing is permanent. Everything is transient. Jane Flanders wrote this poem as a testament to clouds and life move serenely across the canvases they rest upon.

At first, as you know, the sky is incidental–

a drape, a backdrop for the trees and steeples.
Here an oak clutches a rock (already he works outdoors),
a wall buckles but does not break,
water pearls through a lock, a haywain trembles.

The pleasures of landscape are endless. What we see
around us should be enough.
Horizons are typically high and far away.

Still, clouds let us drift and remember. He is, after all,
a miller’s son, used to trying
to read the future in the sky, seeing instead
ships, hornes, instruments of flight.
Is that his mother’s wash flapping on the line?
His schoolbook, smudged, illegible?

In this period, the sky becomes significant.
Cloud forms are technically correct–mares’ tails
sheep-in-the-meadow, thunderheads.
You can almost tell which scenes have been interrupted
by summer showers.

How his young wife dies.
His landscapes achieve belated success.
His is invited to join the Academy. I forget
whether he accepts or not.

In any case, the literal forms give way
to something spectral, nameless. His palette shrinks
ti gray, blue, white–the colors of charity.
Horizons sink and fade,
trees draw back till they are little more than frames,
then they too disappear.

Finally the canvas itself begins to vibrate
with waning light,
as if the wind could paint.
And we too, at last, stare into a space
which tells us nothing,
except that the world can vanish along with our need for it.

“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be awareness behind them.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Be present to myself first and I will be present to the universe and all beings.

Be present to myself first and I will be present to the universe and all beings.

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As Kingfishers Catch Fire

I was reading blogs and came across a quote which, in turn, led me to this beautiful poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I enjoy the mystery of the universe around me. Part of that mystery is the role we play and how we come to learn it or, for that matter, accept it. Thomas Merton, the Trappist Monk, in No Man is an Island, wrote some people are called and hear their call clearly. We are this person, this being, and are called to serve the world in these roles. He quipped for some the calling is to search and never find a calling. Hopkins and Merton were influenced by various schools of mysticism and this takes me back to the mystery of life as I head off on my digital sabbath.

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;

As tumbled over rim in roundy wells

Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s

Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;

Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,

Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

I say móre: the just man justices;

Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;

Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —

Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

Generation chasm

Meg Wheatley and Parker Palmer are two of my favourite authors and thinkers. The pose challenging questions which defy oversimplification. Do I walk across the street to avoid others? This is no simple question when answered in the affirmative. It says something about me that is much deeper than yes or no. It asks, “What would lead to me doing this?”, an exploration of my soul and humanness should follow.

Grits and Grains

You can tell a culture is in trouble when its elders walk across the street to avoid meeting its youth.

Quoted by Meg Wheatley in Finding our Way and attributed to Malidoma Some from Burkino Fasso and Parker Palmer. Meg Wheatley’s has written a very appreciative and moving essay Maybe you will be the ones: to my sons and their friends.

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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.


What a great way to begin the day. And, Simon included a beautiful passage from Mary Oliver.


This is a wonderful poem from Naomi Shihab Nye shared by Bill. If we were kind to each other each day, could we reduce the violence in our world? Compassion requires time to just be in the world and with the world including other humans we often take for granted.

Dr Bill Wooten

“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

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Slowly, Slowly Wisdom Gathers

I would like to lay outside and just let the wisdom of the world and universe gather around me, soak in leisurely. Wisdom takes time to gather and it sometimes seems so fleeting. It is in the slowness that the reward is most valued. It ripens more fully and reaches into all my nooks and crannies.

Mark Van Doren wrote this wonderful poem about the way wisdom seeks us out slowly and it unfolds as part of life’s experience.

Slowly, slowly wisdom gathers:

Golden dust in the afternoon,

Sometimes between the sun and me,

Sometimes so near I can see,

Yet never settling, late or soon.

Would that it did, and a rug of gold

Spread west of me a mile or more;

Not large, but so that I might lie

Face up, between the earth and sky,

And know what none has known before.

Then I would tell as best I could

The secrets of that shining place:

The web of the world, how thick, how thin,

How firm, with all things folded in;

How ancient, and how full of grace.

The Oak and the Rose, Poem by Shel Silverstein

I enjoy Shel Silverstein and found his poetry after I listened to the songs he wrote for the likes of Johnny Cash and Dr. Hook. He had a wit that made me wonder and still does. I wonder what it means to be big? What does it mean to be small?

Silver Birch Press



by Shel Silverstein

An oak tree and a rosebush grew, 
Young and green together, 
Talking the talk of growing things —
Wind and water and weather. 
And while the rosebush sweetly bloomed 
The oak tree grew so high 
That now it spoke of newer things —
Eagles, mountain peaks and sky. 
“I guess you think you’re pretty great,”
The rose was heard to cry, 
Screaming as loud as it possibly could 
To the treetop in the sky. 
“And now you have no time for flower talk, 
Now that you’ve grown so tall.” 
“It’s not so much that I’ve grown,”  said the tree, 
“It’s just that you’ve stayed so small.”

Painting: “Two Gibbons in an Oak Tree” by Yi Yuanji (1000-1064)

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