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Category Archives: Synchronicity

The Real Work

I found it interesting that as I searched for a poem I typed in the words The Real Work by Wendell Berry. As Google anticipated, another search emerged: The Real Work by Gary Snyder. This book of essays emerged from a series of interviews and talks Snyder conducted over several years.

Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder are writers, environmentalists and farmers who live in Kentucky and California respectively. Together, they wrote a book called Distant Neighbours and shared their views about the real work they undertook as writers, environmentalists, and farmers. How each of them understood and wrote about real work echoed the other.

Real work happens not when we find ourselves going through the work aimlessly and mindlessly. It emerges when obstacles arise and we are mindful and attentive in our work. It holds our interest through baffling us and our being unsure of what to do next. As we work thoughtfully and our mind is employed in meaningful acts, our work sings like an impeded stream and makes us whole. It is like we our speaking through our work and its meaning to us.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

All That We Share (Watch!)

Video post by @davidkanigan. This is a great post from David and worth the few minutes it takes to watch it.

Source: All That We Share (Watch!)

As I watched this video, it reminded me of an undergraduate class I took. It was the only class non-special needs undergraduate students could take.

I recall how our text and professor focused on the idea that we have far more in common than what makes us difference. At the core, we are each humans and, when we see each other in that light, it makes all the difference.

When we take time and are mindful to each person present to us, we can grow and understand their presence is a gift to each of us. The differences make us each a unique star in the universe, but there is more to each of us that makes us the same.

The Shadow

Last night, as I posted, the words of a paragraph began to take shape as a poem and Mary Oliver’s words echoed for me.

Today, I took those words and echoes and finished the poem. It has been some time since I wrote a poem. Perhaps, without the urgency of writing a dissertation, this just happened. As well, the break without a need to read and write may have helped and freshened my desire to write differently.

There is no sense of urgency.

Here, I am in the shadow of nature

It uplifts, holding me close.

Nature reminds of less mechanical ways and times;

Of just being and living in the moment.

Pelicans dive bomb the surf in an instinctive search,

Oblivious to me, they bob on the waves.

At night, stars fill darkness and stillness,

They wait to be touched.

Oxen pull a plow across the hardpan soil,

They follow a deep-rooted instinct lost on me

The horse trotts a path, familiar to it

I sway, recalling greater comfort the last time I rode.

I recall days past.

I unsmother moments, days and experiences

My dreams call out to me;

They breathe life into my being.

Here, I sense what it might mean to live and just be.

Without urgency, there is a lightness in my gait.

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.

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