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Category Archives: Writing

The Mountain Reveals Herself

One of the wonders of driving from Edmonton to Prince George is passing Mount Robson. For many years, we drove past it several times a year, hoping to catch a glimpse of the peak. On many days, clouds cover its peak entirely or in part.

Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and the Fraser River headwaters the are in the provincial park bearing its name. We have walked along Robson River a ways, but the path goes for about 19 kilometres to a lake fed directly by a glacier.

An azure ceiling shines above,

Shimmering white lace spreads to meet it,

Rippling up from a white jacket;

A snowy zipper on a granite skirt;

Standing on guard below,

Silently an entourage of green warriors.

Gazing upwards,

Discovering her nobility and splendour,

She majestically reveals her grandeur–

To us mere mortals.

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Yellowstone Elk

When we write, we write about things that we experienced and imagine. I have had the good fortune to come close to several large animals and took pictures.

This is a poem about an elk I saw in Yellowstone several years ago. I was able to get to about 30 feet (10 metres) of him, protected by the trees a bit. He impressed me with his calmness. He seemed totally unaware of me, but I am aware they are wild animals and I am the one out of my element.

Frank O’Hara wrote about common things in his poetry i.e. aspirin, lunch hours, and harmonicas. Sometimes, those things seem more exotic like this elk.

I picture him in my mind’s eye,

I recall the story.

Walking up the road

Down into a high-banked ditch.

Quietly, always trees between us,

I ease my way to this moment.

He appears unconcerned,

He does not lift his crown.

Cautiously, I approach,

After all, he is king here.

Head down,

He attends to his concerns.

I approach as close as I can,

One shot to recall I was there.

Imperfection/Perfection

Jacques Derrida wrote about deconstruction, which is about thinking in paradoxes. Instead of thinking about binaries i.e. perfection or imperfection, we consider the opposites as being part of each other. We are unable to think of one without the other and continuously deconstruct the meaning.

This continuous making of meaning is a hermeneutic task of  interpreting. Paul Ricoeur wrote about deep or radical hermeneutics, which considered context as part of the meaning-making process. Radical means to go the roots of something, so it requires the person look below the surface and turn things over.

I took a stab at writing a poem. after reading Mary Oliver today. I am reading a book of her essays called Upstream. She writes prose in a poetic way. I love walking in the mountains. Beauty and perfection of mountains reveal themselves in their lack of symmetry and imperfection. As well, there is always something hidden from sight, on the back side of a mountain and in the crevasses we cannot get close enough to.

Inspired by other’s words

I seek my own.

To discover meaning

I sit quietly and receive.

Meanings hold no meaning,

There can be no certainty.

Always something hidden,

On the backside, underneath.

Imperfection exists,

Making perfection complete.

It awaits my mindfulness,

The extraordinary in the ordinary.

I took this picture unsure of why at the time. Later, I used it in a presentation about environmentalism. Today, it adds depth and meaning to what I am trying to say.

From the Book of the Samurai

When one writes, mindfulness and attention to the choice of words. Tsunetomo Yamomoto offered the following advice in the Book of the Samurai. He quoted the Zen priest Ryōzan, concluding the result of a well-written letter, even a short one, would lead to the recipient making “it into a hanging scroll.”

Mindfulness and attention are used in all facets of one’s life. Living mindfully is celebrating one’s life fully, living each moment to the fullest.

“Practice in letter writing goes to the extent of taking care in even one-line letters. It is good if all the above contain a quiet strength. Moreover, according to what the priest Ryōzan heard when he was in the Kamigata area, when one is writing a letter, he should think that the recipient will make it into a hanging scroll.”

How Poetry Comes to Me

Much like poetry, living comes to each of us and it blunders along just out of view from us. It is like sitting around a campfire and knowing there is something outside the ring of light the fire casts.

Within the ring of light, there is a warmth, perhaps a certainty. We think we know what is happening next. In truth, the living happens just outside our reach. Wendell Berry describes it as happening, but, once it happens, we cannot be fully describe it.

Gary Snyder wrote about his poetry writing as having to go meet the poetry just outside the range of his campfire. When we are attentive and mindful of each moment and what is just beyond our reach and vision, life dances at the edge of the light, like poetry.

Instead of certain answers, we encounter questions that cannot be fully answered, but help form the conversation and poetry that is our living.

It comes blundering over the

 Boulders at night, it stays

 Frightened outside the

 Range of my campfire

 I go to meet it at the

 Edge of the light

 

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 Poet Dreams of the Mountain

Kathy and I were in Cuba for a week. I think I am back on track with the blog. As well, I submitted a draft of my dissertation to the committee and am waiting to hear back from them.

It was nice to go and just be for a few days. Sometimes, we need to just look back and contemplate, without anything other than being present and in the moment. I think that is what Mary Oliver is getting at in this poem. I found that reading, writing, re-reading, and re-writing consumed my days.

For few days, I found there was no urgency. It was peaceful to walk on the beach, watching pelicans dive bomb into the surf. It was inspiring to look up at night and see the heavens filled with stars, only occasionally disrupted by a distant light house beacon. It was enjoyable to be behind an ox and plow for a few minutes. When I rode a horse, I remembered days past. We need to unsmother those moments, those days and experiences so our dreams come back to us and breathe life into our souls.

Sometimes I grow weary of the days, with all their fits and starts.
I want to climb some old gray mountains, slowly, taking
The rest of my lifetime to do it, resting often, sleeping
Under the pines or, above them, on the unclothed rocks.
I want to see how many stars are still in the sky
That we have smothered for years now, a century at least.
I want to look back at everything, forgiving it all,
And peaceful, knowing the last thing there is to know.
All that urgency! Not what the earth is about!
How silent the trees, their poetry being of themselves only.
I want to take slow steps, and think appropriate thoughts.
In ten thousand years, maybe, a piece of the mountain will fall.

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