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The Gift of Presence

via The Gift of Presence

Wendell Berry is one of my favourite poets. In her post, Shobna uses part of a poem, Our Real Work, to point a need to be present. Gary Snyder wrote a book called The Real Work devoted to similar subject matter.

In the rush of “normal” life, I often overlook what that means and what calls to me to step into a healing moment; to make me whole and pause to listen to what the “impeded stream” sings to me. For Shobna, gardening is a quiet moment to listen to the “impeded stream.”

Today, as I checked Facebook, Parker Palmer posted another Berry poem: The Peace of Wild Things. Here, we are called to, in times we do not have a frame of reference for, to turn to poets to help find paths forward. In various ways, they remind us to each look for what keeps us moving , especially in times of turmoil and despair. When I hike and find my path blocked, I pause, look, and listen. In life, I find ways to move ahead, embrace uncertainty, and recognize I am walking my own path, as Antonio Machado would remind me, but I am not alone.

As Shobna points out, I only have to look and I “see that kindness is more visible these days.” Health care workers, farmers, grocery store employees, and many others, often strangers, stand in the breach to help. If these are to recall Dickens, the best and worst of times, what makes them the best is to pause, when my path is blocked, to find what calls us and ask we each ask ourselves what calls us.

One of the things I take for granted is music. It is part of my love of poetry. In particular, lyrics pull me to them. I am fortunate to listen to a small community-based and funded radio station, CKUA, and have it on non-stop. To say it is eclectic is an understatement. They do play top-40, but it is often from years and decades ago.

In keeping with my love of music, I leave you with two videos. The first by Jimmy Buffet got me through tough times years ago. It reminds me who I am and live that way. I have always been a person who walked to the beat of my own drummer and am a bit of a pirate, regardless of age.

 

The second is one I used to listen to with my mother years ago. It is a gospel song written and performed by Gene McLellan, a Canadian, called Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man Who Stills the Water. Now, my mother and I did not always agree on music, but we had some serious overlaps such as Gene McLellan, the Beatles, Elvis (if she did not have to watch), etc.

 

 

Walker

Antonio Machado reminds us that the path we follow is both made anew when we walk it and that once we step we can no longer go back.

We can look back and see where we came from, but that is a distorted image and, the further we move away from that point in time, the more distorted the memories we recall. We can reflect upon those moments and steps in a caring way that takes place only after the step.

It is in mindful walking that we make the path. There is an awareness and senstivity that only happens in the very moment we exist in, the present. Our presence is important in that moment as we step and live at that point on our path of life.

The mindfulness of our steps is important when we realize we lead others in their steps. They cannot walk the identitical path to our path, but the way we compose ourselves is a model for how they might live.

Walker, your footsteps

are the road, and nothing more.

Walker, there is no road,

the road is made by walking.

Walking you make the road,

and turning to look behind

you see the path you never

again will step upon.

Walker, there is no road,

only foam trails on the sea.

Be a Player, not a Victim

Be a Player, not a Victim.

We use the words responsibility and accountability interchangeably, as if they mean the same thing. Certainly, the two words are connected in ways, but providing a response and being responsible are internal emerging from the person. Acc0untability is external. Someone else makes a judgement about our words and actions.

Accountability also connects as we give an account of our self. We describe who we are in giving this account. We take responsibility for who we are, what we say, and what we do. We take responsibility for how we are living in both telling and living our personal story.

Accountability suggests someone is more expert than we are in living our lives. It also suggests that there is a certainty about this expertise.

Machado wrote “Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer there is not road, the road is made by walking.” We accept responsibility for walking the road one step at a time in the company of others.

Light Reading

While on holidays I read My Invented Country: A Memoir by Isabel Allende. It was a chance reading as I purchased the book at a second-hand store. Once I began reading it, I could not put it down and finished it in one sitting. A line that stood out was “I can’t pretend to know what part of my memory is reliable and how much I’ve invented, because the job of defining the line between them is beyond my ability. I have read that the mental process of imagining and that of remembering are so much alike that they are nearly indistinguishable.”  We imagine the life we live as much as we live the life we live.

Isabel Allende recounted her love for the poetry of Pablo Neruda. My favourite Pablo Neruda poem is Ode to My Socks. This is the last stanza: The moral of my ode is this:/beauty is twice beauty/and what is good is doubly good/when it is a matter of two socks/made of wool in winter. I remind students, when they write poetry, reveal the ordinary as the extraordinary. The knitting of socks was an act of love as was the wearing of the socks.

Kathy picked up a book by Paulo Coelho knowing how much I enjoy this particular author’s books. A line about life and its meaning is “A strange transformation began to take place: now that she had the bird and no longer needed to woo him, she began to lose interest. The bird unable to fly and express the true meaning of his life began to waste away and his feathers to lose their gloss; he grew ugly; and the woman no longer paid him any attention, except by feeding him and cleaning out his cage.” With meaning in life, we discover beauty and fulfillment or, perhaps, they discover us.

Paolo Coelho spent time touring Europe including Spain and one result was his best-known book, The Alchemist. Spain was the homeland of a poet I enjoy, Antonio Machado. The following lines are from his poem, Cantares: “Traveller, the road is only/your footprint, and no more; /traveller, there’s no road, /the road is your travelling. /Going becomes the road/and if you look back/you will see a path/none can tread again.

There is never a shortage of great reading. We only have to find it.

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