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Imperatives

What imperatives do we set for ourselves in living? I find this question reading this poem. When we take in the world and as Kathleen Norris suggests drink of it, we elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.

With a Zen-like quality, Gary Snyder reminds us that “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” Nature is a place we belong and share with others, living and non-living. We do not despoil nature and it remains sacred.

When we experienced sharing the world, we discover ways to reach out, love, forgive, and ask forgiveness. When we mind and care for the world, perhaps we share wealth and pass through the eye of a needle into Heaven.

Look at the birds
Consider the lilies
Drink ye all of it
Ask
Seek
Knock
Enter by the narrow gate
Do not be anxious
Judge not; do not give dogs what is holy
Go: be it done for you
Do not be afraid
Maiden, arise
Young man, I say, arise
Stretch out your hand
Stand up, be still
Rise, let us be going…
Love
Forgive
Remember me

Rivertalk

Wendell Berry wrote that “there is a great restfulness in the sounds small rivers make.” When we mindfully stand and listen and perhaps close our eyes, we hear the restful sounds more clearly. We discover being rooted to a particular place, at least for the moment.

Those small rivers invite us to jump in and paddle as a child might. What the child adds to those sounds and waves are sounds of pleasure. There is no enjoyment while standing on shore, unless we close our eyes and listen closely. Besides the child, we might hear nature speak to us as it hums gently and touches us unexpectedly.

Jeanne Lohmann counsels us to be less serious and not to look for problems to fix as we move through life. The river serves as a wonderful metaphor and life calls to us to be present in each moment and to be fully present.

is whatever comes along,
practice always here while we

keep on shore, all the time
saying we want to get wet.

But the river has ways
of sound and light, ripples

and waves that tell us:
don’t be so serious, rumble in

where nothing is finished or broken
and nothing asks to be fixed.

 

Planting Chant

Both sides of our family descend from farmers. Farmers and indigenous people have affection for the land and its properties. They share the land with their sentient and non-sentient neighbours and step gently leaving a footprint that can be wiped away.

The Osage celebrated planting crops with the following chant. As I read the chant, I understood that planting belongs in all seasons. When humans plant and harvest in sustainable ways, we prosper, laughter fills homes, and we leave a small footprint.

Thich Nhat Hanh proposed humans “walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” When we walk on the Earth in this way and leave an imprint as a kiss, we act as stewards for future generations. When we live in harmony with nature, we form a sacred covenant with nature and future geneations.

I made a footprint: it is sacred.
I made a footprint: small green specks push through it.
I made a footprint: new green blades push upward.
I made a footprint: above it, blades wave in the breeze.
I made a footprint: over it grow new stalks.
I made a footprint: above it the blossoms lie gray.
I made a footprint: smoke rises from my house.
I made a footprint: there is laughter in my house.
I made a footprint: my family lives in good health.

This Is What Was Bequeathed Us

As I read this poem, I recalled: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Embedded in the quote is: How do we care for shared places and its inhabitants so that others who follow us can enjoy Creation?

Stewardship, in all its forms, calls on us to act in ethical and considerate ways. This does not mean we cease harvesting, but we do in ways that do so in responsible ways. We return as much as we take and show our gratitude for the harvest.

Gregory Orr reminds us the Earth is a gift the beloved left. Someone left it to us and our response would be to give it to those who follow us as a sacred gift. Here, we find meaning, we live together, and we discover ways to sustain our living together. We do so when we are mindful and attentive towards others who are with us and follow. We do so when we are mindful and attentive to the Earth. A beloved bequeathed this to us and it is now our turn.

This is what was bequeathed us:

This earth the beloved left

And, leaving,

Left to us.

No other world

But this one:

Willows and the river

And the factory

With its black smokestacks.

No other shore, only this bank

On which the living gather.

No meaning but what we find here.

No purpose but what we make.

That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:

Turn me into song; sing me awake.

Still Point

Max Reif describes the rush of life and the calling of nature somehow overriding that rush. The poem reminded me of biblical passage from Matthew 6:28 describing lilies as just being.

What is my hurry? What roots me in this place and time? I overlook the depth of those questions. I enjoy reading Wendell Berry‘s essays about farming. He reminds me that farming is a love of place and time. The small farm is home for people and nature. There is no separation.

My mother said farmers do not need Daily Savings Time. Depending on the time of the year, they understand their work based on the time and space they are in at that moment. When I think of the world as unpatterned, I sense its majestic wholeness and not compartments, rendering them virtual.

Leaving home
for work
each day

I hear the trees
say “What’s your hurry?”

Rooted, they
don’t understand

how in my world
we have to rush
to keep in step.

I haven’t even time
to stop and tell them
how on weekends, too,
schedules wait
like nets.

It’s only on a sick day
when I have to venture out
to pick up medicine

that I understand the trees,
there in all their fullness
in a world unpatterned

full of moments,
full of spaces,
every space
a choice.

This day
has not
been turned yet
on the lathe

this day
lies open, light
and shadow. Breath
fills the body easily.
I step

into a world
waiting like
a quiet lover.

when the animals

Gary Lawless suggests that the world, as a living being, and its inhabitants speak to us, asking for help. Do we listen?

I told the boys, as they grew up, that listening and hearing are different. We hear, but, without listening, what we hear disappears immediately. In the busyness and rush of daily living, it is hard and sometimes impossible to be mindful and attentive.

When we sense the world, other humans, animals, and plants come alive for us and give the world continuously new meaning.

In yesterday’s post, Every Movement, I wrote about creating never being completed. It becomes an infinite event that  continuously occurs and calls for us to be wakeful even in our dreams. Creation sings in a delicate, beautiful language that we share with the world and its inhabitants.

When we recognize Creation as a continuous event, our hearts open up and we become one with the rest of Creation, able to help.

When the animals come to us

     asking for our help,

     will we know what they are saying?

When the plants speak to us

     in their delicate, beautiful language,

     will we be able to answer them?

When the planet herself

     sings to us in our dreams,

     will we be able to wake ourselves, and act?

Praying

Mary Oliver writes wonderful, often short, poetry and this poem is no exception. The small and overlooked things in nature seem to call to her so she can share their words with the world.

When we just pay attention, we notice people and things that we might overlook in our haste to move through the world and our days. Praying is a doorway, not a contest. Prayer calls upon each of us to listen and give thanks for the world and its gifts. It is in those mindful and attentive moments that the world speaks to us and it is in silence that we hear its words.

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

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