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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.

We need a renaissance of wonder.

“We need a renaissance of wonder. We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls, the deathless dream, the eternal poetry, the perennial sense that life is miracle and magic”   E. Merrill Root

Source: We need a renaissance of wonder.

Tonight, I attended a dinner meeting and a recent PhD graduate presented the summary of her thesis. She used the word magic in her findings. She suggested in academia there are those who do not like that word, but it allows us to communicate with each other. When words elude us, there is something intuitive that sparks a sense of wonder and touches a person’s soul as we communicate with each other. John Dewey suggested that when we live in community we communicate and make what we value common.

Magic doesn’t fit well when we seek certainty, but the world is a magical place. When we see the snow-and tree-covered mountains in the linked post, we may not have  words to describe what we see. Moreover, we lack words to describe what we cannot see.

Quite a few years ago, we went fishing at Quesnel Lake which is a remote glacial lake in British Columbia that in some spots is almost 2000 feet deep. At one end of the lake, there are waterfalls, aptly named Niagara Falls, which cascade about 100 feet almost directly into the lake. We talked and tried to decide the source: a glacier, a lake, a spring. etc.

We anchored the boat and climbed to the top, hoping to see where the river came from. When we arrived at the top we saw the stream appeared to flow from a distant mountain, but we did not see the source. What we did experience was a spectacular view. There was something magical and wonderful (full of wonder) in that moment which overflowed with meaning for each of us.

Regardless of the source of the river and the waterfalls, each person present had a different understanding and description of that moment’s experience. Despite different descriptions, we  shared the same experience. When we described the view, we had different descriptions, which were understood by all of us who shared that experience. There was something magical and wonderful in that moment.

Thought for Today

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” —John Muir

Source: Thought for Today

This is a wonderful quote. It speaks to slowing down and being mindful of the world as we move through it. When I was teaching, I took a week or so to slow down.

When I was in Spokane, I found the walking I did benefited me, whether it was on campus or along the river which runs right next to the campus.

Nature helps me the space to be quiet. It took me back to other times, when I was a boy growing up in rural Alberta and after we married we lived in small towns in rural British Columbia.

I think, as we grow older, we find anchors that help us pay closer attention to the world, both the inner and outer ones as they continuously converse.

Lost

I sometimes feel lost in the world, without bearings. David Wagoner counseled that when we feel lost to stop and listen to the world, as if it were the forest and a powerful stranger able to speak to us.

When I stop and pray, I ask someone for help, but, if I rush on, without listening, the prayer cannot be answered. I pose a question that I cannot answer. Prayer is not just speaking. My heart opens and receives what is returned to me.

Is it in the form of words? Or, is it the gentle breath that is hardly perceptible? When I am mindful and listen to listen, I intuitively sense differences. Mindfulness becomes an attentive and sensitive way of life, as opposed to just happening.

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Wild Geese

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets. I find her poems call me to spend time, reflect quietly, and read them anew many times. I think what I consistently get out of her poetry is that we are not alone in the world.

We live together, but it is not just a human world. It is a world full of other beings, objects, and roles that shape our lives and we, in turn, shape the world. Most of the time, our relationships with the world, others, and things is unconscious. The world exists out there somewhere in taken-for-granted ways.

When we are mindfull and present, we notice the world. Mary Oliver uses the words harsh and exciting, but we are not accustomed to the novelty that continuously emerges and, when it calls, it seems harsh. As we live more fully, the world calls to us and we hear it. The harsh sounds help us remain attuned to the world.

The world excites us with its refreshing newness. We discover the extraordinary in the ordinary; what we have taken-for-granted.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting . . .

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Angels In Your Head

“You wouldn’t believe what once or twice I have seen.  I’ll just tell you this: only if there are angels in your head will you ever, possibly, see one.”  – Mary Oliver I consider eagles…

Source: Angels In Your Head

Mimi writes about eagles being a spirit animal and her good fortune in having 46 of them guide her on her walks. We live in Alberta where bald eagles fly over the east slopes of the Rocky Mountains as they migrate from their winter and summer nesting areas. When we visit the farm, we see the Rockies from the highway and a pair nested there each spring and fall. For us, it was a rare sighting.

Last weekend, we drove home from a birthday party west of Edmonton. As we drove, there was a bald eagle in the ditch. I think it is unusual to see them this far east of the Rockies and it might be that spring is arriving a bit early.

Mary Oliver’s quote at the top calls us to be mindful and attentive. Every now and then, we see the unexpected, as if we had angels in our heads. In those moments, we sense that something is different, and not just see, and turn in the right direction.

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