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Happy New Year – 2023 with Hope

2022 was an eventful year in terms of writing and publishing. It was also surprising as I the two published pieces, a book chapter and a peer-reviewed article, were about hope and had a spiritual component to them. I think hope is a phenomenon we each want in our lives. Those who have followed the blog for a while may recall that The Peace Prayer of St. Francis is an important part of my family’s life. We recite it at various ceremonies when we come together and Kathy and I have a small plaque my mother gave us many years ago.

The line that resonates most with me is “where there is despair hope.” I used the line in the introduction of a book chapter I co-authored. It commemorated the centenary of Paulo Freire‘s birth. Many would associate him with critical pedagogy and his seminal book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Later in life, he revisited many of the themes from this book in one called Pedagogy of Hope, which we used as our primary reference. Without hope, we are left with little. We are left with despair.

For me, Emily Dickinson describes the spiritual and paradoxical essence of hope in the following poem:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

Hope is spiritual in that what we each hope for can animate our spirit and make our lives more complete. We hear it song most clearly in moments of silence and stillness as we turn inward to listen to the tune without words. Hope is paradoxical as it is fragile and exists in the Gale and storm that makes it sore. We have to be alert to the challenges we face in bringing hope to life. Perhaps it is best expressed in moments where it intersects with the hopes of others who we come in contact with.

My taste in music tends to the eclectic and non-mainstream. Several years ago, I heard Michael Franti on a small radio station (they still exist) I listen to and loved his messages. His songs embody hope, the role the heart plays in it, the reality of hard times, and how we need others to live with hope.

Several years ago, we travelled to Jasper National Park and went on a day tour. As we passed the trees in this picture, the guide told us the tall one was about 300 years old. Due to the difficult conditions, the tree did not realize its fullest height. Despite the challenges, it still grew. Its growth is like hope.

Merry Christmas

It has been awhile since I posted.

The other day someone told me I was an idealist. I think they meant as a put down. I took it as a compliment. After all, many schools of philosophy and their philosophers are dreamers.

Somehow, having dreams of a more just and humane world is not realistic. It reminded me of what Christmas might mean to someone who is a dreamer and lines from Imagine by John Lennon:

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Several year ago, I read an essay by Parker Palmer that reminds me the miracle of Christmas. It reminded me how, as a child growing up in Northern Alberta, Christmas was a time of wonder I could not explain and try not to as an adult.

Parker posted on Facebook about an experience in Nogales Mexico at a refuge for asylum seekers. Asylum is another word for seeking refuge. He pointed out Jesus was likely a person of colour born into the Jewish faith. For me, his birth is an ecumenical event.

I wrote the following poem several years ago and am drawn back to it each year. I hope it captures Christmas in a way that reaches out and touches each of what we have in common: our humanness and we are a journey seeking refuge at various times

Carpenter guiding,

Expectant mother riding,

Backs straight; heads held high–

Donkey serving as regal carriage.

Seeking refuge in the night–

Giving birth in a stable,

Swathed and cradled in a manger,

Beasts welcoming the child.

Showering gifts upon us–

Returning each year,

Lighting each way–

Only asking, “Can you open your hearts?”

Source of strength,

Our turn to humbly receive gifts,

Restocking spirits,

Rejuvenating souls.

For several years, Kathy and I enjoyed Canadian singer and actor Tom Jackson.

He does a lovely rendition of Huron Carole, which I share below. Again, this points to an ecumenical nature of Christmas, Christ’s Mass, echoing Parker’s (re)membering “the story, the music, the candlelight, the scent of pine, the silent night, the warm presence of family and friends.”

For me, it is also food and opening a present on Christmas Eve. The food included traditional French-Canadian tourtière (meat pie), which Kathy and I continue to share with our children and grandchildren.

Merry Christmas

It has been awhile since I posted. I offer this poem I wrote several years ago.

At Christmas last year, I read an essay by Parker Palmer on On Being that reminds me the miracle of Christmas and the incarnation of God in human form. It reminded me how, as a child growing up in Northern Alberta, Christmas was a time of wonder I could not explain and try not to as a rational adult.

At about the same time, Parker posted on Facebook about an event he experienced the previous year in Nogales Mexico at a house for asylum seekers. Asylum is another way of saying they were seeking refuge. He points out Jesus was likely a person of colour. He was a born into the Jewish faith. In this sense, his birth is an ecumenical event.

Carpenter guiding the way,

Expectant mother riding,

Backs straight; heads held high–

Donkey serving as regal carriage.

Seeking refuge from the night–

Giving birth in a stable,

Swathed and cradled in a manger,

Beasts welcoming the child.

Showering gifts upon us–

Returning each year,

Lighting the way–

Only asking, “Can you open your hearts?”

Source of strength,

Our turn to humbly receive gifts,

Restocking spirits,

Rejuvenating souls.

For several years, Kathy and I enjoyed Canadian singer and actor Tom Jackson. In pre-Covid times, he toured at Christmas to help food banks. In the midst of Covid, we each have to find ways to share with those in need.

He does a lovely rendition of Huron Carole, which I share below. Again, this points to an ecumenical nature of Christmas, Christ’s Mass, echoing Parker’s remembrance of “the story, the music, the candlelight, the scent of pine, the silent night, the warm presence of family and friends.”

For me, it is also food and opening a present on Christmas Eve. The food included traditional French-Canadian tourtière (meat pie), which Kathy and I continue to share with our children and grandchildren.

The Real Riches — Find Your Middle Ground

This poem from Danna Faulds is a perfect reminder for what Summer offers. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com My wealth is wonder. True abundance is the delight I feel on summer nights as fireflies rise from the grass and Orion strides across the sky. I measure my wealth in birdseed and hummingbird feeders, in the […]

The Real Riches — Find Your Middle Ground

Val shares wonderful posts and often includes poems by Danna Faulds. This particular poem caught my eye with words wonder and abundance. Wonder is about being amazed by the world in unexpected ways. It is about experiencing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Wealth is not about material wealth. It is about feeling whole and well, It is about sharing with others what makes us feel a crumb of joy, as Mary Oliver would say.

In the ordinary moments that reveal their extraorindariness, we discover abundance. There are ineffeable, intangible qualities to abundance understood this way. Despite these qualities, abundance brings joy, which is not to be treated as a crumb per Mary Oliver.

I leave you with a Mary Oliver poem, Don’t Hesitate, which echoes the Danna Fauld poem about where I discover my riches and wealth.

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

The last time we were in Pheonix we walked the paths in a local park. We noticed this cactus beginning to bloom the first day and stopped each day to check on its progress. It provided joy and abundance just by sharing with us.

By the last day, it had several flowers. Nature worked its magic.

World’s first emergency number — sloppybuddhist

According to Buddha Be patient. You’ll know when it’s time for you to wake up and move ahead. i fell backi lost my trackas my chin sagsand my eyes go blacki want all my senses back *** a day or so ago South Thompson River Valley, July 2021

World’s first emergency number — sloppybuddhist

I have followed Hedy for some time, enjoying her quotes from The Buddha and accompanying photography and poetry. She playfully entitled her about page Nearly Me and describes what it means to be a Sloppy Buddhist. We are always becoming, partially able to follow Buddhist precepts in the process of becoming, and incomplete in how we are to be defined.

The post reminded me of poem, Imperfection by Elizabeth Carlson, in Teaching with Fire (Edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner). The poem was written as Elizabeth Carlson who died at a young age. Perhaps it was that experience, which allowed her to grow to love her imperfections. Despite the sadness, there is a playfulness in the poem e.g., learning to purr as she lays under her cat.

I am falling in love
      with my imperfections
The way I never get the sink really clean,
forget to check my oil,
lose my car in parking lots,
miss appointments I have written down,
am just a little late.

I am learning to love
      the small bumps on my face
      the big bump of my nose,
      my hairless scalp,
chipped nail polish,
toes that overlap.
Learning to love
      the open-ended mystery
            of not knowing why

I am learning to fail
      to make lists,
      use my time wisely,
      read the books I should.

Instead I practice inconsistency,
      irrationality, forgetfulness.

Probably I should
hang my clothes neatly in the closet
all the shirts together, then the pants,
send Christmas cards, or better yet
a letter telling of
      my perfect family.

But I’d rather waste time
listening to the rain,
or lying underneath my cat
     learning to purr.

I used to fill every moment
     with something I could
          cross off later.

Perfect was
     the laundry done and folded
     all my papers graded
     the whole truth and nothing      but

Now the empty mind is what I seek
      the formless shape
      the strange      off center
      sometimes fictional
                                 me.

The quote Hedy used was one about being patient and realizing we will each understand when it is time to wake up and move ahead. She shared some images from nature and they reminded me of the passage from Mattew 6:28-29: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Nature understands the process of patience and just being, waiting to awaken and move forward at the right time. Too often, we do not show ourselves the patience we need to grow and be ready to move forward.

I leave you with the following video by Seasick Steve. That is his his stage name and that and the song share a sense of playfulness in them, too.

The Prairie — The Good, Bad and Ludicrous

*This post inspired by Teacher As Transformer post I read today I needed passion, beauty, and ‘idling’ while I pretended to learn new things, today. I’ve spent too long on the ‘work I learned long ago how to do/improve upon’ in databases, websites, clean-up of outdated data…… compilation of reports, checklists, etc., to aide my […]

The Prairie — The Good, Bad and Ludicrous

TamrahJo was kind and referenced that my post inspired her. When I looked at her post several days ago, I was inspired. I love her line of needing passion, beauty, and “idling.’ The word idling captures so much of what we need in our lives. We need the time to just be in each ensuing moment.

On top of the wonderful poetry and prose that reads like poetry, TamrahJo shared beautiful pictures of nature just being, in this case prairie scenes. Sometimes,beauty lies just outside our door and is right there for us to revel in on a daily basis. Many years ago on a beautiful day, Kathy and I were getting ready for church and as I stepped outside something move nearby. I looked up and a cow moose stood about 15 feet from me. I held my hand up to signal for quiet, as Kathy stepped out, and we stood and watched this beautiful animal eat shoots from a willow tree, watching us as we watched her. We stood there for a few moments and went quietly to the car. The moose continued to do what it was doing, being a moose. I turned to Kathy and said. “That might have been church today.” We still went, but the beauty and majesty of that moment remained with me over the years.

We lived in that small town for two years and our oldest son was born while we were there. Living in an isolated, rural setting in a mountain valley served to slow me down. Years later, I would find the same process happening at Gonzaga University in the summers. It took a week or two to bring myself back into the moment, to just be. The campus is a lovely setting and I walked in the river valley and on other trails on a daily basis.

Sometimes, things happen in serendipitous ways. We went to a concert and the main act was terrible, but the opening act, Corb Lund, was terrfic. We have seen him several times since and have a couple of CD’s. This song has become an anthem for opposing opening up coal mines in the southwest corner of Alberta where Corb lives. It has beauitful imagery in this particular version and speaks to the need to think about the actions of today and how they might impact the future. The song speaks to how often we overlook the extraordinary of everyday life and what is outside our doors.

I leave you with a Wendell Berry poem: Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Speak Your Truth — LIVING IN THIS MOMENT

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”― Franz Kafka How often have we told people what they want to hear, rather than speak our truth? During the process of writing my second book, there […]

Speak Your Truth — LIVING IN THIS MOMENT

Karen writes about how challenging it is to speak one’s truth. We often conflate truth with opinion. Truth is about how we each experience a particular phenomenon. It always stands in relationship to others and how they experience that phenomenon. Truth comes from the Germanic word tröth, which is taking a solemn pledge or undertaking. We enter into a relationship with someone and/or something e.g., marriage vows. Each peson comes to understand the meaning of the relationship and the pledge slightly differently.

We live in a world which is sometimes referred to as post-truth.. In my view, this just moral relativism dressed up differently and allows people to ignore the humanity of others who may disagree with them or are different than them. It becomes easy to say whatever we want to and claim we are being cancelled when someone disagrees. When used in this manner, truth becomes irrelevant and a buzz word.

Truth has taken on greater importance with the recent findings of unmarked graves at or close to residential schools for Indigenous children who were taken from their families and communities. Canada has a Truth and Reconciliation report related to the way Indienous peoples and communities were mistreated and that is a gentle word to describe the process. This includes the residential schools set up by the government and run by several christian demoninations. It is important to note truth comes before reconciliation. It is acknowledging the wrongs of the past, which is essential to reconciling, making whole and healing.

The reports logo is based on the 7 sacred teachings found in some form in North American Indigenous cultures: Truth, Humility, Honesty, Wisdom, Respect, Courage and Love. Although these teachings form the basis for North American Indigenous traditions and dialogue, one can find them, in some form, in other spiritiual teachings. They should form the ground on which we enter into relationships with others, the world, and what we hold sacred.

What draws me to Mary Oliver‘s poetry is the humility she invokes in questions she asks in certain poems. My favourite is The Summer Day where she concludes her questions with “what is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Truth is preceded by humility and accepting their will always be questions we cannot answer. Truth needs the other sacred teachings as life opens up with questions we cannot answer and full grasp.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Deep

When I saw this post several weeks ago, Mary Oliver’s name got my attention. I have followed Bela for several years and her poetry reminds me of Mary Oliver and her poetry.

Nature surrounds us, engufls us, yet many humans act as if we are separate from Nature and have command over it. What the last few years should show us is we do not control Nature. As I watch the increase in catastrophic weather events and the pandemic we are in midst of, I better understand how taking care of nature takes care of the human family.

The line that stood out for me in Bela’s poem was “human encroachment into nesting areas, refusual to admit error in bulldozing sacred spaces for profit.” Not only did the poem remind me of Mary Oliver and her poetry, it reminded me of John Prine and his song Paradise.

As Mary Oliver says in the following poem and Bela signals in her poem, humans have a place in the family of things. To think otherwise is foolhardy.

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 your 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.

I leave you with John Prine’s words about bulldozing mountain tops to find those last seams of coal, all for profit.

Merry Christmas

It has been a couple of weeks since I posted and offer this poem.

Today, I read a short piece written by Parker Palmer that reminds me the miracle of Christmas is in the incarnation of God in human form. His essay reminds me of how, as a child growing up in Northern Alberta, Christmas provided a sense of wonder I could not explain and try not to as a rational adult.

Parker also posted on Facebook an event he experienced last year in Nogales Mexico at a house for asylum seekers. Asylum seekers is another way of saying they were seeking refuge. He points out Jesus was likely a person of colour. I take it one step further and point out he was a Jew and born into that faith. His birth was an ecunemical event, not a Christian one.

Carpenter guiding the way,

Expectant mother riding,

Backs straight; heads held high–

Donkey serving as regal carriage.

Seeking refuge from the night–

Giving birth in a stable,

Swathed and cradled in a manger,

Beasts welcoming the child.

Showering gifts upon us–

Returning each year,

Lighting the way–

Only asking, “Can you open your hearts?”

Source of strength,

Our turn to humbly receive gifts,

Restocking spirits,

Rejuvenating souls.

Kathy and I enjoyed Canadian Indigenous singer and actor Tom Jackson. Most years, he tours at this time of year and helps food banks. In the midst of Covid, we each have to find ways to share with those in need.

He does a lovely rendition of Huron Carole, which I share below. Again, this points to an ecunemical nature of Christmas, Christ’s Mass, echoing Parker’s remembrance of “the story, the music, the candlelight, the scent of pine, the silent night, the warm presence of family and friends.” For me, it was also the food and opening a present on Christmas Eve. The food included traditional French-Canadian tourtière (meat pie), which Kathy and I continue to share with our children and grandchildren.

A Prayer for our Times

Val shared a wonderful poem by Danna Faulds and I could not resist sharing it. Although the title suggests a prayer for our times might be specific to these times, this poem has a timeless quality to it.

What COVID-19 revealed was the challenges we face in our times. The inequities and injustices have existed for some time. The depth of those inequities and injustices were what were and are revealed.

I liken the market system as a multi-level sales scheme with most of us running around trying to make ends meet and many people simply left behind. A handful of people benefit and many simply continue to run on the spot with little chance of gaining ground.

What the neo-liberal and neo-conservative policy makers. politicians, and corporate chieftains count on is we are remain driven by self-interests, as opposed to what others may need. Who has benefited most from these times?

I could not find this poem on a video, but Danna Faulds’ poetry contains qualities of common weal, pluralism, reconciliation, love for one another, and healing to make us whole in complex times. I chose this poem as it speaks to the human condition we all live through and our need for one another.

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