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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.

Sabbatical Time

I intended to this a couple of weeks ago, but put it off. I spend 10-14 hours a day on dissertation writing, so there is no time to blog.

I will likely pop on one day a week with a poem and check comments. When I took one break, I had over a 100 spam comments. I don’t want to experience that again.

I will likely be back on more full-time in late June or early July.

Friendship

Octavio Paz wrote this short poem which despite its length I read it in several ways. The poem raises more questions than it answers. Perhaps, he wrote about sleep, a lover, or night itself? Whatever it is, this friendship embraces without being named.

Maybe in sleep this friendship arrives only to be brushed aside as we awake in the morning. Or, is it the waiting for this friendship that makes it more worthwhile? When we are mindful and attentive in living, it pokes through and rewards us with momentary glimpses that are so rewarding.

It is the awaited hour
Over the table falls
Interminably
The lamp’s spread hair
Night turns the window to immensity
There is no one here
Presence without name surrounds me

Gospel

The world gospel comes from the Greek and Latin meaning “a reward for bringing good news.” When we walk through life and notice what we experience we are rewarded. It requires a mindful and thoughtful approach noticing the old and the new sharing space with each other; dependent upon each other.

We are dependent on what is there. Thich Nhat Hanh suggested a garden’s weeds enable the growth of new plants. Farmers plow the previous year’s growth under avoiding erosion, adding nutrition to the soil, and helping keep moisture. We do not know whether the news is good until we pause and remember the context behind the news. What did that “bad” news really mean? When we listen more closely, we hear the music of the world singing a different refrain for us.

Philip Levine wrote this wonderful poem. I thought about what it means to receive news. Perhaps that letter in his pocket was not bad news, but, once he was over the pain, he found something new that he had not sensed before.

The new grass rising in the hills,

the cows loitering in the morning chill,

a dozen or more old browns hidden

in the shadows of the cottonwoods

beside the stream bed. I go higher

to where the road gives up and there’s

only a faint path strewn with lupine

between the mountain oaks. I don’t

ask myself what I’m looking for.

I didn’t come for answers

to a place like this, I came to walk

on the earth, still cold, still silent.

Still ungiving, I’ve said to myself,

although it greets me with last year’s

dead thistles and this year’s

hard spines, early blooming

wild onions, the curling remains

of spider’s cloth. What did I bring

to the dance? In my back pocket

a crushed letter from a woman

I’ve never met bearing bad news

I can do nothing about. So I wander

these woods half sightless while

a west wind picks up in the trees

clustered above. The pines make

a music like no other, rising and

falling like a distant surf at night

that calms the darkness before

first light. “Soughing” we call it, from

Old English, no less. How weightless

words are when nothing will do.

Pride

Noelle Kocot wrote about being contented as a human. I find my space not in the competition and busyness of living, but being human is in the never being done.

There is a sense of wonder in stepping back and accepting what the moment offers. It is about the awe that wandering with an open heart and mind allows me to have. I stay open to the world and to myself when I remember living is not competition. I cooperate with everything I meet and experience.

If I claim I was a terrible, horrible,

Evil no-good person,

It would be a lie, and it would be

Wanting always to be the best or the worst.

So now I’m destined to wander,

My bag full of pride a lot lighter,

And if I say I am done

With whatever ails me,

That would also be a lie.

I am not done, will never be done

Till the day I die,

But I am content to be human,

Naked and shaking with love

At the moment, and the next moment,

I just can’t say.

Home

Bruce Weigl wrote this lovely poem. When we practice, the Sabbath we find our way home. We re-discover roots we often leave behind in the busyness of our day-to-day lives.

There is a paradox in this leaving of roots. They remain attached as we can detach from them. We can ignore the roots, but the are always there. We cannot shake loose from them. They follow us and eventually we stop the shaking. We let the roots feed and nurture us the way they can.

In Sabbath practice, we listen to the music that translates the world into dirt fields that always call us. We rejoice in the dirt fields of our youth and find our spirit in those dirt fields. The roots helped make us who we are. We can never escape from those roots or plow them under.

I didn’t know I was grateful

           for such late-autumn

                       bent-up cornfields

yellow in the after-harvest

             sun before the

                       cold plow turns it all over

into never.

           I didn’t know

                        I would enter this music

that translates the world

             back into dirt fields

                         that have always called to me

as if I were a thing

             come from the dirt,

                         like a tuber,

or like a needful boy. End

             Lonely days, I believe. End the exiled

                           and unraveling strangeness.

Clever or Wise?

Clever or Wise?.

I spent two days on a break of sorts. I intended to post something late Saturday afternoon, but spent the day and good portion of the evening being a minion to our 5 month old grandson.

He is getting to the age where he can play games i.e. peek-a-boo and he recalls that he has played the game with you. When I walked into the house on Sunday, he smiled and wanted to play.

Small things and children help us grow and become wise. We want to change our self because it is the best way to change the world we come in contact with. We blend the passion for life with compassion, because without the integration we are incomplete.

1996 X (Some Sunday Afternoon, It May Be)

Thich Nhat Hanh suggested our ancestors are always with us. They join us in places and moments that hold special meaning to us. Place is particular. Wendell Berry who wrote this poem suggested we have lost our sense of place.

When we sit quietly and sense the world, just soak it in, it is an opportunity to re-discover place and its essence. We become grounded in the world and not sitting outside and observing. The ordinary reveals itself as extraordinary.

Some Sunday afternoon, it may be,

you are sitting under your porch roof,

looking down through the trees

to the river, down to the river. The circles

made by raindrops’ striking

expand, intersect, dissolve,

and suddenly (for you are getting on

now and much of your life is memory)

the hands of the dead, who have been here

with you, rest upon you tenderly

as the rain rests shining

upon the leaves. And you think then

(for thought will come) of the strangeness

of the thought of heaven, for now

you have imagined yourself there,

remembering with longing this

happiness, this rain. Sometimes here

we are there, and there is no death.

The Guest House

Rumi wrote this beautiful poem 800 years ago. The message rings true today although we might resist it at times. Perhaps, in busyness and haste, we avoid the messages received in the guest house that our being and becoming entails. When we slow down encountering each guest as a transient event moving on, we learn lessons learned readily and easily.

In sabbath moments, whether a few minutes, hours, or days, we welcome these unexpected visitors. We recognize they will leave and, in treating them honourably, they may move along quickly allowing delight to return.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Lie Down

Nancy Paddock wrote this wonderful poem about letting go and just being in the world and not separate from it. I loved her imagery created in getting me down to ground level where we can live differently.

When I am at ground level, I am in the world and not outside and over it. I spend time in sabbatical wandering uncharted territory. This theme is emerging in my dissertation where I compare teaching to a hermeneutic exploration of the classroom, it participants, and living topics like a rich, textured landscape we navigate relationally. At ground level, teachers encounter, interpret, and understand a particular world that is their teaching and no one else’s teaching.

Parker Palmer has a quote about teachers using technique until the real teacher shows up. It takes time and patience; togetherness and solitude to bring this about. As I write and read, I think about what that meant and means to me as a particular teacher who is still coming to be in new ways particular to me.

Lie down with your belly to the ground,
like an old dog in the sun. Smell
the greenness of the cloverleaf, feel the damp
earth through your clothes, let an ant
wander the uncharted territory
of your skin. Lie down
with your belly to the ground. Melt into
the earth’s contours like a harmless snake.
All else is mere bravado.
Let your mind resolve itself
in a tangle of grass.
Lie down with your belly
to the ground, flat out, on ground level.
Prostrate yourself before the soil
you will someday enter.
Stop doing.
Stop judging, fearing, trying.
This is not dying, but the way to live
in a world of change and gravity.
Let go. Let your burdens drop.
Let your grief-charge bleed off
into the ground.
Lie down with your belly to the ground
and then rise up
with the earth still in you.

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