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Tag Archives: writing

Take a Knee

I begin this post with two points. First, I am not American. I spend time in the US and enjoy my time there. One thing I enjoy, and I shared with my students, is the way Americans respond to their National Anthem. Second, Canada, where I live, has social and historical skeletons in the closet i.e. residential schools.

My aim is not to pass judgment, but to cast a different light on what it means to take a knee. In a world that is increasingly secular, perhaps I lose my way in what it means to live in a spiritual way and it can mean many things to different people.

The image that comes to mind when I think of is people kneeling and standing at the foot of the cross of the crucified Jesus. We were not there, but we are told his friends, family members, and followers knelt and stood. It seems there was no one right way.

When Colin Kaepernick first took a knee, I thought of it as praying. The etymology of prayer is to ask earnestly, to beg, and to entreat. Prayer is asking someone i.e. God or something bigger i.e. Universe or a nation than I am to intercede in a concern to me.

To genuflect is to kneel, usually with one knee. It is an act of worship and respect. Parker Palmer wrote about fidelity as something other than mere loyalty. It is loyalty to an obligation, cause, and idea one holds dear.

Who or what one asks depends on one’s spiritual and religious background. What I understand is that there are no fixed answers when I take a knee and pray. I have to listen. Part of praying is silence, listening to what Parker Palmer calls my inner voice. It is only in moments of silence, whether kneeling, standing, or walking, that I hear that inner voice.

I pray in various ways and have since I was a child. When I enter a church, I find holy water, bow to the cross, and complete the sign of the cross. I stand. As I enter a pew I genuflect, taking a knee. I do so with two surgically repaired knees. At times before, during, and after service, I kneel, I pray, and I listen to what my heart says. Other times, I stand. During the Lord’s prayer, I stand and join hands with others asking God to intercede on each of our behalf. As I receive communion, I walk slowly and quietly, bowing my head as I accept the host.

For me, kneeling, standing, and walking quietly show my fidelity to a cause and purpose larger than me. In this case, it is plight of people and our shared humanity. I make a point of being quiet, because it is a time of thoughtful meditation and mindfulness of how the world and I are broken. I beseech someone or something larger than me to intercede and, as Parker Palmer says, to make whole the broken.

 

 

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Joining the Circus

Yesterday, this poem by Mark Nepo found me. I was checking some emails and a site I subscribe to had this poem on it.

For the first time in 30 years, I will not teach and/or learn in formal way this fall. It crept up on me. Yes, I want to teach. I prefer that to joining a circus. In a sense, I am joining the circus. The theme of the poem is how to deal with ups and downs in life. I applied at several universities and received one interview, but came up short.

My challenge is what will we I do in lieu of teaching in some conventional way? As Nepo says, I ready to kiss anything as I hover like a mystical molecule between one stage and another. Like the dozen beginners, I am learning how to juggle and have to begin somewhere.

Each day, I focus on reading and writing and hope to publish in academic journals.  A colleague suggested I write and shed a different light on teaching. As well, I may take some of my poetry and bundle it together in a book. Perhaps, my smile will be so magical I will asked to teach something I did not expect.

I just saw a handwritten note from

Galileo. He was under house arrest

for believing we’re not the center of

everything. Now behind me, in the park,

a dozen beginners, of all ages, learning how

to juggle. We have to start somewhere. The

young man who’s so magical at this is asked

to instruct. He smiles, “You have to keep

trying. Just not the same thing.” Earlier,

I leaned over a letter from Lincoln to a

dead soldier’s mother. This, just weeks

after losing Susan’s mother, sweet

Eleanor. I keep saying her name to

strangers. You see, we all have to

juggle joy and sorrow. Not to do it

well—we always drop something—but

when the up and down of life are

leaving one hand and not yet land-

ing in the other, then we glow, like

a mystical molecule hovering between

birth and death, ready to kiss anything.

 

The Poet’s Obligation

I am back. I found it difficult to write a poem and turned to others who might offer me something today.

Pablo Neruda wrote about the poet’s obligation to those cooped up in an office, away from the sounds of nature, and the foam of the sea. Poetry brings the world and its text to people who for whatever reason they are no present to that part of the world.

The poet brings the sea, the thunder, and the foam to the reader in what Neruda called a perpetual cup. Poets share and are part of the world others cannot always find.

The poet is mindful of the world and reflects on it to capture its essence and meaning in ways each person can experience and interpret what that means to them. They pose questions without ready answers to structure each person’s with the world and the poem. The poem becomes a medium to interpret the world as a text.

To whoever is not listening to the sea
this Friday morning, to who ever is cooped up
in house or office, factory or woman
or street or mine or dry prison cell,
to him I come, and without speaking or looking
I arrive and open the door of his prison,
and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
a long rumble of thunder adds itself
to the weigh of the planet and the foam,
the groaning rivers of the ocean rise,
the star vibrates quickly in its corona
and the sea beats, dies, and goes on beating.

So. Drawn on by my destiny,
I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
the sea’s lamenting in my consciousness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
and gather it up in a perpetual cup
so that, wherever those in prison may be,
wherever they suffer the sentence of the autumn,
I may be present with an errant wave,
I may move in and out of the windows,
and hearing me, eyes may lift themselves,
asking “How can I reach the sea?”
And I will pass to them, saying nothing,
the starry echoes of the wave,
a breaking up of foam and quicksand,
a rustling of salt withdrawing itself,
the gray cry of sea birds on the coast.

So, though me, freedom and the sea
will call in answer to the shrouded heart.

Sand Castles

Children live in each moment. Their inexperience allows them to be in a world that seems novel. They build sand castles in those moments. As adults we think we lose that ability to build our sand castles.

Being mindful and present to the world and others is a way of building sand castles, perhaps in some metaphoric way. How can I think about this person and that thing differently? How do I bring less suffering and pain to the world in understanding “differences make a difference?” Unlike children, adults often understand differences as threats.

It reminds me of Tolstoy‘s quote: “if you want to be happy, be.”

A child, playing in sand,

Building sand castles,

Absorbed in that moment.

The world is immediate,

Demanding one be present,

To embedded in this very moment.

As a child,

We know nothing different,

Our castles are real and momentous.

To outgrow our castles,

That is a tragedy,

To lose being mind(ful).

Let me return to that world,

To build castles in the sand,

As only a child can.

When I taught, the Grade 7 students built chairs for Science class. A criterion was they had to use recycled materials. They always built terrific chairs with little help from adults.

Silence of Poetry

Current shares the same etymological roots as curriculum: currere.

How we make meaning of living is like the spaces between words in a poem. It is in silence that meaning emerges. It flows between the words and stanzas.

We need silence in our lives to find meaning. It is standing on the edge of a mountain lake without others. There is a peace there.

“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home.” Aboriginal Proverb

Living is a text,

Traveling through time and space,

Leaving others to ponder meaning;

A meaning that is never whole.

Engulfed in silence,

Emerging from a peace(ful) moment,

One’s inner voice speaks;

As if an other speaks.

Wrapped in meditative moments

When silence is a poem,

Bringing the text to life;

Sending it on its way again.

 

This is a small lake we walked to in Glacier National Park.

The Mountain Reveals Herself

One of the wonders of driving from Edmonton to Prince George is passing Mount Robson. For many years, we drove past it several times a year, hoping to catch a glimpse of the peak. On many days, clouds cover its peak entirely or in part.

Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and the Fraser River headwaters the are in the provincial park bearing its name. We have walked along Robson River a ways, but the path goes for about 19 kilometres to a lake fed directly by a glacier.

An azure ceiling shines above,

Shimmering white lace spreads to meet it,

Rippling up from a white jacket;

A snowy zipper on a granite skirt;

Standing on guard below,

Silently an entourage of green warriors.

Gazing upwards,

Discovering her nobility and splendour,

She majestically reveals her grandeur–

To us mere mortals.

Merry Christmas

I grew up in Northern Alberta and Christmas was a special time of the year. I recall cold winter nights. I mean they were cold–almost minus 40 at night. Our windows upstairs were partly frosted over and on moonlit nights the light kept me awake or that is what I told others.

During Advent, my mom and older brothers walked across the street for evening Mass. The younger ones, including me, went to bed. I did not fall asleep right away and would watch out the window for them to come home. I thought no one saw me, but my Mom would come up and tell me to go to bed.

The other experience I recall is the Northern Lights and how you could hear them as they lit up the sky. We don’t see them very often in Edmonton with the urban light. When we spent time at the farm at Christmas, we heard and saw them there. Again, on cold nights we heard the train (about a mile away) and it sounded like it was coming right through the house.

I wrote this poem several years ago about the magic provided by the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and Christmas. What message was in those celestial colours and sounds? As a child, I thought the sky talked to me and told me a creation story.

Small children–

Breathlessly wait,

Peer through frosted window

Soak it in.

Heavens ripple–

Lights undulate;

A celebratory fury

An indisputable guide.

This old house speaks;

Nature answers–

The heavens crackle

Sweet symphonic sounds shimmer.

Earth’s floor–

Blanketed in white

Celestial colours speak to me

Captures young senses.

A vivid winter scene,

A sensual, sensory palette,

Reminds me–

Christ’s Mass is here.

pic_wonder_northern_lights_lg

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