Equinox – Richard Wehrman

The Garden releases its last
radiance, not as something failed,
but as its full reason for being: to give
continually, to its last bit of energetic being.
Its giving is its beauty. It is a smile,
it is the heart of love.

So the birdsong that surrounds me
is given, not away, but into the world.
It is given as rain, as sunlight, as snowfall
and autumn leaves. It falls on our ears
as what it is, with no deception,
the complete truth of being.

Even the smell of decay, drifting from
the deer, dead by the side of the road, says:
“This is what I am and no other. I do not
pretend to be. Even in death I speak
without deceit, even unto my flesh,
my very bones.”

Be tolerant of these songs,
my musings on the way these things are
For I cannot give up this Summer except by
giving myself as well, fully and completely,
into the praise of our mutual beauty,
our total loving of the World.

Equinox

It is past equinox of course but I responded viscerally to this poem when I read it.

I had recently read a piece by Parker Palmer (thank you Margaret) on the paradox of how the dying of the year in autumn on which we tend to focus also contains the “hope of a certain beauty”. That darkness is part of the wholeness of life, the natural cycles of seasons, the sowing of seeds of new life.

I appreciate the poet’s reminder that autumn is not a failure but a giving, Its giving is its beauty. It is a smile, / it is the heart of love. The birdsong, the rain, the sunlight and snowfall, all this comes to us as what it is, with no deception, / the complete truth of being. Even in death, This is what I am and no other. I do not / pretend to be.

And finally, I cannot give up this Summer except by / giving myself as well, fully and completely, / into the praise of our mutual beauty, / our total loving of the World. Can you feel the call to give yourself fully to this beautiful world, to praise the beauty that is part of the wholeness of life for all of us?

Let this poem be a reminder to give yourself away, to increase the beauty of this world. As the poet Wendell Berry says Every day you have less reason / not to give yourself away.

And now may I give you one of my own.

BreathTaking

The sacred language of the breath

has no words:

a speechless entry

into the body, a tidal connection

with all that is,

the language we were born into,

the last silent word at our death.

 

It is the poetry of call and response:

inhaling news of the world,

exhaling delight and despair,

inhaling stories of life and death,

exhaling our own narratives

in sound no more than a whisper.

 

With each breath we take

life is poured into every cell,

announcing our presence

without ever saying a word.

 

 

 

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Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith by Mary Oliver

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear

anything, I can’t see anything —
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green
stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker —
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing —
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet —
all of it
happening
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.

Little Summer Poem

One last summer poem in these last precious days of our shortest season, one that speaks of the unseeable, unhearable evidence of faith. And so, every summer, / I fail as a witness says Mary Oliver, to all that is happening all around, all of it / happening / beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum. Though in truth, she is one of the finest witnesses of the natural world to write of it.

Despite not seeing, not hearing the persistent growth, she tells us that still, / every day, / the leafy fields / grow taller and thicker. And isn’t it so? Look around at the leafy green ocean that summer has produced, the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body.

She invites the immeasurable, the unknowable, the mystery hidden in the dirt, for us to contemplate. In her inimitable style, she asks How could I look at anything in this world /
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart? /What should I fear? She speaks of faith in what we cannot see or hear without naming it while showing us in her words what faith can look like.

May this little summer poem touch your heart and show you what faith you need in this moment.

 

From Blossoms by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
Already last month I was thinking of this poem, as I do every year as the peaches begin to ripen. I remember this brown paper bag of peaches purchased last summer at a local farmers’ market, even though they are not quite local but come from Niagara.
The poet takes us from the picking of this fruit to devouring, dusty skin and all …dust of summer, dust we eat. Can’t you just feel the soft warm fuzz of a peach in your hand? It really is a sweet dust, a taste of summer, of August.
Then it becomes like a prayer or a hymn, O, to take what we love inside, eating the shade, the sugar, the days, a communion with summer. This is no ordinary food as we taste the round jubilance of peach. I cannot eat a peach anymore without thinking of that phrase, the joyfulness of the experience in a taste. I have tasted peaches like that.
He reminds us that we live as if life will go on forever, as if death were nowhere / in the background. We will not always be here to swoon over peaches but we can live in the moment, from joy to wing to blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Ode to Lemons Michelle Courtney Berry

Today,
the sun-glazed
bag of lemons
adorning the white counter
became
in my imagination,
not a bag
grabbed hastily
from supermarket bins
overflowing
with fruit, pepper, and melon
but
rather
that each lemon
was
plucked
tenderly
from
a limestone grove
on the Coast of Amalfi,
where the salt-tinged air
is ripe with birdsong
and each
syrupy-sweet
lemony-goodness
is a fist-sized
delight
in my hands,
that
drops
into
a cradle of wicker and twine.

I pull
the mesh bag’s
netting loose,
as though everything
now requires reverence,
as though
I could honor the journey
of  hands –not my own—
hands
that brought
such
luscious
fruit to market
without
the slightest recognition.

My own hands twist
the golden orbs,
over
and
over
marveling
at their scented beauty.

My hands
were honored
in this way
by
these
heavenly
lemons,

as I sighed
in front of the kitchen window.

Ode to Lemons

Having just returned home with a bag of Meyer lemons last February, I read this poem more closely than I might otherwise have. It seemed directed at me then and now that our produce is so abundant, it came to me again.

Could it be that these lemons actually came from a limestone grove / on the Coast of Amalfi, / where the salt-tinged air / is ripe with birdsong? Already they hold a scent, even a sound that is beyond my kitchen.

How often do we honor the journey / of  hands even for a short moment of wonder, hands that have brought us this golden fruit? What might it be like to give reverence to the produce that we bring into our homes?

The poet speaks again of hands when she holds a lemon in her own, marveling / at their scented beauty and says her hands were honored by these lemons. I too have held these small Meyer lemons rolling them around on my skin to awaken their heavenly scent and feeling blessed by these tiny gifts.

Whatever sun-glazed fruit you hold in your hands in your kitchen this summer, take a moment to honor its journey to you and swoon at the scent. Already I’m thinking of peaches!

 

You Reading This, Be Ready by William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life––

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

You Reading This, Be Ready

This poem has been my loyal companion on my solitary river walks these days, speaking the lines out loud (is that woman talking to herself??) as I go. The more I say these words, the more their comfort eases me and they sink into my bones.

Just that first line Starting here, what do you want to remember? carries me off into realms of wondering. The images of sight and scent and sound are all around me.

But it’s the next question that slows my walk: Will you ever bring a better gift for the world than the breathing respect that you carry wherever you go right now? The answer of course, is no. And I’m hooked on the notion of ‘breathing respect’.

The repetition of starting here brings me back to this moment, just as each breath can do. The invitation to carry all that you want from this day, to keep it for life is too enticing to resist.

And the final question takes my breath away each time: What can anyone give you greater than now? What indeed! Always that reminder that there is nothing more than this, this moment, this now.

May the breathing respect you carry remind you that now is all we have, all we need.

 

 

Rapture – Linda Hogan

Who knows the mysteries of the poppies
when you look across the red fields,
or hear the sound of long thunder,
then the saving rain.
Everything beautiful,
the solitude of the single body
or sometimes, too, when the body is kissed
on the lips or hands or eyelids tender.
Oh for the pleasure of living in a body.
It may be, it may one day be
this is a world haunted by happiness,
where people finally are loved
in the light of leaves,
the feel of bird wings passing by.
Here it might be that no one wants power.
They don’t want more.
And so they are in the forest,
old trees,
or those small but grand.
And when you sleep, rapture, beauty,
may seek you out.
Listen. There is
secret joy,
sweet dreams you may never forget.
How worthy the being
in the human body. If,
when you are there, you see women
wading on the water
and clouds in the valley,
the smell of rain,
or a lotus blossom rises out of round green leaves,
remember there is always something
besides our own misery.
Rapture

Though I am not currently miserable, like all of us I have my moments. And it’s at times like that I need to be reminded as Hogan says there is always something / besides our own misery. 

She speaks so eloquently of the mysteries of poppies and rain, of beauty, the pleasure of living in a body. And then she presents us with an astonishing possibility: that the world may one day be haunted (haunted!) by happiness and people finally are loved.  This reminds me of Day Dream by A.S.J. Tessimond which you might also like.

Rapture, beauty may seek you out as you sleep. Listen she says, There is / secret joy, / sweet dreams you may never forget. Pay attention, she is telling us. These things are real and close at hand if we open our eyes and ears. How worthy the being in the human body – how often do we truly remember this?

May rapture and beauty seek you out. May you be open to receive it.

 

And here is another spring poem of mine from a couple of years ago that describes my annual experience. And now the leaves have truly arrived; perhaps it is even summer!

Hello Spring

Every year I plan to be there

at that exquisite unveiling

when the tender green leaves,

so tightly wrapped, open themselves

to the waiting new-made world.

 

Impatiently I watch for signs,

carefully observing the nascent buds

on the winter-bare branches,

biding my time

for they cannot be rushed.

 

Yet each year, there comes a morning

when I look to find yesterday’s small gift

unwrapped, tiny viridescent leaves

unfurled, waving their diminutive hands

in greeting: hello spring,

hello Janice, sorry we arrived

while you weren’t looking;

we just couldn’t wait.

A Serious Frivolity by Bernadette Miller

Savoring the substance
of existence
is a serious
frivolity.
Someone must do it.

Someone must love
luminous hours when leaves
marry light and refuse
to stop
shining.

Someone must speak
the sweetness
of lilacs
before it is lost
beneath smog.

Someone must bask
in the beauty of blessing
because the news knows only
brokenness.

When you give yourself
to a particular place
the power
and peace
of that place
give themselves
through you.

So savoring the substance
of existence
is a serious frivolity.
Someone must do it.

Will that someone
be you?


I confess, I love a poem that asks a question, especially when my answer is a strong yes!

I love the contradiction of seriousness and frivolity – what I hear the poet saying is that savouring (as we must) this precious existence is both significant and consequential, and without serious purpose. Therefore, someone, someone must do this impossible thing.

We must love the radiant light shining on the leaves, the sweet, transient smell of lilacs, the beauty of blessing because, and this is the reason: the news knows only / brokenness. Every day we are given opportunities to see this truth in the face of all the brokenness.

You are both the giver and the receiver: when you give yourself wholly to wherever you are, you receive the power and peace that is transmitted to you, through you.

Therefore, we must fully taste, in all senses of the word, this seriously frivolously amazing life. So what do you say,  Will that someone be you?  I’m willing to bet the answer is Yes!

Because It Is Spring

 

Because it is spring

the world unfolds itself to our wonder:

the thawing, melting, juicy dripping

that is the earth softening,

that is our bodies softening,

opening like the green buds of new leaves.

Muscles that have been tightly clenched

begin to lengthen and unfurl

placing eager trust in the warming air

and our winter-pale faces turn like flowers

toward the sun’s comforting heat.

As the earth bestirs its waking self

so does our blood and breath quicken,

our movements informed by the season

becoming supple as air as we lighten,

shedding the heavy vestments of hibernation,

dancing the gladness of spring.

~ Janice Falls

Including one of my own poems is a departure for me but after my dear friend Anne read this at her yoga class this week and again last night at the spring equinox dance she curates, I received a few requests to share this further.

I was surprised to find that I wrote this six years ago, inspired by Anne’s dances that mark the seasonal turnings of the year. I don’t have much more to say than what is contained in the poem itself except that I know I felt this change of season in my body then as I do each year. Perhaps you too are dancing the gladness of spring.

My gratitude to Anne for her inspiration and sharing of these words and to my friends who encourage me always.

When Giving is All We Have

by Alberto Rios

                                              One river gives
Its journey to the next.

 
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

When Giving is All We Have

 

Continue reading

Allow – Danna Faulds

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream, and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in—
the wild with the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

Allow

Control, resistance, refusal – who of us has not experienced this urge to shape life to our own desires? And how we struggle to make things happen the way we want, things that are out of our hands no matter how we try.

Allow – to permit something to happen, to admit the truth of, to acknowledge. This is such a different perspective, where grace will carry you to higher ground. Safety in letting it all in – the wild with the weak; fear, / fantasies,failures and success – this is not a common understanding in our culture where we are taught to try to keep it all out.

Allow loss, sadness, despair? To practice being with what is, simply bearing the truth? What kind of direction is this? Does this call up more resistance or can there be another, more affirming way?

The answer is so simple, if not easy: In the choice to let go of your / known way of being, the whole / world is revealed to your new eyes. As we release our habitual hold on what we thought was the way, fighting, resisting, we see with new eyes – a whole world we have refused. Until we allow.