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!

 

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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.

Blessing – Carrie Newcomer

May you wake with a sense of play,
An exultation of the possible.
May you rest without guilt,
Satisfied at the end of a day well done.
May all the rough edges be smoothed,
If to smooth is to heal,
And the edges be left rough,
When the unpolished is more true
And infinitely more interesting.
May you wear your years like a well-tailored coat
Or a brave sassy scarf.
May every year yet to come
Be one more bright button
Sewn on a hat you wear at a tilt.
May the friendships you’ve sown
Grown tall as summer corn.
And the things you’ve left behind,
Rest quietly in the unchangeable past.
May you embrace this day,
Not just as any old day,
But as this day.
Your day.
Held in trust
By you,
In a singular place,
Called now.

Blessing


As we begin the rituals of a new year, whether in passive hopes for better things or with more active intentions to shape our lives, I do find it helpful to have a poem in my pocket to remind me of what’s important.

I’ve always appreciated the opening phrase of  ‘may you’ which offers possibilities – in this case of play, the possible, guiltlessness. And don’t you love the idea of smoothing the rough edges when it brings healing and leaving them rough When the unpolished is more true / And infinitely more interesting.

I may just have to start sewing buttons on my hat with each year yet to come, to go with the coat and scarf. And I know my friendships are a vast field of tall summer corn, healthy and abundant. It’s good to be reminded that the things we’ve left behind can Rest quietly in the unchangeable past.

Finally, we are called to embrace this day as our own, Held in trust / By you, / In a singular place, / Called now. Each day, held in trust, to hold, to spend, to treasure, to return to the present moment over and over. May it be so for all beings.

The Way It Is – Lyn Unger

One morning you might wake up
to realize that the knot in your stomach
had loosened itself and slipped away,
and that the pit of unfulfilled longing in your heart
had gradually, and without your really noticing,
been filled in—patched like a pothole, not quite
the same as it was, but good enough.

And in that moment it might occur to you
that your life, though not the way
you planned it, and maybe not even entirely
the way you wanted it, is nonetheless—
persistently, abundantly, miraculously—
exactly the way it is.

 

This poem has been reaching out and nudging me since I first encountered it in Poetry of Presence, a gorgeous collection of poems of mindfulness. https://poetryofpresencebook.com/

Who has not experienced the knot in your stomach, the unfulfilled longing in your heart and then noticed with grateful surprise when those feelings have disappeared, like a pain that has mysteriously stopped. The image of patched like a pothole, not quite / the same as it was, but good enough makes me smile each time. Good enough is such an important and undervalued concept.

And then there is the possibility of realizing that your life is just how it is regardless of how you thought you wanted it to be. That it is persistently, abundantly, miraculously just as it is, perhaps even just as it is meant to be.

On this solstice day, as the light begins to return, as we come to the close of this year, I wish for you to experience the persistent, abundant, miraculousness of your life, exactly the way it is.

The Way it is

Learning from Trees – Grace Butcher

If we could,
like the trees,
practice dying,
do it every year
just as something we do—
like going on vacation
or celebrating birthdays,
it would become
as easy a part of us
as our hair or clothing.

Someone would show us how
to lie down and fade away
as if in deepest meditation,
and we would learn
about the fine dark emptiness,
both knowing it and not knowing it,
and coming back would be irrelevant.

Whatever it is the trees know
when they stand undone,
surprisingly intricate,
we need to know also
so we can allow
that last thing
to happen to us
as if it were only
any ordinary thing,

leaves and lives
falling away,
the spirit, complex,
waiting in the fine darkness
to learn which way
it will go.

Learning from Trees

And now the trees are bare. Our beautiful, just-beginning-to-turn-golden gingko lost all its leaves one windy and frosty night last week. This is the natural order of seasons which we cannot alter though we may resist. And having just attended my second Death’s Door (Dying into Life) retreat, I am so attuned to the work of trees in autumn that this poem spoke to me.

Imagine to practice dying every year, like going on vacation / or celebrating birthdays, so that it would become easy and natural. The trees can show us how to learn / about the fine dark emptiness, / both knowing it and not knowing it. And how to hold the paradox.

What do the trees know when they stand undone, / surprisingly intricate? This is what we also need to learn so that our dying might be as if it were only / any ordinary thing.

In that fine dark emptiness, our complex, intricate spirit could wait to learn which way /
it will go. Each year we are given this opportunity to become familiar with this part of life, to be curious and celebrate it, even knowing we cannot know it completely.

Each year, I am learning from the trees, growing more comfortable with the fine dark emptiness, even, dare I say, celebrating it!