Sunday, August 17, 2014

Everything We Do

Everything we do is for our first loves
whom we have lost irrevocably
who have married insurance salesmen
and moved to Topeka
and never think of us at all.

We fly planes & design buildings
and write poems
that all say Sally I love you
I'll never love anyone else
Why didn't you know I was going to be a poet?

The walks to school, the kisses in the snow
gather as we dream backwards, sweetness with age:
our legs are young again, our voices
strong and happy, we're not afraid.
We don't know enough to be afraid.

And now
we hold (hidden, hopeless) the hope
that some day
she may fly in our plane
enter our building read our poem

And that night, deep in her dream,
Sally, far in darkness, in Topeka,
with the salesman lying beside her,
will cry out
our unfamiliar name.

Peter Meinke

The Nothing Man

In 2014, Mr. Samuel is overcome by a strong desire to read Lolita. But Mr. Samuel is accustomed to these strange and sudden whims. And so he decides to wait it out. A few days later, as he predicted, his need to read Lolita is not as strong as it was and Mr. Samuel finds it easier to move on. He pats himself on the back for his ability to triumph over a ‘temporary mindset.’

Then in 2015, Mr. Samuel feels a strong urge to own an SUV. It is quite possibly the finest car a man can drive! But again, Mr. Samuel reins in his ‘unnecessary indulgence’ and by the end of the month, gets over his desire. He congratulates himself and he realizes that he may be on the path to nirvana, the state of wanting nothing, and this idea appeals to him very strongly. Why, of course, it is the logical end to everything! The panacea for the worlds of disquiet within him!

And so, Mr. Samuel starts to train his mind to detach itself from all desire, to achieve a state of contented ‘nothing’. He relinquishes sex, meat, alcohol, gambling, gadgets and even masturbation. Initially, Mr. Samuel experiences mind-numbing withdrawal symptoms, like a drug addict whose secret stash has been hidden from him.

But over time, Mr. Samuel’s resolve strengthens and by 2022 he manages to rid himself of all desire. Mr. Samuel becomes famous in his neighborhood as the man who renounced materials in exchange for peaceful contemplation. People come to pay homage to this powerful bastion of anti-materialism who sits sanguinely in his rundown sofa in his rundown home.

But something has started to bother Mr. Samuel. In trying to achieve a state of nothing, is he trying to achieve something again after all?

Philip John

Samurai Song

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

Robert Pinsky

Saturday, August 9, 2014

What makes you happy?

Splendid road trip documentary, and not just for the ride and the stunning locales, but the amazing conversations with the funniest wisest people they meet on the way, in remote mountain towns and villages.  Interesting, how so many of them answered "Work" when asked what makes them the most happy.

Ashes Before Dust

"This documentary tells the story of a 5,500 mile motorcycle adventure from Seattle to the Arctic Circle and back. While traveling the back roads through British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, and Alaska, we interviewed the unique and inspiring characters we randomly met along the way. The tale of our journey is flavored with these interviews, providing a glimpse of life in the North Country."

"I would rather be ashes than dust.
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.”

Jack London

Helen Llyod Solo Cycling albums

Helen Lloyd is a British cyclist who cycles solo through remote parts of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia. Watching these in slideshow full screen mode  - see box-like icon on the right-hand top - is like watching a peaceful quiet movie, travelling across stunning landscapes.

Love Does That

All day long a little burro labors, sometimes
with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries
about things that bother only

And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting
than physical labor.

Once in a while a kind monk comes
to her stable and brings
a pear, but more
than that,

he looks into the burro's eyes and touches her ears

and for a few seconds the burro is free
and even seems to laugh,

because love does

Love Frees.

Meister Eckhart

Heron Rises from the Dark, Summer Pond

So heavy
is the long-necked, long-bodied heron,
always it is a surprise
when her smoke-colored wings

and she turns
from the thick water,
from the black sticks

of the summer pond,
and slowly
rises into the air
and is gone.

Then, not for the first or the last time,
I take the deep breath
of happiness, and I think
how unlikely it is

that death is a hole in the ground,
how improbable
that ascension is not possible,
though everything seems so inert, so nailed

back into itself --
the muskrat and his lumpy lodge,
the turtle,
the fallen gate.

And especially it is wonderful
that the summers are long
and the ponds so dark and so many,
and therefore it isn't a miracle

but the common thing,
this decision,
this trailing of the long legs in the water,
this opening up of the heavy body

into a new life: see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind; see how the clasp of nothing
takes her in.

Mary Oliver, 'What Do We Know:Poems and Prose Poems'

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The quietness

The quietness;
A chestnut leaf sinks
Through the clear water.

Shohaku (1443-1527) (translated by R. H. Blyth)

The rain will never stop falling

Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

 A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

The Book of Hours

There was that one hour sometime
in the middle of the last century.
It was autumn, and I was in my father's
woods building a house out of branches
and the leaves that were falling like
thousands of letters from the sky.

And there was that hour in Central Park
in the middle of the seventies.
We were sitting on a blanket, listening
to Pete Seeger singing "This land is
your land, this land is my land," and
the Vietnam War was finally over.

I would definitely include an hour
spent in one of the galleries of the
Tate Britain, looking up at the
painting of King Cophetua and
the Beggar Maid, and, afterwards
the walk along the Thames, and

I would also include one of those
hours when I woke in the night and
couldn't get back to sleep thinking
about how nothing I thought was going
to happen happened the way I expected,
and things I never expected to happen did—

just like that hour today, when we saw
the dog running along the busy road,
and we stopped and held on to her
until her owner came along and brought
her home—that was an hour well
spent. Yes, that was a keeper.

Joyce Sutphen

Four A.M.

The hour between night and day.
The hour between toss and turn.
The hour of thirty-year-olds.

The hour swept clean for roosters' crowing.
The hour when the earth takes back its warm embrace.
The hour of cool drafts from extinguished stars.
The hour of do-we-vanish-too-without-a-trace.

Empty hour.
Hollow. Vain.
Rock bottom of all the other hours.

No one feels fine at four a.m.
If ants feel fine at four a.m.,
we're happy for the ants. And let five a.m. come
if we've got to go on living.

Wislawa Szymborska

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Since Now is all we really have, just curious, what is Now for you, when you came to this blog?

Now for me is dusk in a small city apartment in Bangalore, with the wind blowing in from the balcony that offers a view of a small patch of sky between buildings. Nothing beautiful, but it is the season of winds, this monsoon time, and the huge new wind chimes I recently bought, sway gently from the balcony ceiling, reverberating like a Buddhist temple gong. Music all day.

The world outside, crumbling, coming apart at the seams, renewing, rising again. Inside, as always, I live and work in this small pool of light, day and night, trying to bring order into disorder, fix things - opportunities we all get, in whatever job we do. The flower, a recent addition to bring a patch of beauty into an increasingly functional life, frantic in its pace.

The last birds call, before settling down for the night. The evenings will start getting cooler now, the seasons of flowering trees and blue skies will be here soon. (None of which, of course, is promised to me). But for now, I have temple bells and the descending night and yet another day everyone I know made it through.

What is Now for you?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A fierce sanity

"Rilke recommended that when life became turbulent and troublesome, it was wise to stay close to one simple thing in nature. A friend of mine who had great trouble with her mind told me once that she had brought a stone into her apartment, and when she felt her mind going, she would concentrate on the stone.

She said, 'There is a fierce sanity in stone.'"

John O'Donohue from "To bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings"

Look ahead

"Look ahead. You are not expected to complete the task.

Neither are you permitted to lay it down. "

from the 'Talmud'


"I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."

John Muir