Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Life

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.

from 'The Round', Stanley Kunitz

Friday, December 30, 2016

But everything glorious is around us already

All That Is Glorious Around Us

is not, for me, these grand vistas, sublime peaks, mist-filled
overlooks, towering clouds, but doing errands on a day
of driving rain, staying dry inside the silver skin of the car,
160,000 miles, still running just fine. Or later,

sitting in a café warmed by the steam
from white chicken chili, two cups of dark coffee,
watching the red and gold leaves race down the street,
confetti from autumn's bright parade. And I think

of how my mother struggles to breathe, how few good days
she has now, how we never think about the glories
of breath, oxygen cascading down our throats to the lungs,
simple as the journey of water over a rock. It is the nature

of stone / to be satisfied / writes Mary Oliver, It is the nature
of water / to want to be somewhere else, rushing down
a rocky tor or high escarpment, the panoramic landscape
boundless behind it. But everything glorious is around

us already: black and blue graffiti shining in the rain's
bright glaze, the small rainbows of oil on the pavement,
where the last car to park has left its mark on the glistening
street, this radiant world.

Barbara Crooker

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Perpetual Becoming

"Indeed, even though all monks are committed to the same task, deep down - as doctors or hospital construction workers are - the details of their practice are as different as their wildly divergent times and cultures.

A Christian generally longs to be rooted in the home he's found in God; the Buddhist, more concerned with uncovering potential, is more interested in experiments and inquiries, always pushing deeper.

In fact Christianity works from very uncertain beginnings toward a specific end (redemption and a life with God); Buddhism starts with something very specific (the Buddha and the reality of the suffering he saw) and moves toward an always uncertain future (even after one has attained Nirvana). The image of the open road speaks for a perpetual becoming."

Page 140.
'The Open Road - The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama'
Pico Iyer

Monday, December 26, 2016

I am speaking to you

Making the House Ready for the Lord
Mary Oliver

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice--it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves

and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances--but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;

what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know

that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Down Hysterica Passio

"We all have something within ourselves to batter down, and we get our power from this fighting. I have never 'produced' a play in verse without showing the actors that the passion of the verse comes from the fact that the speakers are holding down violence, or madness - 'down Hysterica Passio'.

All depends on the completeness of the holding down, on the stirring of the beast underneath. Without this conflict we have no passion, only sentiment and thought."

W.B.Yeats, in a letter to Dorothy Wellesley. From 'Yeats: The Man and the Masks', by Richard Ellmann

[Notebook 5, 1989]

Thursday, December 22, 2016


One Brilliance

frost in the dried weeds—
sometimes it takes the cold
for things to find their shine.

Rosemerry Trommer

Saturday, December 17, 2016

All that is outside, is also inside

"How else could it have occurred to man to divide the cosmos, on the analogy of day and night, summer and winter, into a bright-day world and a dark night-world peopled with fabulous monsters, unless he had the prototype of such a division in himself, in the polarity between the conscious and the invisible and unknowable unconscious?

..."All that is outside, is also inside", we could say with Goethe.

But this "inside" which modern rationalism is so eager to derive from "outside" has an a priori structure of its own that antedates all conscious experience. It is quite impossible to conceive how "experience" in the widest sense, or, for that matter, anything psychic, could originate exclusively in the outside world.

Page 38, 'Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype', from 'Four Archetypes: Mother, Rebirth, Spirit, Trickster', by Carl Gustav Jung, 1953

Monday, November 28, 2016

A sheet of rice paper

This World

I am alone making guacamole, and he is on a plane
getting ready to act out marriage rituals
with people who will stop calling once the kids come.

I feel skeletal and ashamed like my insecurities
have made me instead of the other way around.
That’s when I stab myself with a serrated knife
attempting to extract a pit from an avocado.

Blood bubbles behind the bundle of loose nerves
like oil waiting to erupt from the ocean floor.
Living, I suppose, is a lot like mining.
Most days you find nothing.

But how strange and humbling it is to realize that your skin
is no tougher than a sheet of rice paper,
your heart no more resilient than a light bulb,
your love no less a stranger than an old classmate
you make eye contact with in passing at the gas station.

He will come back to me or he will not,
and I will go on living. The window into my hand,
before the blood remembers its job is to flow,
is so deep and clean I lose my breath,

and for once see the world exactly as it is—a boat
that we let carry us off. We could
just as soon throw the anchor down,
light the dynamite, and swim away.

Rae Hoffman

Sunday, November 27, 2016


"As you integrate ignorance and failure into your knowledge and success, do the same with all the alien parts of yourself.

Take everything that’s bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself. Let your altruism meet your egotism, let your generosity meet your greed, let your joy meet your grief.  Everyone has a shadow… But when you are able to say, “I am all of the above, my shadow as well as my light,” the shadow’s power is put in service of the good.

Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of your life.

As a person who … has made three deep dives into depression along the way, I do not speak lightly of this. I simply know that it is true."

Parker Palmer

The Six Pillars of the Wholehearted Life: Parker Palmer’s Spectacular Naropa University Commencement Address

Open-hearted generosity

"What I really mean … is be passionate, fall madly in love with life. Be passionate about some part of the natural and/or human worlds and take risks on its behalf, no matter how vulnerable they make you.

No one ever died saying, “I’m sure glad for the self-centered, self-serving and self-protective life I lived.”

Offer yourself to the world — your energies, your gifts, your visions, your heart — with open-hearted generosity. But understand that when you live that way you will soon learn how little you know and how easy it is to fail.

To grow in love and service, you — I, all of us — must value ignorance as much as knowledge and failure as much as success…

Clinging to what you already know and do well is the path to an unlived life."

Parker Palmer

The Six Pillars of the Wholehearted Life: Parker Palmer’s Spectacular Naropa University Commencement Address

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Generosity of Presence


is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not necessarily something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a-priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life.

Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is a privilege; that we are miraculously, part of something, rather than nothing. Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of the fields, the freshness of a cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape.

To see the full miraculous essentiality of the color blue is to be grateful with no necessity for a word of thanks. To see fully, the beauty of a daughter’s face across the table, of a son's outline against the mountains, is to be fully grateful without having to seek a God to thank him. To sit among friends and strangers, hearing many voices, strange opinions; to intuit even stranger inner lives beneath calm surface lives, to inhabit many worlds at once in this world, to be a someone amongst all other someones, and therefore to make a conversation without saying a word, is to deepen our sense of presence and therefore our natural sense of thankfulness that everything happens both with us and without us, that we are participants and witness all at once.

Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness. We sit at the table as part of every other person’s strange world while making our own world without will or effort, this is what is extraordinary and gifted, this is the essence of gratefulness, seeing to the heart of privilege.

Thanksgiving happens when our sense of presence meets and fully beholds all other presences. Being unappreciative, feeling distant, might mean we are simply not paying attention.

© 2015 David Whyte, from ‘Gratitude’
In Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

What you read is who you will become

"What you read is who you will become.

Twyla Tharp says in The Creative Habit, “I read for growth, firmly believing that what you are today and what you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read.”

And maybe the people you meet will depend on the books you read."

I want madness and poetry

How easily you asked me

How easily
You asked me
If we could still be friends
After we broke up,
How easily.

That is when I knew
I was never your passion.
Passion finds it hard to
Descend into friendship.

You might read this and say,
What is wrong with friendship?
It is the purest kind of love.

I say I don’t want this kind of love,
I want another kind,
One where I can express myself
With other words
And sometimes, without them too.

I want madness and poetry,
Hunger and sin,
I want to be haunted
By you always,
Want my brain
To be the unsuspecting soil
To your freely
Invading roots.

Is this kind of friendship
Acceptable to you?
No. I figured.
Because how easily, how easily
You asked if we could stay friends.

Philip John

How does the ordinary person come to the transcendent?

"Maybe it is partly our ordinariness that makes humans magnificent. We persist, in spite of the daunting sameness of our days, in spite of a dull repetitiveness that might shape our lives – we persist in finding shards of beauty, and we persist in seeking out the experience of feeling something larger than ourselves, in something transcendent.

I like what Joseph Campbell has to say in Thou Art That about one possible path toward this:

“How does the ordinary person come to the transcendent? For a start, I would say, study poetry. Learn how to read a poem. You need not have the experience to get the message, or at least some indication of the message. It may come gradually.”

Transcendence - On Reading Poetry

Monday, November 14, 2016

That commonplace

Highlights and Interstices

We think of lifetimes as mostly the exceptional
and sorrows. Marriage we remember as the children,
vacations, and emergencies. The uncommon parts.
But the best is often when nothing is happening.

The way a mother picks up the child almost without
noticing and carries her across Waller Street
while talking with the other woman. What if she
could keep all of that? Our lives happen between
the memorable.

I have lost two thousand habitual
breakfasts with Michiko. What I miss most about
her is that commonplace I can no longer remember.

Jack Gilbert, The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Staying Alive

Looking back on her barely survivable childhood, ravaged by pain which Oliver has never belabored or addressed directly — a darkness she shines a light on most overtly in her poem “Rage” and discusses obliquely in her terrific On Being conversation with Krista Tippett — she contemplates how reading saved her life:

"Adults can change their circumstances; children cannot. Children are powerless, and in difficult situations they are the victims of every sorrow and mischance and rage around them, for children feel all of these things but without any of the ability that adults have to change them. Whatever can take a child beyond such circumstances, therefore, is an alleviation and a blessing."

Staying Alive: Mary Oliver on How Books Saved Her Life and Why the Passion for Work Is the Greatest Antidote to Pain

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Wild imaginings, transformative dreams and perfect calm

Let yourself fall.
Learn to
observe snakes
Plant impossible gardens.

Invite a dangerous person for tea.
Make little characters who say "yes" and distribute them
everywhere throughout your house.

Become a friend of freedom
and uncertainty.
Look forward to dreams.
Cry at a movie.

Swing as high as you can on a swing
in the moonlight.
Provide different moods.
Refuse to be made 'responsible.'
Do it for love.

Take a lot of naps.
Give away money.
Do it now, the money will follow.
Believe in magic.
Smile a lot.
Take moon baths.

Have wild imaginings, transformative dreams and perfect calm.
Draw on walls.
Read every day.
Imagine that you are enchanted.
Play with children
listen to old people.

Open yourself,
dive into it, be free.
Praise yourself, bless yourself
drive away fear.
Play with everything.
Take care of the child in yourself.

You are innocent.
Build a fortress with blankets.
Get wet.

Embrace trees.
Write love letters.

Joseph Beuys

Things to Believe In

trees, in general; oaks, especially;
burr oaks that survive fire, in particular;
and the generosity of apples

seeds, all of them: carrots like dust,
winged maple, doubled beet, peach kernel;
the inevitability of change

frogsong in spring; cattle
lowing on the farm across the hill;
the melodies of sad old songs

comfort of savory soup;
sweet iced fruit; the aroma of yeast;
a friend’s voice; hard work

seasons; bedrock; lilacs;
moonshadows under the ash grove;
something breaking through.

Patricia Monaghan

Imagine immensities

"Cheerfulness is an achievement, and hope is something to celebrate. If optimism is important, it’s because many outcomes are determined by how much of it we bring to the task. It is an important ingredient of success.

This flies in the face of the elite view that talent is the primary requirement of a good life, but in many cases the difference between success and failure is determined by nothing more than our sense of what is possible and the energy we can muster to convince others of our due. We might be doomed not by a lack of skill, but by an absence of hope.

Put simply and poignantly, it pays to “imagine immensities.”

Alain de Botton

Not broken, but rearranged

It is not impossible to survive

You have mastered solitude, struggled to unpack
the thick realities of time and matter. Love has flattened
you. Measured, you have faced your least loveliness.

How fragile God’s graffiti, the text of us scrawled
wild, twisted into this renegade, complex sentence
of living! How the making betrays and becomes us!

Look at the tree revise its body daily, spectacularly
rendered through the small violence of loss. If nothing
else, learn this: You are not broken, but rearranged.

Lauren K. Alleyne

What we need is here

The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over the fall fields, we name names

that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need

is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

Wendell Berry, (Collected Poems 1957-1982)

Photo: The tabebuia impetiginosas are back! They will last for a few weeks in November, covering themselves completely in a cloud of pink 2 weeks from now. To think that I get to see them again, yet another year....

Glorious Nonsense

"Why do we love nonsense? ....It is this participation in the essential glorious nonsense that is at the heart of the world, not necessarily going anywhere.

It seems that only in moments of unusual insight and illumination that we get the point of this, and find that the true meaning of life is no meaning, that its purpose is no purpose, and that its sense is non-sense.

Still, we want to use the word “significant.” Is this significant nonsense? Is this a kind of nonsense that is not just chaos, that is not just blathering balderdash, but rather has in it rhythm, fascinating complexity, and a kind of artistry?

It is in this kind of meaninglessness that we come to the profoundest meaning."

Sense of Nonsense: Alan Watts on How We Find Meaning by Surrendering to Meaninglessness

21.30 mins

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fluid Reflections on Keeping a Solid Center

10 Learnings from 10 Years of Brain Pickings, Maria Popova

Fluid reflections on keeping a solid center

1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.

2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone.

...prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.

3. Be generous.

Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator.

4. Build pockets of stillness into your life.

What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?

5. When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.

You are the only custodian of your own integrity.

6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.

“how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

7. Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.

...the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds - in the making of one’s character and destiny.

8. Seek out what magnifies your spirit.

Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often.

9. Don’t be afraid to be an idealist.

Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial — in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture.

10. Don’t just resist cynicism — fight it actively.

There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincerity and acting from a place of largehearted, constructive, rational faith in the human spirit, continually bending toward growth and betterment. This remains the most potent antidote to cynicism. Today, especially, it is an act of courage and resistance.

Thank you, Maria Popova.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Hui: China’s other Muslims

"By choosing assimilation, China’s Hui have become one of the world’s most successful Muslim minorities."

"Surprisingly, the Hui have not lost their religion or identity despite centuries of assimilation. Mr Ma, the retired professor, says Hui people often form close-knit communities and pursue similar occupations; restaurants and taxis in many cities are run by Hui. But their religion is “still the most important binding factor”, he says. The Hui maintain a delicate balance. They can practise their religion undisturbed thanks to assimilation. But it is their religion that makes them distinct."

The Space Between Flowers

Beautiful video. The book sounds amazing too.

"Japanese photographer Masao Yamamoto (born 1957) trained as an oil painter before discovering that photography was the ideal medium for the theme that most interested him--the ability of the image to evoke memories. Small Things in Silence surveys the 20-year career of one of Japan's most important photographers. Yamamoto's portraits, landscapes and still lifes are made into small, delicate prints, which the photographer frequently overpaints, dyes or steeps in tea."

The Space Between Flowers [5 min 31 seconds]

Small Things in Silence

From here:


I am fascinated by them.

On Thin Brown Wings

Perhaps not as many days of sun
as they might have wanted,
perhaps not as much warmth,
perhaps not as much rain—
rain that soaks in like a lover’s
lingering glance, and still
beside the trail in late fall
they are everywhere,

the seeds of next year’s flowers
giving their everything to the world.

Rosemerry Trommer

My Seed Album:

On Falling

"Antaeus would challenge all passers-by to wrestling matches and remained invincible as long as he remained in contact with his mother, the earth. As Greek wrestling, like its modern equivalent, typically attempted to force opponents to the ground, he always won, killing his opponents."

On Falling

Says one teacher: where you stumble and fall,
there you'll find gold.
Says another: first there's the fall
and then we recover from the fall.
Both are the mercy of God.

And we can't forget Antaeus,
legendary wrestler and son of Terra Mater,
a fellow whose strength was renewed
whenever it happened, for every time he fell
(hurled to the ground by some opponent)
he'd land right in his mother's arms.

Teddy Macker, 'This World'

Thanks, K. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

And catch the heart off guard and blow it open


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other

So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,

Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it

More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

Seamus Heaney, from 'The Spirit Level'

Monday, September 26, 2016


"I can’t quite shake the astonishment. I can’t quite believe what my life keeps teaching me, that material existence is a thin veil thrown over a foundation of miracles so numerous and profound we almost invariably overlook them."

Martha Beck

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Monday, September 5, 2016

A drop of your love

"Just because a drop of your love had blended in
I drank down the entire bitterness of life."

The original, in Punjabi:

Rall gai si es vich ik boond tere ishq di
Esse layi main zindagi di saari kudattan pee layi

Amrita Pritam


Friday, September 2, 2016


Storm on Galilee

What's instructive is not
That he laid down the sea
But that he seemed so unharassed
By the possibility of complete
And utter catastrophe. Yes
It could all fall apart, he seemed to say;
Yes, the storm could turn your little ship
Into a sudden coffin- yes. Faith, he told us then,
Is not trusting things will one day be better.

Faith is trusting things could never be better. No matter what.

Teddy Macker, 'This World'

Thanks, K.

Falling, Flying

The Mosquito Among the Raindrops

The mosquito among the raindrops...
It's equivalent to getting hit, says the scientist,
By a falling school bus. And hit every twenty seconds.

And the mosquito lives.

In fact, she doesn't even try to avoid the drops.
No zigzagging, no ducking. No hiding under eaves.

How does she do it?
No resistance to force.

She hitches a ride on the blow,
A stowaway on that which brings her down.

She becomes 'one with the drop,'
Knowing that to fly again
She must fall.

Teddy Macker, 'This World'

Thanks, K.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sitting still, turning inward

"The idea behind Nowhere - choosing to sit still long enough to turn inward - is at heart a simple one. If your car is broken, you don't try to find ways to repaint its chassis; most of our problems - and therefore our solutions, our peace of mind - lie within.

To hurry around trying to find happiness outside ourselves makes about as much sense as the comical figure in the Islamic parable who, having lost a key in his living room, goes out into the street to look for it because there's more light there.

As Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius reminded us more than two millenia ago, it's not our experiences that form us but the ways in which we respond to them; a hurricane sweeps through town, reducing everything to rubble, and one man sees it as a liberation, a chance to start anew, while another, perhaps even his brother, is traumatized for life."

Page 13, 'The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere', Pico Iyer

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Morning Like a Hiroshige Print

Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi bridge and Atake

Raining, after the driest October
in twenty years, citizens hustle
across the street to take cover.

I join in, cross the street with my bags
from the market soaked by the rain, hurry
to beat the light turning red.
A maple leaf falls, another.

At the same time, she stokes
the fire with branches
as thin as her wrists, sets
the kettle on the stove—

waits to remove my clothes,
to sit me in front of the fire
with a blanket draped
over my shoulders, to pull the kitchen
knife from the drawer
to cut the gouda, to slice the Fujis
in half, to warm a loaf of bread.

Mark Heinlein

Photo from here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Unhappiness comes to man
Through two doorways

The first doorway is named
Not getting what you want.

The name of the second doorway is
Getting what you want.

Either takes you there;
The former faster
Than the latter.

The former teaches
The futility of willfulness.

The latter teaches the foolishness
Of believing that
Satisfaction and happiness are the same.

Excerpt from Wu Hsin, 'Aphorisms for Thirsty Fish (The Lost Writings of Wu Hsin Book 1)'

Thanks, K.

Monday, August 15, 2016


"So we have to be patient with ourselves. Over and over again we think we need to be somewhere else, and we must find the truth right here, right now; we must find our joy here, now. How seductive it is, the thought of tomorrow. We must find our understanding here. We must find it here; it is always here; this is where the grass is green."

John Tarrant


"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with."

Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
From The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere
by Pico Iyer

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Gift


The hitch-hiker I
remember best
was someone you
might call a hobo.

Lord knows what he'd
been through, to receive
a gift that some folks get
who've borne so much.

He traveled light.
He owned a little pack,
a little dog;
that's all.

I drove for fifty miles
before he turned
his head to me
and said,

“I think
I'll get out here.
I like the way
the grass looks,
way up
on that hill.

The way the light
falls on it.”

Max Reif

Monday, August 1, 2016

The measure of your life

"The measure of your life is the amount of beauty and happiness of which you are aware."

Agnes Martin

From here.


“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths but a great fear of shallow living.”

Anais Ni


"Loneliness, in its quintessential form, is of a nature that is incommunicable by the one who suffers it. Nor, unlike other non-communicable emotional experiences, can it be shared via empathy. It may well be that the second person's empathic abilities are obstructed by the anxiety-arousing quality of the mere emanations of the first person's loneliness."

When I read those lines, I remembered sitting, years back, outside a train station in the south of England, waiting for my father. It was a sunny day, and I had a book I was enjoying. After a while, an elderly man sat down next to me and tried repeatedly to strike up conversation. I didn't want to talk and after a brief exchange of pleasantries I began to respond more tersely until eventually, still smiling, he got up and wandered away.

I've never stopped feeling ashamed about my unkindness, and nor have I ever forgotten how it felt to have the force field of his loneliness pressed up against me: an overwhelming, unmeetable need for attention and affection, to be heard and touched and seen."

Page 25, 'The Lonely City, Adventures in the Art of Being Alone', Olivia Laing

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.

Let it ferment and season you
As few human or even divine ingredients can.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tattered Kaddish

"Kaddish is a prayer found in the Jewish prayer service. The central theme of the Kaddish is the magnification and sanctification of God's name.The term "Kaddish" is often used to refer specifically to "The Mourners' Kaddish", said as part of the mourning rituals in Judaism in all prayer services as well as at funerals and memorials. When mention is made of "saying Kaddish", this unambiguously denotes the rituals of mourning."

Tattered Kaddish
Adrienne Rich

Taurean reaper of the wild apple field
messenger from earthmire gleaning
transcripts of fog
in the nineteenth year and the eleventh month
speak your tattered Kaddish for all suicides:

Praise to life though it crumbled in like a tunnel
on ones we knew and loved

Praise to life though its windows blew shut
on the breathing-room of ones we knew and loved

Praise to life though ones we knew and loved
loved it badly, too well, and not enough

Praise to life though it tightened like a knot
on the hearts of ones we thought we knew loved us

Praise to life giving room and reason
to ones we knew and loved who felt unpraisable

Praise to them, how they loved it, when they could.

Monday, June 20, 2016

To take what is given



"What do I know?

But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,
to see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly;
for example – I think this
as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch –

the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the
daisies for the field.”

Mary Oliver

From here.


No, my friends
darkness is not everywhere
for here and there
I find faces illuminated
from within.

Japanese lanterns
among dark trees.

Carol Ann Borges

The Effort to Return


"That we go numb along the way is to be expected. Even the bravest among us, who give their lives to care for others, go numb with fatigue, when the heart can take in no more, when we need time to digest all we meet. Overloaded and overwhelmed, we start to pull back from the world, so we can internalize what the world keeps giving us.

Perhaps the noblest private act is the unheralded effort to return: to open our hearts once they’ve closed, to open our souls once they’ve shied away, to soften our minds once they’ve been hardened by the storms of our day."

 Mark Nepo, "Hearing the Cries of the World"

Sunday, June 12, 2016


"We suffer, often unknowingly, from wanting to be in two places at once, from wanting to experience more than one person can. This is a form of greed, of wanting everything. Feeling like we're missing something or that we're being left out, we want it all. But being human, we can't have it all. The tension of all this can lead to an insatiable search, where our passion for life is stirred, but never satisfied.

When caught in this mindset, no amount of travel is enough, no amount of love is enough, no amount of success is enough...

The truth is that one experience taken to heart will satisfy our hunger. "

Mark Nepo

100 Butterflies (excerpt)

Where you are going
and the place you stay
come to the same thing.

What you long for
and what you've left behind
are as useless as your name.

Just one time, walk out
into the field and look
at that towering oak --
an acorn still beating at its heart.

Peter Levitt

A Real Measure of Peace

"On yet another level, silence means listening. We follow the Rule of St. Benedict and the first word of that Rule is "Listen." That's the great ethical element of silence: to check my words and listen to another point of view. I'll never have any real peace should my sense of well-being depend on soundless peace.

When I can learn the patience of receiving, in an un-threatened way, what I'd rather not hear, then I can have a real measure of peace in any situation."

How Silence Works: Emailed Conversations With Four Trappist Monks
Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston

Cancer, our Doppelgänger

After 3 occurrences of cancer within the family (2 dead, one will go any day now) I finally bought this book I have been meaning to read since years. Brilliantly written, very easy reading for the layman. And a great reminder that any day you wake up and are still alive and well, and no one in your family is dying, you must remember to be happy and cheerful.

"...This image - of cancer as our desperate, malevolent, contemporary doppelgänger - is so haunting because it is at least partly true. A cancer cell is an astonishing perversion of the normal cell. Cancer is a phenomenally successful invader and colonizer in part because it exploits the very features that make us successful as a species and as an organism. [AM: cell division, cloning, survival of the fittest, growth via evolution]

...When a chemotherapeutic drug or the immune system attacks cancer, mutant clones that can resist the attack grow out. The fittest cancer cell survives. This mirthless, relentless cycle of mutation, selection, and overgrowth generates cells that are more and more adapted to survival and growth. In some cases, the mutations speed up the acquisition of other mutations. The genetic instability, like a perfect madness, only provides more impetus to generate mutant clones.

Cancer thus exploits the fundamental logic of evolution unlike any other illness. If we, as a species, are the ultimate product of Darwinian selection, then so too is this incredible disease that lurks inside us."

Page 38, 'The Emperor of Maladies, A Biography of Cancer', Siddhartha Mukherjee
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction 2011
Winner of the Guardian First Book Award 2011

Ukemi, the Art of Falling

"Ukemi is a Japanese word used in Judo for the method of falling without getting injured.

...He [my Judo teacher] made me practice nothing but falling for six months, correcting every infinitesimal detail. He would sense my frustration when he caught me wistfully looking at the other judoka. They would be performing their techniques and sparring while I rolled for hours on the mat, with my teacher sometimes deftly throwing me to demonstrate a nuance I had missed.

He would then remind me that the art of falling was the foundation of good Judo.

...One day the head teacher, a seventy-year-old eighth Dan judoka, legendary for his insightful teaching called me aside after a randori. “How can you do beautiful Judo if you don’t risk falling?” he asked. I was taken aback. I thought the whole idea of a randori was to avoid getting thrown.

He continued, “A lot of judokas don’t like to fall, so they try to avoid it at all cost. By doing this, they get tense, their techniques become wooden and their Judo lacks zest.”

Seeing he had piqued my interest, he went on, “Real Judo is like life. The little losses and gains don’t count for much. What matters is whether you lived beautifully, with courage and joy.

For this, you must learn not to fear falling or failure and welcome it like a friend. Because only when you learn to love it, then can you really live to your full potential.”

Sanjay Kabir Bavikatte

The Kindness

Banff, Alberta

The mother elk and 2 babies are sniffing
the metal handle of the bear-proof trash bin.

I remember the instructions for city people:
3 football fields of space between you &
the elk if their babies are with them.

I’m backing up slowly,
watching the calves run into each other
as they bend to eat grass/look up
at the mother at the same time.

The caramel color of their coat,
the sloping line of their small snouts &
I want to hold that beauty,
steal it for me,
but I’m only on football field # 2 & walking
into the woods past the lodge pole pines.

Their fragility, their awkward bumping
opens me to a long ago time—
a hand on the door,
I was walking in
to the psych hospital in Pittsburgh,
feeling broken and stripped down—
a hand on the door
from around my body

& I looked up to see the body
of a man, who said:
Let me get that for you—
a hand on the door
& the bottom of me

I couldn’t breathe for the kindness.
I couldn’t say how deep that went
for me.

I had been backing up, awkward
I had been blind to my own beauty.

Jan Beatty

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person

"But though we believe ourselves to be seeking happiness in marriage, it isn’t that simple. What we really seek is familiarity — which may well complicate any plans we might have had for happiness. We are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood.

The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes.

How logical, then, that we should as grown-ups find ourselves rejecting certain candidates for marriage not because they are wrong but because they are too right — too balanced, mature, understanding and reliable — given that in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign.

We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy."

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person
Alain de Botton

Sunday, May 22, 2016

One Way to Spend an Afternoon Together

Our noisy outer world is but a reflection of the noise inside: our incessant need to be occupied, to be doing something.

Three Types of Laziness, Tenzin Palmo

Sit with me. Let’s say nothing at all.
There is nothing that must be said.
The impulse to comment on weather,
we’ll feel it rise and melt away.

The weather will do what the weather does,
will rain, will shine, will hail.
Perhaps we will feel the need
to comment on the light or to wonder

when things will be different than they are now
or to worry about all the problems
that we will never be able to fix.
Urgency only lasts so long before
it disappears. How did we ever

believe we belonged anywhere
but here? Though the rain
is gone, the scent of rain persists.
If we are quiet long enough,
it will say everything that must be said.

Rosemerry Trommer

Some days


Some days I find myself
putting my foot in
the same stream twice;
leading a horse to water
and making him drink.
I have a clue.
I can see the forest
for the trees.

All around me people
are making silk purses
out of sows’ ears,
getting blood from turnips,
building Rome in a day.
There’s a business
like show business.
There’s something new
under the sun.

Some days misery
no longer loves company;
it puts itself out of its.
There’s rest for the weary.
There’s turning back.
There are guarantees.
I can be serious.
I can mean that.
You can quite
put your finger on it.

Some days I know
I am long for this world.
I can go home again.
And when I go
I can
take it with me.

Ronald Wallace

The willingness to blossom

Out of the Days

What does that do to the old blood moving through its channels?
Naomi Shihab Nye, 'Fresh'

So much we do not need—
the old t-shirts at the back
of the closet, the secret
ingredient in Aunt Jean’s
tuna casserole, the pity
of strangers, the growing stack
of journals we promise
ourselves we will someday read,
the memorized jingles
from TV commercials
we sang when we were young.

And then there’s the list of what
we cannot do without—
the willingness to blossom
out of our own detritus,
the capacity to laugh a real
unguarded laugh, a joy
in unlearning whatever we
think we know, and
the grace to let our story
re-write itself even as we
fear turning the page.

Rosemerry Trommer


To move

Needing to be
Nowhere else.

Wanting nothing
From any store.

To lift something
You already had
And set it down in
A new place.

Awakened eye
Seeing freshly.

What does that do to
The old blood moving through
Its channels?

Naomi Shihab Nye

Niroshta Raagam

Niroshta -

"Niroshta literally means without the lips.If the lips do not meet / touch, then the notes Ma and Pa cannot be uttered.This scale does not use either note and hence the name. It is a very pleasing rāgam."

Friday, May 13, 2016

Willful Blindness

"...Our blindness grows out of the small, daily decisions that we make, which embed us more snugly inside our affirming thoughts and values. And what’s most frightening about this process is that as we see less and less, we feel more comfort and greater certainty. We think we see more — even as the landscape shrinks.

...We make ourselves powerless when we choose not to know. But we give ourselves hope when we insist on looking. The very fact that willful blindness is willed, that it is a product of a rich mix of experience, knowledge, thinking, neurons, and neuroses, is what gives us the capacity to change it. Like Lear, we can learn to see better, not just because our brain changes but because we do.

As all wisdom does, seeing starts with simple questions: What could I know, should I know, that I don’t know? Just what am I missing here?"

Why We Ignore the Obvious: The Psychology of Willful Blindness
How to counter the gradual narrowing of our horizons

Pain is a way in


is the doorway to the here and now. Physical or emotional pain is an ultimate form of ground, saying, to each of us, in effect, there is no other place than this place, no other body than this body, no other limb or joint or pang or sharpness or heartbreak but this searing presence. Pain asks us to heal by focusing not only on the place the pain is felt but also the actual way the pain is felt. Pain is a form of alertness and particularity; pain is a way in.

...Pain is the first proper step to real compassion; it can be a foundation for understanding all those who struggle with their existence. Experiencing real pain ourselves, our moral superiority comes to an end; we stop urging others to get with the program, to get their act together or to sharpen up, and start to look for the particular form of debilitation, visible or invisible that every person struggles to overcome. In pain, we suddenly find our understanding and compassion engaged as to why others may find it hard to fully participate.

..Lastly, pain is appreciation; for most of all the simple possibility and gift of a pain free life - all the rest is a bonus. Others do not know the gift in simply being healthy, of being unconsciously free to move or walk or run. Pain is a lonely road, no one can know the measure of our particular agonies, but through pain we have the possibility, just the possibility, of coming to know others as we have, with so much difficulty, come to know ourselves.

David Whyte, 'Pain' From 'Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words'

From here.

A Happy Sisyphus

The Myth of Perfectability
Linda Pastan

I hang the still life of flowers
by a window so it can receive
the morning light, as flowers must.

But sun will fade the paint,
so I move the picture to the east centre
of a dark wall, over the mantel
where it looks too much like a trophy -
one of those animal heads
but made up of blossoms.

I move it again to a little wall
down a hallway where I can come upon it
almost by chance, the way the Japanese
put a small window in an obscure place,
hoping that the sight of a particular landscape
will startle them with beauty as they pass,
and not become familiar.

I do this all day long, moving
the picture or sometimes a chair or a vase
from place to place. Or else
putting in a comma to slow down
a long sentence, then taking it out,
then putting it back again

until I feel like a happy Sisyphus,
or like a good farmer who knows
that the body's work is never over,
for the motions of plowing and planting continue
season after season, even in his sleep.

Sometimes a poem is all you can do

When The World Overwhelms

I print out poems on hot pink pages
handing them out in the business district,
moving through the dark cool canyons
between towers of glass and steel.

Sometimes a poem is all you can do.
Like breathing,
or walking with your head tipped back
so you can see the sky.

Oriah House (c) 2015


was what they called you in high school
if you tripped on a shoelace in the hall
and all your books went flying.

Or if you walked into an open locker door,
you would be known as Einstein,
who imagined riding a streetcar into infinity.

Later, genius became someone
who could take a sliver of chalk and square pi
a hundred places out beyond the decimal point,

or a man painting on his back on a scaffold,
or drawing a waterwheel in a margin,
or spinning out a little night music.

But earlier this week on a wooded path,
I thought the swans afloat on the reservoir
were the true geniuses,
the ones who had figured out how to fly,
how to be both beautiful and brutal,
and how to mate for life.

Twenty-four geniuses in all,
for I numbered them as Yeats had done,
deployed upon the calm, crystalline surface—

forty-eight if we count their white reflections,
or an even fifty if you want to throw in me
and the dog running up ahead,

who were at least smart enough to be out
that morning—she sniffing the ground,
me with my head up in the bright morning air.

Billy Collins, from Aimless Love. © Random House, 2013

My Hero

Just as the hare is zipping across the finish line,
the tortoise has stopped once again
by the roadside,
this time to stick out his neck
and nibble a bit of sweet grass,
unlike the previous time
when he was distracted
by a bee humming in the heart of a wildflower...

Billy Collins

Generous Listening

"Generous listening is powered by curiosity, a virtue we can invite and nurture in ourselves to render it instinctive. It involves a kind of vulnerability - a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. The listener wants to understand the humanity behind the words of the other, and patiently summons one's own best self and one's own best words and questions."

Generous listening in fact yields better questions."

Krista Tippett, 'Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living'

Conveyor Belt

Confession of a Feminist

I am a feminist, he said.
I believe in equality
Except when it comes
To falling in love.

In passion there can be no equality;
We fall in love not with equals
Who eat and drink and yawn like us

But with people bigger than us,
With angels and demons
Who yank us out
Of our endless conveyor belts.

Philip John

From here.

Your perception of the world mirrors the condition of your heart

Shared by a Chinese colleague in my team:

"There once was a man named Su Shi, also known as Su Dongpo, who lived in China during the Song dynasty (960-1279). Su Dongpo was brilliant scholar, writer, poet and statesman. He was was also a devoted student of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. Su Dongpo lived across the river from his friend and spiritual teacher, Master Foyin of the Golden Mountain Temple.

One day while visiting with Master Foyin over tea, Su Dongpo, who prided himself on his wit, intellectual acumen, and prowess in debate, challenged the Master,

“Foyin, people see you as an enlightened monk, but to me you look like nothing but a big, stinking pile of worthless shit sitting on your pillow all day long.”

Then Su Dongpo leaned back, crossed his arms smugly, waiting to see how the Master would respond.

After a time, Master Foyin smiled, placed his hands together in prayer and replied, “My dear Dongpo, to me you look like a Buddha.“ And then he said no more.

Feeling very satisfied with himself for having outsmarted his teacher, Su Dongpo grinned, arose and bade the Master farewell. When he arrived home, he wasted no time in sharing his triumph with his sister,
"Sister, today I outwitted Master Foyin in debate,” he proclaimed proudly, recounting the entire story in great detail, so as to savour the taste of his victory once again.

After some time patiently listening to the story, Su Dongpo’s sister replied: “Oh brother! No, no! Do you not see? You did not win. The Master bested you without you even realizing it!”

Scandalized, Su Dongpo exclaimed, “What do you mean?”

“Brother, do you not see that your perception of the world mirrors the condition of your heart? Master Foyin sees you as a Buddha because he is a Buddha. You see him as a pile of shit. Now what does that make you?”

Su Dongpo fell silent, suddenly realizing just how foolish and ignorant he really was."

Sunday, April 17, 2016

And the world owes me nothing

Yes, I’m Truly A Dunce
Taigu Ryokan

Yes, I’m truly a dunce
Living among trees and plants.
Please don’t question me about illusion and enlightenment —
This old fellow just likes to smile to himself.

I wade across streams with bony legs,
And carry a bag about in fine spring weather.
That’s my life,
And the world owes me nothing.

Ryōkan Taigu (良寛大愚?) (1758–1831) was a quiet and eccentric Sōtō Zen Buddhist monk who lived much of his life as a hermit. Ryōkan is remembered for his poetry and calligraphy, which present the essence of Zen life.

Till you return

…Soaring in white clouds,
The cherry trees are in full bloom,
Every branch bending with loaded blossoms.
But the wind is ceaseless as the peak is lofty,
And day after day falls the spring rain;

The flowers have scattered from the upper sprays.
May the blossoms on the lower branches
Neither fall nor lose their beauty,
Till you, who journey, grass for pillow,
Come home again!”

Takahashi Mushimaro, from “1000 Poems from the Manyoshu: The Complete Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai”

From here.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

What the Dog Perhaps Hears

If an inaudible whistle
blown between our lips
can send him home to us,
then silence is perhaps
the sound of spiders breathing
and roots mining the earth;

it may be asparagus heaving,
headfirst, into the light
and the long brown sound
of cracked cups, when it happens.

We would like to ask the dog
if there is a continuous whir
because the child in the house
keeps growing, if the snake
really stretches full length
without a click and the sun
breaks through clouds without
a decibel of effort,
whether in autumn, when the trees
dry up their wells, there isn't a shudder
too high for us to hear.

What is it like up there
above the shut-off level
of our simple ears?
For us there was no birth cry,
the newborn bird is suddenly here,
the egg broken, the nest alive,
and we heard nothing when the world changed.

Lisel Mueller, 'Alive Together: New and Selected Poems'

Monday, March 28, 2016

And there it is again, another Spring

Late March

Again the trees remembered
to make leaves.
In the forest of their recollection
many birds returned

They sang, they sang
because they forgave themselves
the winter, and all that remained
still bitter.

Yet it was early spring,
when the days were touch and go,
and a late snow could nip a shoot,
or freeze a fledgling in its nest.

And where would we be then?
But that’s not the point.

Do you think the magpie doesn’t know
that its chicks are at risk,
or the peach trees, their too-frail blossoms,
the new-awakened bees, all that is
incipient within us?

We know, but we can’t help ourselves
any more than they can,
any more than the earth can
stop hurtling through the night
of its own absence.

Must be something in the sap,
the blood, a force like gravity,
a trick called memory.
You name it. Or leave it nameless
that’s better—

how something returns
and keeps on returning
through a gap,
through a dimensional gate,
through a tear in the veil.

And there it is again.
Another spring.
To woo loss into song.

Richard Schiffman

Strange wonderful people

“now, I’m not saying that I’ve conquered
the world but I’ve avoided
numberless early traffic jams, bypassed some
common pitfalls
and have met some strange, wonderful

one of whom
myself—someone my father

An excerpt from “Throwing Away the Alarm Clock” by Charles Bukowski

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The opposite of this inattention is love

"I notice that I have to pay careful attention in order to listen to others with an openness that allows them to be as they are, or as they think themselves to be. The shutters of my mind habitually flip open and click shut, and these little snaps form into patterns I arrange for myself.

The opposite of this inattention is love, is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery."

Anne Truitt on Compassion, Humility, and How to Cure Our Chronic Self-Righteousness

Hello Darkness My Friend....

The patterns we impose on our friends

“I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader's mind.

No matter how many times we reopen 'King Lear,' never shall we find the good king banging his tankard in high revelry, all woes forgotten, at a jolly reunion with all three daughters and their lapdogs. Never will Emma rally, revived by the sympathetic salts in Flaubert's father's timely tear. Whatever evolution this or that popular character has gone through between the book covers, his fate is fixed in our minds, and, similarly, we expect our friends to follow this or that logical and conventional pattern we have fixed for them.

Thus X will never compose the immortal music that would clash with the second-rate symphonies he has accustomed us to. Y will never commit murder. Under no circumstances can Z ever betray us. We have it all arranged in our minds, and the less often we see a particular person, the more satisfying it is to check how obediently he conforms to our notion of him every time we hear of him.

Any deviation in the fates we have ordained would strike us as not only anomalous but unethical. We could prefer not to have known at all our neighbor, the retired hot-dog stand operator, if it turns out he has just produced the greatest book of poetry his age has seen.”

Vladimir Nabokov, “Lolita”

Your Return


For a Friend Lying in Intensive Care Waiting for Her White Blood Cells
to Rejuvenate After a Bone Marrow Transplant

The jonquils. They come back. They split the earth with
their green swords, bearing cups of light.

The forsythia comes back, spraying its thin whips with
blossom, one loud yellow shout.

The robins. They come back. They pull the sun on the
silver thread of their song.

The irises come back. They dance in the soft air in silken
gowns of midnight blue.

The lilacs come back. They trail their perfume like a scarf
of violet chiffon.

And the leaves come back, on every tree and bush, millions
and millions of small green hands applauding your return.

Barbara Crooker

I wonder

I wonder what people in my life think when I send them long, rambling letters. I write them when I am entirely out of sorts, but I write them when the cusp is full, too. I rarely get many replies, at least, not as much as I would like to have in return—another voice in the dark whispering back, so as to remind me I am not alone.

I wonder if I write letters because I am alone. I wonder if I write this—all of this—because I want to extend my hand in front of me, hoping the tips of my fingers will touch you all the way there. Because—well, whatever for, yes?

Spring Reign, Dean Young:


"Speed in work has compensations. Speed gets noticed. Speed is praised by others. Speed is self-important. Speed absolves us. Speed means we don't really belong to any particular thing or person we are visiting and thus appears to elevate us above the ground of our labors. When it becomes all-consuming, speed is the ultimate defense, the antidote to stopping and really looking. If we really saw what we were doing and who we had become, we feel we might not survive the stopping and the accompanying self-appraisal. So we don't stop, and the faster we go, the harder it becomes to stop. We keep moving on whenever any form of true commitment seems to surface.

Speed is also warning, a throbbing, insistent indicator that some cliff edge or other is very near, a sure diagnostic sign that we are living someone else's life and doing someone else's work. But speed saves us the pain of all that stopping; speed can be such a balm, a saving grace, a way we tell ourselves, in unconscious ways, that we are really not participating.

The great tragedy of speed as an answer to the complexities and responsibilities of existence is that very soon we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are. We see only those moving in the same whirling orbit and only those moving with the same urgency. Soon we begin to suffer a form of amnesia, caused by the blurred vision of velocity itself, where those germane to our humanity are dropped from our minds one by one. We start to lose sight of any colleagues who are moving at a slower pace, and we start to lose sight of the bigger, slower cycles that underlie our work. We especially lose sight of the big, unfolding wave form passing through our lives that is indicative of our central character.

On the personal side, as slaves to speed, we start to lose sight of family members, especially children, or those who are ill or infirm, who are not flying through the world as quickly and determinedly as we are. Just as seriously, we begin to leave behind the parts of our own selves that limp a little, the vulnerabilities that actually give us color and character. We forget that our sanity is dependent on a relationship with longer, more patient cycles extending beyond the urgencies and madness of the office."

David Whyte, 'Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity'

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Ship of Theseus & the Persistence of Identity

"Throughout our lives, we come to inhabit the seven layers of identity, often interpolating between them and constantly changing within each. And yet somehow, despite this ever-shifting seedbed of personhood, we manage to think of ourselves as concrete selves — our selves.

Hardly any perplexity of human existence is more fascinating than the continuity of personal identity — the question of what makes you and your childhood self the “same” person, despite a lifetime of change, from your cells to your values.

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert captured this paradox perfectly: “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.”

The Ship of Theseus: A Brilliant Ancient Thought Experiment Exploring What Makes You You

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Practising Dying

Learning from Trees

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.

Grace Butcher

From here.

Morning Poem

Listen. It’s morning. Soon I’ll see your hand reach
for my watch, the water will agitate in the kettle,
but listen. Traffic. I want your dreams first. And
to slide my leg beneath yours before the day opens.

Wait. We slept late. You’ll be moody, the phone
will ring, someone wanting something. Let me put
my hands in your hair. Who I was last night I would
be again. This is how the future holds me, how depression
wakes with us; my body shelters it. Let me
put my head on your breast. I know nothing lasts.

I would try to hold you back, not out of meanness
but fear. Oh my practical, my worldly-wise. You
know how the body falters, falls in on itself. Tell me
that we will never want from each other what we
cannot have. Lie. It’s morning.

Robin Becker

One Place to Begin

You need a reason, any reason—skiing, a job in movies,
the Golden Gate Bridge.
Take your reason and drive west, past the Rockies.
When you’re bored with bare hills, dry flats, and distance,
stop anywhere.

Forget where you thought you were going.
Rattle through the beer cans in the ditch.
If there’s a fence, try your luck—they don’t stop cows.
Follow the first hawk you see, and when the sagebrush
trips you, take a good look before you get up.

The desert gets by without government.

Crush juniper berries, breathe the smell, smear your face.
When you wonder why you’re here, yell as loud
as you can and don’t look behind.
Walk. Your feet are learning.

Admit you’re afraid of the dark.
Soak the warmth from scabrock, cheek to lichen.
The wind isn’t talking to you. Listen anyway.
Let the cries of coyotes light a fire in your heart.
Remember the terrible song of stars—you knew it once,
before you were born.

Tell a story about why the sun comes back.

Sit still until the itches give up, lizards ignore you,
a mule deer holds you in her eyes.
Explain yourself over and over. Forget it all
when a scrub jay shrieks.
Imagine sun, sky, and wind the same, over your
scattered white bones.

John Daniel


Song with no end

when Whitman wrote, "I sing the body electric"

I know what he
I know what he

to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.

we can't cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take

it will have known a victory just as
perfect as

Charles Bukowski

Monday, February 15, 2016

A river in the trees

Listening to the wind in the trees, especially during this beautiful leaf-falling season here, being amazed at hearing the sound of water up above - one of my favourite things.

The riverbed, dried-up, half-full of leaves.
Us, listening to a river in the trees.

Seamus Heaney, The Haw Lantern (Faber and Faber 1987)

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