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

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