Saturday, May 31, 2014

an undeniable love

Anna reading at Payne Hollow

An undeniable love for the river drew us away from town and down to the shore; the boat we built there was to carry us into a new existence. This regeneration gave a direction to our lives that Anna had never before contemplated; for me it was the fulfillment of old longings; yet we were both led on by a common desire to get down to earth and to express ourselves by creating a setting for our life together which would be in harmony with the landscape.

We catch fish for our own eating, get all our living as direct means as possible, that we may be self-sufficient and avoid contributing to the ruthless mechanical system that is destroying the earth. 

In this endeavor, no sacrifice is called for, no struggle or effort of will. Such a way is natural. Rather than hardship, it brings peace and inner rewards beyond measure.

Thus shantyboating has become, for us, a point of view, a way of looking at the world and at life. You take neither of them too seriously, nor do you try to understand their complexities. Who can? It is an obviously illogical philosophy, in which the individual is supreme. The claims made on him by his inner beliefs are above the demands of society. He is not without compassion, but his love is expended on those of his fellow men he is in contact with. With no schemes for universal betterment, he tends his own garden.

Is this selfish? No. The selfish man wants more than his share, a higher seat at the table than he is entitled to. One strong enough to stand by himself is not attracted by the prizes which the world offers. He has his own values, receives other rewards, for which there is no competition.

Instead of trying to make everyone alike, the state and society should encourage individualism. Individuals will never be too numerous; in fact, they are becoming harder to find. The river shantyboater has passed away, along with the old river; yet a few renegades will always be found, out in the brush somewhere, or on a forgotten bit of river shore, content with an environment the proud would scorn. The shantyboat strain is not likely to be cultivated out of existence, any more than the earth will ever be completely subdued.

~ Harlan Hubbard
excerpts from Payne Hollow: Life on the Fringe of Society

a shantyboat in winter - by Harlan Hubbard

Friday, May 30, 2014

to the next centuries

Is there autumn there, is there leaf smoke, is the air
blued and mapled, oaked and appled and wined,
is that tang, that ache for who knows?
gone from your sweaters and hair?
Are there trees even, do they break out
in uncontrollable cold fires,
do they shatter in long, unreal downstreamings,
is October the same without them, is our sadness
so river-and-wind swift, and so free, is it still
our sharpest seeing, if we have not learned from them
how to be taken apart, how to be blown away? 

Are clouds the same, are they still our clouds
if leaves have never seethed against them
on a tempestuous night, are they wild, is the moon the same
if it has never wildly sailed through wild clouds,
is there a Hunter’s Moon, a Blood Moon tinged
with the rust and incandescence of the leaves,
is there a moon at all, a hanging stone,
a white astonishment, the exile’s breath on a pane? 

There is sun, I am sure—has it grown more dangerous,
has its shine through thin ozone whited out your eyes,
does it drive dunes through your forests, has it warmed
the seas to exactly body temperature?
What is it like to have won and won and won,
no mile without its grid of roads,
no block unwired, no handswidth without wireless,
when every breeze has been rebreathed
each current steered, each cliff a mirror?
Is there no wild desire, no wild with all regret
because no animals are wild, because the hills
are leveled and the valleys raised
because there is no clear and endless sky? 

And what has endangered my imagination
that imagines you pale and bodiless and scanned,
not a shadow left in your floodlit brain,
your sleep hard in coming, dreams shallow and bright?
Why do I see you in a white room floating
among machines and drips and feeds
as if you were my dead, who went before me
on white boats launched into the future,
as if you were me, when I am tired,
as I am tired now, tired of the expertise
that says there is nothing new,
no thoughts or feelings not already words,
no words I have not said again and again,
thinking how long this trip has been, so near its end
that I will never again put down new roots,
change jobs, raise children, fall in love.
I can lighten my suitcase now, discarding my ticket,
since there is no return, the map of the city
I’ll never get back to, the little blue phrase book
for the language I’ll never speak again, the sweater,
the half-read novel, the comb, the end of this thought.... 

I know you will never hear the squeak of a mail box,
church bells (already quaint here), a van
graveling around a turn, a CD (surely gone).
I won’t ask (couldn't endure to know) are there birds there
still building the dawn. I know you can’t hear
the wind I’m hearing though there will be winds, the song
that’s blowing me away, though there will be song
after song. And you can’t hear this, though you, like me,
will lose what seems like everything and go on, cry
against your weariness with leaves and moon and wind,
or whatever passes then for moon and leaves and wind,
cry out against death and the dead world,
the dead world, and the death in you, until, like me,
you can stand again unborn, unused, unknown.

~ James Richardson
with thanks to the mark on the wall
photo by Christine de Grancy

Thursday, May 29, 2014

selective blindness

~ Margaret Heffernan

Sunday, May 25, 2014

on the wall at Chang's hermitage

It is Spring in the mountains.
I come alone seeking you.
The sound of chopping wood echoes
Between the silent peaks.
The streams are still icy.
There is snow on the trail.
At sunset I reach your grove
In the stony mountain pass.
You want nothing, although at night
You can see the aura of gold
And silver ore all around you.
You have learned to be gentle
As the mountain deer you have tamed.
The way back forgotten, hidden
Away, I become like you,
An empty boat, floating, adrift.

~  Tu Fu (712-770)
translation by Kenneth Rexroth

Thursday, May 22, 2014

the single face

The world is no more than the Beloved's single face;
In the desire of the One to know its own beauty, we exist.

Each place, each moment, sings its particular song of not-being and being.
Without reason, the clear glass equally mirrors wisdom and madness.

Those who claim knowledge are wrong; prayer just leads to trance;
Appearance and faith are mere lees in the Unknowing Wine.

Wherever the Footprint is found,
that handful of dust holds the oneness of worlds.

This earth, burnished by hearing the Name, is so certain of Love
That the sky bends unceasingly down, to greet its own light.

~ Ghalib
translated by Jane Hirshfield
from The Enlightened Heart,
An anthology of sacred poetry edited
by Stephen Mitchell
photo by eliot porter

Sunday, May 18, 2014

when I heard

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide
and measure them, 
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander' d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

~  Walt Whitman

silence II

Silence is not a lack of words. 
Silence is not a lack of music. 
Silence is not a lack of curses. 
Silence is not a lack of screams. 
Silence is not a lack of colors 
or voices or bodies or whistling wind. 
Silence is not a lack of anything. 

Silence is resting, nestling 
in every leaf of every tree, 
in every root and branch. 
Silence is the flower sprouting 
upon the branch. 

Silence is the mother singing 
to her newborn babe. 
Silence is the mother crying 
for her stillborn babe. 
Silence is the life of all 
these babes, whose breath 
is a breath of God. 

Silence is seeing and singing praises. 
Silence is the roar of ocean waves. 
Silence is the sandpiper dancing 
on the shore. 
Silence is the vastness of a whale. 
Silence is a blade of grass. 

Silence is sound 
And silence is silence. 
Silence is love, even 
the love that hides in hate. 

Silence is the pompous queen 
and the harlot and the pimp 
hugging his purse on a crowded street. 

Silence is the healer dreaming 
the plant, the drummer drumming 
the dream. It is the lover's 
exhausted fall into sleep. 
It is the call of morning birds. 

Silence is God's beat tapping all hearts. 

Silence is the star kissing a flower. 

Silence is a word, a hope, a candle 
lighting the window of home. 

Silence is everything --the renewing sleep 
of Earth, the purifying dream of Water, 
the purifying rage of Fire, the soaring 
and spiraling flight of Air. It is all 
things dissolved into no-thing--Silence 
is with you always.....the Presence 
of I AM 

~ Elaine Maria Upton

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

it is born

Here I came to the very edge 
where nothing at all needs saying,
everything is absorbed through weather and the sea,
and the moon swam back,
its rays all silvered,
and time and again the darkness would be broken
by the crash of a wave,
and every day on the balcony of the sea,
wings open, fire is born,
and everything is blue again like morning.

~ Pablo Neruda
from On the Blue Shores of Silence

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

the beauty and precision of this

When we are mired in the relative world, never lifting our gaze to the mystery, our life is stunted, incomplete; we are filled with yearning for that paradise that is lost when, as young children, we replace it with words and ideas and abstractions- such as merit, such as past, present, and future- our direct, spontaneous experience of the thing itself, in the beauty and precision of this present moment. 

~  Peter Matthiessen
from The Snow Leopard


It is not always joy
that is announced to you
in the mundane light.

Not always a wing
or a flood of new knowledge

delivering its atoms of change
to your body.
Sometimes it is

a wound delivered,
just as plainly as in those
paintings, her head tilted

up or down, in some angle
of understood responsibility.

No fanfare in the room
other than some structure inside
made flat

by what you have received,
the heart a putty-colored

folding chair knocked
to the ground.
And the room itself emptied,

this is part of the recognition.
The room a wound,
the light a wing on the floor,

the atoms of dust
in the shaft. And the quiet,
that is grief’s appetite.

~ Rick Barot
with thanks to Cerise Press
art by van gogh

Saturday, May 10, 2014

let it go

let it go - the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise - let it go it
was sworn to

let them go - the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers - you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go - the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things - let all go

so comes love

~ e.e. cummings
photo by ansel adams

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

without willing

Learn who it is within you who makes everything his own 
and says, “My God, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body.” 

Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate. 

Learn how it happens that one watches without willing, 
rests without willing, becomes angry without willing, 
loves without willing.

~ Hippolytus of Rome

Sunday, May 4, 2014

thirst and ... mirage

The appearance of water in a mirage persists after the fact that it is a mirage has dawned on us. 
So it is with the world. 

Though knowing it to be unreal, it continues to manifest - 
but we do not try to satisfy our thirst with the water of the mirage. 

As soon as one knows that it is a mirage, 
one gives it up as useless and does not run after it to get water. 

~ Ramana Maharshi

to give myself utterly

I want to give myself
as this maple
that burned and burned
for three days without stinting
and then in two more
dropped off every leaf;
as this lake that,
no matter what comes
to its green-blue depths,
both takes and returns it.

In the still heart that refuses nothing,
the world is twice-born—
two earths wheeling,
two heavens,
two egrets reaching
down into subtraction;
even the fish
for an instant doubled,
before it is gone.
I want the fish.

I want the losing it all
when it rains and I want
the returning transparence.
I want the place
by the edge-flowers where
the shallow sand is deceptive,
where whatever
steps in must plunge,
and I want that plunging.

I want the ones
who come in secret to drink
only in early darkness,
and I want the ones
who are swallowed.

I want the way
the water sees without eyes,
hears without ears,
shivers without will or fear
at the gentlest touch.

I want the way it
accepts the cold moonlight
and lets it pass,
the way it lets
all of it pass
without judgment or comment.

There is a lake,
Lalla Ded sang, no larger
than one seed of mustard,
that all things return to.
O heart, if you
will not, cannot, give me the lake,
then give me the song.

~ Jane Hirshfield
art by Georgia O'Keeffe

Saturday, May 3, 2014

wisdom of a storyteller

~ Elif Shafak

work song - part 2 a vision

If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it...
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
here, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides...
The river will run
clear, as we will never know it...
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields...
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its reality.

~ Wendell Berry
art by Andrew Wyeth

Thursday, May 1, 2014

the holy longing

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent 
for the massman will mock it right away. 
I praise what is truly alive, 
what longs to be burned to death.

In the calm waters of the love-nights 
where you were begotten, where you have begotten, 
a strange feeling comes over you 
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught 
in this obsession with darkness, 
and a desire for higher love-making 
sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter, 
now, arriving in magic, flying, 
and, finally, insane for the light, 
you are the butterfly and you are the light.

And so long as you haven’t experienced 
this: to die and so to grow, 
you are only a troubled guest 
on the dark earth. 

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
translation by Robert Bly

do not be ashamed

You will be walking some night
in the comfortable dark of your yard
And suddenly a great light will shine
round about you, and behind you
will be a wall you never saw before.
It will be clear to you suddenly
that you were about to escape,
And that you are guilty: you misread
The complex instructions, you are not
a member, you lost your card
or never had one. And you will know
that they have been there all along,
Their eyes on your letters and books,
their hands in your pockets,
their ears wired to your bed.
Though you have done nothing shameful.
They will want you to be ashamed.
They will want you to kneel and weep
and say you should have been like them.
And once you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
Then such light as you have made
In your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you,
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.
They will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach. Be ready.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
“I am not ashamed.” A sure horizon
will come around you. The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.

~ Wendell Berry
from Antiques and Collectibles