Monday, April 22, 2024

our separatedness and our grief


What gets you is the knowledge, and it sometimes can fall on you in a clap,
that the dead are gone absolutely from this world. As has been said around here
over and over again, you are not going to see them here anymore, ever.
Whatever was done or said before is done or said for good. Any questions
you think of that you ought to've asked while you had a chance are never
going to be answered. The dead know, and you don't.
And yet their absence puts them with you in a way they never were before.
You even maybe know them better than you did before. They stay with you,
and in a way you go with them. They don't live on in your heart, but your
 heart knows them. As your heart gets bigger on the inside, the world gets
bigger on the outside. If the dead had been alive only in this world, you
would forget them, looks like, as soon as they die. But you remember them, 
because they always were living in the other, bigger world while they lived 
in this little one, and this one and the other one are the same. You
can't see this with your eyes looking straight ahead. It's with your side vision, 
so to speak, that you see it. The longer I live, and the better acquainted
I am among the dead, the better I see it. I am telling what I know.

It's our separatedness and our grief that break the world in two.

~ Wendell Berry
from Stand by Me
art by Luke Marston
Coast Salish Artist

Sunday, April 21, 2024

what is loved


I said to God,

"What are you?"

"I am what is loved.  I am not what should be loved.
for how cruel that would then
be for my

~ Saint John of the Cross

how heaven pulls earth into its arms


Doctor, you say that there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and changes our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

~ Lisel Mueller
from Second Language
Monet Refuses the Operation
with thanks to Poetry Chaikhana
art by Monet

Monday, April 15, 2024

The Way doesn't rise or fall

The Way doesn't rise or fall
those who are blind look for an advantage
sages and wise men escape from this world
where counterfeit truth prevails
rein in your senses don't indulge them
be ever mindful and nothing else
lose your body beneath a patched robe
and say good-bye to a thousand rebirths
A life lasts one hundred years
but which of us gets them all
precarious as a teetering thatched hut
or a leaking boat in a storm
mediocre monks are pathetic
would-be masters are sadder still
the world's empty ways aren't what they were
some days I shut my old gate tight
Green mist red clouds a trail through bamboo
and a hut where quiet lasts
just let go and worries end
stop to think and the mind reappears
an unpolished mirror holds millions of shapes
a bell doesn't ring until it is rung
our original nature is the real buddha
nothing solid or empty nothing old or new
A monk in the wild sits quiet and relaxed 
he survives all year on what karma brings
bamboo and yellow flowers occupy his thoughts
white clouds and streams simplify his life
he doesn't mistake a rock for a tiger on a hill
or the image of a bow for a snake in a bowl
in the woods he knows nothing of the world's affairs
at sunset he watches the crows return
~ Stonehouse
from "The Zen Works of Stonehouse"
Book One: Mountain Poems
translated by Red Pine

wild elegance

Beauty invites us towards profound elegance of soul.
 It reminds us that we are heirs to elegance and nobility of spirit 
and encourages us to awaken the divinity within us.  
We are no longer trapped in mental frames of self-reduction or self-denunciation.

Instead, we feel the desire to celebrate, to give ourselves over 
to the dance of joy and delight.   The overwhelming beauty 
which is God pervades the texture of our soul, transforming all smallness, 
limitation and self-division.  The mystics speak of the excitement of such unity. 
 This is how Marguerite Porete describes it: 

 'Such a Soul, says Love swims in the sea of joy, that is in the sea of delights,
 flowing and running out of the Divinity.  And so she feels no joy,
 for she is joy itself.  She swims and flows in Joy...
 for she dwells in Joy and Joy dwells in her.'   

When we acknowledge the wild beauty of God, we begin to glimpse
 the potential holiness of our neglected wildness.  As humans,
 citizens and believers, we have become domesticated beyond belief.  
We have fallen out of rhythm with our natural wildness.  
What we now call 'being wild' is often misshapen, destructive and violent.
  The natural wildness as the fluency of the soul at one with beauty is foreign to us.  

The call of the wild is a call to the elemental levels of the soul,
 the places of intuition, kinship, swiftness, fluency and the consolation 
of the lonesome that is not lonely.  Our fear of our own wildness 
derives in part from our fear of the formless; but the wild is not the formless
 - it holds immense refinement and, indeed, clarity. 
 The wild has a profound simplicity that carries none of the false burdens 
of brokenness or self-conflict; it flows naturally as one,
 elegant and seamless.  

~ John O'Donohue
from The Invisible Embrace, Beauty

Friday, April 12, 2024

our eyes are turned backward

With all its eyes the natural world looks out
into the Open.  Only our eyes are turned
backward, and surround plant, animal, child
like traps, as they emerge into their freedom.
We know what is really out there only from 
the animal's gaze;  for we take the very young
child and force it around, so that it sees
objects - not the Open, which is so
deep in animals' faces.  Free from death.
We, only, can see death; the free animal
has its decline in back of it, forever,
and God in front, and when it moves, it moves
already in eternity, like a fountain.

Never, not for a single day, do we have
before us that pure space into which flowers
endlessly open.  Always there is World
and never Nowhere without the No: that pure
unseparated element which one breathes
without desire and endlessly knows.  A child
may wander there for hours, through the timeless
stillness, may get lost in it and be 
shaken back.  Or someone dies and is it.
For, nearing death, one doesn't see death; but stares
beyond, perhaps with an animal's vast gaze.
Lovers, if the beloved were not there
blocking the view, are close to it, and marvel...
As if by some mistake, it opens for them
behind each other... But neither can move past
the other, and it changes back to World.
Forever turned toward objects, we see in them
the mere reflection of the realm of freedom,
which we have dimmed.  Or when some animal
mutely, serenely, looks us through and through.
That is what fate means: to be opposite,
to be opposite and nothing else, forever.

If the animal moving toward us so securely
in a different direction had our kind of 
consciousness -, it would wrench us around and drag us
along its path.  But it feels its life as boundless,
unfathomable, and without regard
to its own condition: pure, like its outward gaze.
And where we see the future, it sees all time
and itself within all time, forever healed.

Yet in the alert, warm animal there lies
the pain and burden of an enormous sadness.
For it too feels the presence of what often 
overwhelms us: a memory, as if 
the element we keep pressing toward was once
more intimate, more true, and our communion
infinitely tender.  Here all is distance;
there it was breath.  After that first home,
the second seems ambiguous and drafty.

Oh bliss of the tiny creature which remains
forever inside the womb that was its shelter;
joy of the gnat which, still within, leaps up
even at its marriage: for everything is womb.
And look at the half-assurance of the bird,
which knows both inner and outer, from its source,
as if it were the soul of an Etruscan,
flown out of a dead man received inside a space,
but with his reclining image as the lid.
And how bewildered is any womb-born creature
that has to fly.  As if terrified and fleeing
from itself, it zigzags through the air, the way 
a crack runs through a teacup.  So the bat
quivers across the porcelain of evening.

And we: spectators, always, everywhere,
turned toward the world of objects, never outward.
It fills us.  We arrange it.  It breaks down.
We rearrange it, then break down ourselves.
Who has twisted us around like this , so that 
no matter what we do, we are in the posture
of someone going away?  Just as, upon
the farthest hill, which shows him his whole valley
one last time, he turns, stops, lingers -,
so we live here, forever taking leave.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
The Eighth Elegy 
from Duino Elegies
photo by shreve stockton

every cell

.Every creature has a religion. Every
foot is a shrine where
a secret candle
Every cell in us worships
Every arrow in the bow of desire
has rushed out in hope
of nearing

~ St. Thomas Aquinas

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

the inner landscape of beauty


~ John O'Donohue

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

ten thousand flowers


Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu Men Hui-k’ai
from The Enlightened Heart:
 An Anthology of Sacred Poetry
 by Stephen Mitchell

the first peace


The first peace, which is the most important, 
is that which comes within the souls of people 
when they realize their relationship, their oneness
 with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize 
at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, 
and that its center is really everywhere, 
it is within each of us.

This grand show is eternal.
 It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; 
a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, 
eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents
 and islands, each in its turn, 
as the round earth rolls.

~ John Muir

self or non-self


  The biological identity of most organisms can’t be pried apart from the life
 of their microbial symbiotes. The word 'ecology’ has its roots in the Greek word oikos, meaning 'house’,
 'household’, or 'dwelling place’. Our bodies, like those of all other organisms, are dwelling places.

Life is nested biomes all the way down.

We can’t be defined on anatomical grounds because our bodies are shared with microbes,
 and consist of more microbial cells than our own - cows can’t eat grass,
 for example, but their microbial populations can, and cows’ bodies have evolved
 to house the microbes that sustain them.

Neither can we be defined developmentally, as the organism that proceeds from the fertilization
 of an animal egg, because we depend, like all mammals, on our symbiotic partners
 to direct parts of our development programs.

Nor is it possible to define us genetically, as bodies made up of cells that share an identical genome
 —many symbiotic microbial partners are inherited from our mothers alongside our own DNA,
 and at points in our evolution art history, microbial associates have permanently
 insinuated themselves into the cells of their hosts: our mitochondria have their own genome,
 as do plants’ chloroplasts, and at least 8 per cent of the human genome originated in viruses
 (we can even swap cells with other humans when we grow into 'chimeras’,
 formed when mothers and fetuses exchange cells or genetic material in utero).

Nor can our immune systems be taken as a measure of individuality, 
although our immune cells are often thought of as answering this question for us
 by distinguishing self from 'non-self’.

Immune systems are as concerned with managing our relationships with our resident microbes
 as fighting off external attackers, and appear to have evolved to enable colonization
 by microbes rather than prevent it. 

~ Merlin Sheldrake
from Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, 
Change Our Minds, And Shape Our Futures
 with thanks to love is a place


Sunday, March 31, 2024

when in doubt


When in doubt,
Wear faux leopard.

When in doubt,
Err on the side of generosity.

When in doubt,
Greet everyone as you would the Buddha.

When in doubt,
Collect blessings from those who own nothing.

When in doubt,
Absorb biographies to avoid life’s major mistakes.

When in doubt,
Make life’s major mistakes.

When in doubt,
Pay attention to the vendor shouting ‘Diooooos,’
Even when you find out he was only shouting, ‘Gaaaaas.’

When in doubt,
Carry a handkerchief and a fan.

When in doubt,
Thank everyone. Twice.

When in doubt,
Heed the clouds.

When in doubt,
Sleep on it.

When in doubt,
Treat all sentient and insentient beings as kin.

When in doubt,
Forgive us our myopia
As we forgive those who are myopic against us.

When in doubt,
Unreel your grief to a tree.

When in doubt,
Remember this.
We are all on a

There is no start.
No finish.
Everyone wins.

~ Sandra Cisneros
from  Woman Without Shame


More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs—all this resinous, unretractable earth.

~ Jane Hirshfield 

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

languages we have yet to learn

Mycorrhizal fungi form partnerships with plant roots. 
These partnerships connect neighboring plants 
through extensive networks in the soil. 

Much like social networks or neural networks,
 the fungal mycelia of mycorrhizas allow signals 
to be sent between trees in a forest. 

These networks are effectively an information highway,
 with recent studies demonstrating the exchange of nutritional resources,
 defence signals and allelochemicals.

New research by computer scientist Andrew Adamatzky
 at the Unconventional Computing Laboratory of the University
 of the West of England, suggests this ancient kingdom
 has an electrical “language” all of its own – far more complicated 
than anyone previously thought. According to the study,
 fungi might even use “words” to form “sentences”
 to communicate with neighbours.

Despite lacking a nervous system, fungi seem to transmit
 information using electrical impulses across
 thread-like filaments called hyphae. 
The filaments form a thin web called a mycelium 
that links fungal colonies within the soil. These networks
 are remarkably similar to animal nervous systems.
 By measuring the frequency and intensity of the impulses, 
it may be possible to unpick and understand the languages
 used to communicate within and between organisms
 across the kingdoms of life.

~ Amanda Carroll

inhabit the situation you happen to be in now


Caretake this moment.
Immerse yourself in its particulars.
Respond to this person, 
this challenge, this deed.

Quit the evasions.
Stop giving yourself needless trouble.
It is time to really live; to fully inhabit 
the situation you happen to be in now.
You are not some disinterested bystander.
Exert yourself.

Respect your partnership with providence.
Ask yourself often, How may I
 perform this particular deed
such that it would be consistent with
 and acceptable to the divine will?
Heed the answer and get to work.

When your doors are shut 
and your room is dark you are not alone.
The will of nature is within you 
as your natural genius is within.
Listen to its importunings.
Follow its directives.

As concerns the art of living, 
the material is your own life.
No great thing is created suddenly.
There must be time.

Give your best and
 always be kind.

~ Epictetus