Friday, April 28, 2023

a broken open place

inside, still no moon.
but there is a broken
open place.
I am learning
to sing from there.

 Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

grateful to the last


Time is told by death, who doubts it? But time is always halved-for all we know,
it is halved-by the eye blink, the synapse, the immeasurable moment of the present.
Time is only the past and maybe the future; the present moment, dividing and connecting 
them, is eternal. The time of the past is there, somewhat, but only somewhat, to be
remembered and examined. We believe that the future is there too, for it keeps arriving,
though we know nothing about it. But try to stop the present for your patient scrutiny,
or to measure its length with your most advanced chronometer. It exists, so far as I can tell,
only as a leak in time, through which, if we are quiet enough, eternity falls upon us
and makes its claim. And here I am, an old man, traveling as a child among the dead.
We measure time by its deaths, yes, and by its births. For time is told also by life.
As some depart, others come. The hand opened in farewell remains open in welcome. 
I, who once had grandparents and parents, now have children and grandchildren. 
Like the flowing river that is yet always present, time that is always going is always
 coming. And time that is told by death and birth is held and redeemed by love, 
which is always present. Time, then, is told by love's losses, and by the coming
of love, and by love continuing in gratitude for what is lost. It is folded and enfolded
and unfolded forever and ever, the love by which the dead are alive and the unborn
welcomed into the womb. The great question for the old and the dying, I think,
is not if they have loved and been loved enough, but if they have been grateful 
enough for love received and given, however much. No one who has gratitude
 is the onliest one. Let us pray to be grateful to the last.
~ Wendell Berry
from Andy Catlett

Sunday, April 23, 2023

individual shoots were younger

The individual shoots were younger, but these new growths from the past few centuries
 were not considered to be stand-alone trees but part of a larger whole..
 The root is certainly a more decisive factor than what is growing above ground.
  After all, it is the root that looks after the survival of an organism. 
It is the root that has withstood severe changes in climatic conditions. 
And it is the root that has regrown trunks time and time again.
 It is in the roots that centuries of experience are stored, 
and it is this experience that has allowed the tree's survival
 to the present day.

~ Peter Wohllenben
from The Hidden Life of Trees

... down deep, at the molecular heart of life,
we’re essentially identical to trees.

~ Carl Sagan


a little perspective


~ Carl Sagan

Friday, April 21, 2023

my wilderness


I looked up with a wild duck's eye into the trees 
waving as the wind rushed through them... 
Suddenly I felt alone on earth, 
as I do when lying on the damp ground in spring
 to see the bloodroot raising its leaf sheath through the mold.  
These moments are not rare.  
I can summon them whenever I feel the need to retire into the wilderness.  
For this is my wilderness, 
untouched by man, 
of infinite grace and harmony.
~ Harlan Hubbard
from "Payne Hollow - Life on the fringe of Society"

unbind my eyes

Now I must break forth from my old self,
cast away old traditions,
unbind my eyes,
so that I may have a broader vision of truth;
so that I may come to this river, as I do today,
and not find it cluttered with emotions and thoughts of former days;
or its shore lined with drift of cities.
I must see the elements as they are...
~ Harlan Hubbard
from his journal, quoted here from
"Harlan Hubbard and the River - A Visionary Life"
by Don Wallis

in the midst of

My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, 
within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy.
 For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, 
within me, there’s something stronger – 
something better, pushing right back.

Truly yours,
Albert Camus

from Retour à Tipasa, 1952 
(Return to Tipasa, 1952)

Sunday, April 16, 2023



I asked for one kiss.  You gave me six.
Who was teacher is now student.
Things good and generous take form in me,
and the air is clear.

There is a strange frenzy in my head,
of birds flying,
each particle circulating on its own.

Is the one I love everywhere?

We take long trips.
We puzzle over the meaning of a painting or a book,
when what we are wanting to see and understand in this world,
we are that.
~ Rumi
from the big red book

different from any before it


This moment is different from any before it

This moment if different, it is now
And if I don't kiss you, that kiss is untasted
I'll never, no never, get it back
But why should I want to, I'll be in the next moment
Sweet moment, sweet lover, sweet now

The walls of this room are different from any before them, they are now
The air that you breathe is different from any before it, it is now

You may think that life is repeating, repeating
You may think that life is repeating, oh no ...

I just want to tell each one of you that
Each note hit is different from any before it
Each note hit is different, it is now.


~ Incredible String Band

Friday, April 14, 2023

the great blending

For intervals, then, throughout our lives
we savor a concurrence, the great blending
of our chance selves with what sustains
all chance. We ride the wave and are
the wave. And with renewed belief
inner and outer we find our talk
turned to prayer, our prayer into truth:
for an interval, early, we become at home in the world.

~ William Stafford

come with me


Come with me
To the quiet minute
Between two noisy minutes
It's always waiting to welcome us
Tucked away under the wing of the day
I'll be there
Where will you be?
 ~ Naomi Shihab Nye
from Everything Comes Next: 
Collected and New Poems

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

we should consider


 If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephants tail,
but if one wander the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider --
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give -- yes or no, or maybe --
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep. 
~ William Stafford
 from The Answers Are Inside the Mountains:
 Meditations on the Writing Life (Poets On Poetry)

Sunday, April 2, 2023

stripping off the bonds of individuality


The quietude and outer simplicity of the lichens hides the complexity of their inner lives.
 Lichens are amalgams of two creatures: a fungus and either an alga or a bacterium.
 The fungus spreads the strands of its body over the ground and provides a welcoming bed. 
The alga or bacterium nestles inside these strands and uses the sun’s energy
 to assemble sugar and other nutritious molecules. As in any marriage, both partners are changed
 by their union. The fungus body spreads out, turning itself into a structure similar to a tree leaf:
 a protective upper crust, a layer for the light-capturing algae, and tiny pores for breathing. 
The algal partner loses its cell wall, surrenders protection to the fungus,
 and gives up sexual activities in favor of faster but less genetically exciting self-cloning.
 Lichenous fungi can be grown in the lab without their partners, but these widows
 are malformed and sickly. Similarly, algae and bacteria from lichens can generally survive
 without their fungal partners, but only in a restricted range of habitats.
 By stripping off the bonds of individuality the lichens have produced a world-conquering union.
 They cover nearly ten percent of the land’s surface, especially in the treeless far north,
 where winter reigns for most of the year.

Like a farmer tending her apple trees and her field of corn, a lichen is a melding of lives.
 Once individuality dissolves, the scorecard of victors and victims makes little sense.
 Is corn oppressed? Does the farmer’s dependence on corn make her a victim?
 These questions are premised on a separation that does not exist.
 The heartbeat of humans and the flowering of domesticated plants are one life.
 “Alone” is not an option… Lichens add physical intimacy to this interdependence,
 fusing their bodies and intertwining the membranes of their cells, 
like cornstalks fused with the farmer, bound by evolution’s hand.

Blue or purple lichens contain blue-green bacteria, the cyanobacteria.
 Green lichens contain algae. Fungi mix in their own colors by secreting yellow or silver
 sunscreen pigments. Bacteria, algae, fungi: three venerable trunks of the tree of life
 twining their pigmented stems.

The algae’s verdure reflects an older union. Jewels of pigment deep inside algal cells
 soak up the sun’s energy. Through a cascade of chemistry this energy is transmuted into the bonds
 that join air molecules into sugar and other foods. This sugar powers both the algal cell
 and its fungal bedfellow. The sun-catching pigments are kept in tiny jewel boxes, 
chloroplasts, each of which is enclosed in a membrane and comes with its own genetic material.
 The bottle-green chloroplasts are descendants of bacteria that took up residence inside algal cells
 one and a half billion years ago. The bacterial tenants gave up their tough outer coats,
 their sexuality, and their independence, just as algal cells do when they unite with fungi to make lichens.
 Chloroplasts are not the only bacteria living inside other creatures.
 All plant, animal, and fungal cells are inhabited by torpedo-shaped mitochondria
 that function as miniature powerhouses, burning the cells’ food to release energy.
 These mitochondria were also once free-living bacteria and have, like the chloroplasts,
given up sex and freedom in favor of partnership.

We are Russian dolls, our lives made possible by other lives within us. 
But whereas dolls can be taken apart, our cellular and genetic helpers cannot be separated from us,
 nor we from them. We are lichens on a grand scale.
 ~ David George Haskell
from The Forest Unseen: 
A Year's Watch in Nature
photo by Jim McCulloch
 with thanks to the Marginalian