Saturday, September 11, 2010

Youth of Grass

Yesterday in the hushed white sunlight 
down along the meadows by the river
through all the bright hours they cut the first hay
of this year to leave it tossed in long rows
leading into the twilight and long evening
while thunderheads grumbled from the horizon
and now the whole valley and the slopes around it 
that look down to the sky in the river
are fragrant with hay as this night comes in
and the owl cries across the new spaces
to the mice suddenly missing their sky
and so the youth of this spring all at once is over 
it has come upon us again taking us
once more by surprise just as we began
to believe that those fields would always be green
~ W.S. Merwin


Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Long before daybreak
none of the birds yet awake
rain comes down with the sound
of a huge wind rushing
through the valley trees
it comes down around us
all at the same time
and beyond it there is nothing
it falls without hearing itself
without knowing
there is anyone here 
without seeing where it is
or where it is going
like a moment of great
happiness in our own
that we cannot remember
coasting with the lights off
~ W.S. Merwin
from "The Shadow of Sirius"
art by Bertha Lum

thought is no longer of worth to me

Thought is no longer of worth to me,
Nor work, nor speech.
Love draws me so high
(Thought is no longer of worth to me)
With her divine gaze,
That I have no intent.
Thought is no longer of worth to me.
Nor work, nor speech.

~ Marguerite Porete

Her book, The Mirror of Simple Souls (or The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls, a reference to ecstatic annihilation in God), survived her death and was translated into many European languages, attributed initially to "an unknown French mystic." The book is a collection of poetry and prose that suggests a profound experience of mystical union which resulted in a complete loss of personal identity in which only the Divine remains.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The earth is hushed

The bright moon lights the path
through the gray woods
From the unlit depths of the hollow comes
the soft sound of broken water
A faint brightness, or is it a low cloud
within the eastern sky
The earth is hushed
~ Harlan Hubbard


a deeper silence

No writing on the solitary, meditative dimensions of life can say anything 
that has not already been said better by the wind in the pine trees. 
These pages seek nothing more than to echo the silence and peace 
that is “heard” when the rain wanders freely among the hills and forests.
But what can the wind say when there is no hearer?
 There is then a deeper silence:
 the silence in which the Hearer is No-Hearer. 
That deeper silence must be heard before one can speak truly of solitude.

~ Thomas Merton
In a frontispiece poem to The Solitary Life, Merton wrote:
Follow my ways and I will lead you
To golden-haired suns,
Logos and music, blameless joys,
Innocent of questions
And beyond answers.
For I, Solitude, am thine own Self:
I, Nothingness, am thy All.
I, Silence, am thy Amen.

Friday, September 3, 2010

I see through my pictures

Harlan's studio at Payne Hollow

When I am painting, or have painting in my mind, 
I see more, observe more carefully, am more sensitive... 
I see through my pictures.

I see everything as a painting. I see so much more.

Seeing things as a painter, seeing pictures.  
This is a great happiness.

It brings everything into balance and harmony.

Painting can only be done in some state of exaltation.  
It is a force that breaks through the routine of life, 
that transcends life itself.

It is exciting with boundless possibilities.

I am always painting in my mind.

Just a little solid, creative painting and the day is good.  
It brings us closer to the earth, 
makes the present moment exhilarating, 
the future hopeful.

It is a strange life when I consider it, 
how I endeavor to attain strength and clarity, 
to mold these base materials into forms which will express me, 
and my attitude, my joy and thankfulness.  
I work alone, 
who cares whether I produce anything or not, 
or who appreciates it?  
Yet I believe a good thing will not perish.

~ Harlan Hubbard
from "Harlan Hubbard and the River - A Visionary Life"
by Don Wallis

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Expands his being

All  beings
are words of God,
His music, His

Sacred books we are, for the infinite camps
in our

Every act reveals God and expands His Being.
I know that may be hard
to comprehend.

All creatures are doing their best 
to help God in His birth
of Himself.

Enough talk for the night
He is laboring in me;

I need to be silent 
for a while,

worlds are forming
in my heart.

~ Meister Eckhart

their graciousness is an invitation

 a bell is placed across the river for visitors to ring, 
their graciousness is an invitation
"There is a fascination about the distant tones of the bell sounding across the river.  
Who is there, with what news?  
Is it a dear friend long unseen, 
or a stranger whose coming will change the course of our lives?"
~ Harlan Hubbard

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

fantasies fade only in stillness

I chose high cliffs far from town
the sound of tall grass a half-open gate
where's an old pauper who isn't deferential
or a rich man who isn't vain
emergency loans don't come without strings
fantasies fade only in stillness
clouds too say mountains are better
returning at night they ease the solitude
Who enters this gate and studies this teaching
has to be thorough and push to the end
empty the body and reason remains
forget the mind and the world disappears
cloud-covered trees form a landscape of white
swallowing the sun the mountain turns red
the flag moves or is it the wind
it isn't the wind or the flag
A friend of seclusion arrives at my gate 
we greet and pardon our lack of decorum
a white mane gathered in back
a monk's robe worn untied
embers of leaves at the end of the night
howl of a gibbon announcing the dawn
sitting on cushion wrapped in quilts
words forgotten finally we meet
~ Stonehouse
from "The Zen Works of Stonehouse"
Poems and Talks of a 14th Century Chinese Hermit
translated by Red Pine

that secret from the river


"Have you also learned that secret from the river; 
that there is no such thing as time?"

That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at
the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the
ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only
exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the

~ Herman Hesse
from "Siddhartha"

I will be watered to my roots

A pale sun burning through the mist, 
the soft clouds barely visible in the gray, blue sky... 
Looking up the river I saw a bolt of lightning, 
an arrow from the sky that pierced the earth.

A soft rain comes down from the gray sky, 
and sullen thunder rolls into the distance.  
My spirit drinks in the rain like the plants do.  
I will be watered to my roots.

It is suddenly full summer.  
We look out from leafy trees.

The fragrance of wild grape and honeysuckle 
flowers drifts through the air.  
You enter and leave currents of it as you go along the paths.

In the leafy woods there is such contrast to the sunlight
 that the shade is like twilight, 
like going down into a deep ravine.  
The pale green of the jewel weed is ghostly... 
Then to hear the thrush singing on the hill above...

I think I saw the first green heron.  

~ Harlan Hubbard 
from his journals, taken here from
"Harlan Hubbard and the River - A Visionary Life"
by Don Wallis

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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

Michelangelo spoke of his work as releasing 
"Prisoners in Stone"

and we too, 
captured in invisible "stone"
wait for our Michelangelo to free us.  

Friday, August 27, 2010

can you find your true identity?

How arbitrary, the ways in which we identify ourselves.
This fan chart used in genealogy helps demonstrate this fact.
10 generations here, taking us back only to the mid-1600's, 
and in that 10th generation, 512 equal contributors to 
my genetic inheritance.  I derive my identity, and even think of myself
as being related to maybe 2 of those.
That's about 2 tenths of one percent of the total genetic influence.
511 other surnames that could equally well apply.
How seriously we sometimes take ourselves.

Prayers for the Earth

For once on the face of the earth let's not speak in any language
Let's stop for one second and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines.
We would all be together in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm whales
...And the man gathering salt would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire,
Victory with no survivors
Would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused with total inactivity,
Life is what it is about.
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single minded about keeping our lives moving,
And for once could do nothing,
Perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves
And of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive.
~ Pablo Neruda