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Archive for November, 2007

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IF YOU KNEW

What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line’s crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say,Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.

A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked a half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?

– ELLEN BASS –

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For Kathleen…

SONNETS TO ORPHEUS, PART ONE, IV

You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.
Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins behind you.

Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:
You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.

– RAINER MARIA RILKE –
trans. Joanna Macy

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Today is beautiful–sunny…warm in the sun. At the same time, winter is at our back. Ice along 218.

This morning, I sit with the fear of dying…a friend–Stage IV Cancer–facing the ultimate that we all face and deny. She lives with winter at her back. She lives with the search for purpose and authentic expression. Suddenly, her tolerance snaps–her tolerance for rigid structure; her tolerance for the medical profession; her tolerance for being poked, prodded, needled, scanned; her tolerance for family members who cling to routine interaction, habits of conversation…that life-long tolerance; the teeth gritting tolerance just snapped…and everything gave way.

Is it the fear of dying? Or is it the fear of continuing to live a tolerant life–or the fear of just tolerating, enduring, putting up with another day of life? Her unraveling was beautiful, powerful, real…courageous.

I WAS AFRAID OF DYING

Once,
I was afraid of dying
In a field of dry weeds.
But now,
All day long I have been walking among damp fields,
Trying to keep still, listening
To insects that move patiently.
Perhaps they are sampling the fresh dew that gathers slowly
In empty snail shells
And in the secret shelters of sparrow feather fallen on the
earth.

– JAMES WRIGHT –

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LATE NOVEMBER IN A FIELD

Today I am walking alone in a bare place.
And winter is here
Two squirrels near a fence post
Are helping each other drag a branch
Toward a hiding place; it must be somewhere
Behind those ash trees
They are still alive, they ought to save acorns
Against the cold
Frail paws rifle the troughs between cornstalks when the moon
Is looking away.
The earth is hard now,
The soles of my shoes need repairs.
I have nothing to ask a blessing for,
Except these words
I wish they were
Grass

– JAMES WRIGHT –

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Home again. The sound of winter rain…the delight of easy and available wireless.

Our motel in Charleston promised wireless in the rooms. This was a bit of a stretch. I think maybe the two rooms closest to the lobby (which closed at 10 pm) had a weak signal. Last night, on the road, I sat on the floor in the hall where there was a fantastic signal. The manager gave me a $10.00 discount for the inconvenience. The wireless didn’t work in their lobby where I might have been able to find an outlet for my failing battery. So, here I am, catching up.

Before we left Charleston, we stopped to see this 1400 year old oak tree. It is 65 feet tall, has a 25 foot girth and 89 foot branches. It is thought to be the oldest living being east of the Mississippi. It is known as the “Angel Oak.” Words cannot express the scale and felt sense of this tree…grounded, rooted, present, wise, peaceful, protective, embracing, nourishing, simple, touching…

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On Saturday, my brother-in-law was married in this beautiful chapel in Charleston. An intimate ceremony; a lovely reception at Magnolia’s Restaurant.

At the reception, my husband videotaped the guests…he posed this question: “What advice do you have for the bride and groom?” The recently marrieds answered something like this: “Remember to have a date night” and “Enjoy every moment.” The long-time marrieds’ answers were along this line: “Learn to count to one hundred.” or “Realize that you can’t change anyone.” and “Patience is important.”

As a fifteen-year veteran the first time around and seventeen years and counting this time around, I would say:

“Devotion, gratitude and generosity. Take a mental snapshop of how you feel right now and come back to it often. Understand–everything will eventually turn into its opposite…closeness is not a permanent entitlement; relationships have a pulsation: you will love being close, you will also need space. Do not mistake distance, defensiveness¬†or withdrawal for space.

Remember to continue under all circumstances; do not take things personally–it’s rarely about you. No matter what, it all comes back to love–dismantle your walls and learn to get unstuck as quickly, gracefully and without blame. Learn to soothe your own feelings and do not expect to ‘get your needs met.’ Listen, listen, listen with the ears of your heart. Make having a good time a high priority!”

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Day three in Charleston. Here with fragments of family for a wedding. It seems increasingly difficult to gather parents, siblings, children and grandchildren in one place these days. Somehow this didn’t seem true in my childhood. Families had one car; one phone–black and metal with a rotary dial and weddings were simple affairs.

Charleston is picturesque and chilly! When we left the Hudson Valley, I decided at the last minute to leave my winter coat behind–big mistake. More about the wedding tomorrow.

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