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Archive for November, 2009

I love Thanksgiving! The smells, the food, the company, the intent to acknowledge our bountiful, abundant harvest each year and to experience and express gratitude. For me, the day begins with offering meditation practice to anyone in our community who is moved to participate. We gather at 8 am. for walking meditation, followed by sitting meditation, followed by sharing what we are grateful for and then closing in silence, dedicating the fruits of our practice to benefit all beings and the earth.

This year the day was extraordinary–shirtsleeve weather in the Hudson Valley; sunny and bright. Our menu included the usual Thanksgiving fare–turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. Then add to that a caramelized onion and polenta tart, sweet potato gratin with chili spiced pecans, roasted Brussels sprouts with cranberry brown butter, butternut squash, creamed onions and turnips and eggplant parmesan. And top it all off with a few more homemade pies–chocolate pecan and pear,  banana, apple with dried cranberries–courtesy of Chef Grace, pictured below–who also prepared the tart and the sweet potato gratin.

All this food required 18 hungry people…almost our whole family. I love the slow dance of preparation…gathering recipes and making lists,  polishing the silver, setting the tables and working with my husband in the kitchen. As my Dad pointed out long ago, we are a great team–we have a lovely rhythm of chopping, sauteing, serving and cleaning.

As ever, my gratitude is boundless…for my life, my health, my family, for work I love, friends who nourish my soul, for this beautiful Hudson Valley where I live, for a life practice of yoga and meditation that sustains me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

TO SAY NOTHING BUT THANK YOU

All day I try to say nothing but thank you,
breathe the syllables in and out with every step I
take through the rooms of my house and outside into
a profusion of shaggy-headed dandelions in the garden
where the tulips’ black stamens shake in their crimson cups.
I am saying thank you, yes, to this burgeoning spring

and to the cold wind of its changes. Gratitude comes easy
after a hot shower, when my loosened muscles work,
when eyes and mind begin to clear and even unruly
hair combs into place.
Dialogue with the invisible can go on every minute,

and with surprising gaiety I am saying thank you as I
remember who I am, a woman learning to praise
something as small as dandelion petals floating on the
steaming surface of this bowl of vegetable soup,
my happy, savoring tongue.

– JEANNE LOHMANN –

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THE FUTURE

For God’s sake, be done
with this jabber of “a better world.”
What blasphemy! No “futuristic”
twit or child thereof ever
in embodied light will see
a better world than this, though they
foretell inevitably a worse.
Do something! Go cut the weeds
beside the oblivious road. Pick up
the cans and bottles, old tires,
and dead predictions. No future
can be stuffed into this presence
except by being dead. The day is
clear and bright, and overhead
the sun not yet half finished
with his daily praise.

– WENDELL BERRY –

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HARVEST

It’s autumn in the market—
not wise anymore to buy tomatoes.
They’re beautiful still on the outside,
some perfectly round and red, the rare varieties
misshapen, individual, like human brains covered in red oilcloth—

Inside, they’re gone. Black, moldy—
you can’t take a bite without anxiety.
Here and there, among the tainted ones, a fruit
still perfect, picked before decay set in.

Instead of tomatoes, crops nobody really wants.
Pumpkins, a lot of pumpkins.
Gourds, ropes of dried chilies, braids of garlic.
The artisans weave dead flowers into wreaths;
they tie bits of colored yarn around dried lavender.
And people go on for a while buying these things
as though they thought the farmers would see to it
that things went back to normal:
the vines would go back to bearing new peas;
the first small lettuces, so fragile, so delicate, would begin
to poke out of the dirt.

Instead, it gets dark early.
And the rains get heavier; they carry
the weight of dead leaves.

At dusk, now, an atmosphere of threat, of foreboding.
And people feel this themselves; they give a name to the season,
harvest, to put a better face on these things.

The gourds are rotting on the ground, the sweet blue grapes are finished.
A few roots, maybe, but the ground’s so hard the farmers think
it isn’t worth the effort to dig them out. For what?
To stand in the marketplace under a thin umbrella, in the rain, in the cold,
no customers anymore?

And then the frost comes; there’s no more question of harvest.
The snow begins; the pretense of life ends.
The earth is white now; the fields shine when the moon rises.

I sit at the bedroom window, watching the snow fall.
The earth is like a mirror:
calm meeting calm, detachment meeting detachment.

What lives, lives underground.
What dies, dies without struggle.

– LOUISE GLUCK –

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John O’Donohue was a much loved Irish poet and philosopher who died last year–much too soon–at 52 years of age. As the poet, David Whyte, put it, John was a love-letter to humanity from some address in the firmament we have yet to find and locate, though we may wander many a year looking or listening for it. He has gone home to that original address and cannot be spoken with except in the quiet cradle of the imagination that he dared to visit so often himself. I’ve just begun to read his work and love the idea that “the question holds the lantern.”

THE QUESTION HOLDS THE LANTERN

Humans have an uncanny ability to domesticate everything they touch. Eventually, even the strangest things become absorbed into the routine of the daily mind with its steady geographies of endurance, anxiety and contentment. Only seldom does the haze lift, and we glimpse for a second, the amazing plenitude of being here. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is suffering or threat that awakens us. It could happen that one evening, you are busy with many things, netted into your role and the phone rings. Someone you love is suddenly in the grip of an illness that could end their life within hours. It only takes a few seconds to receive that news. Yet, when you put the phone down, you are already standing in a different world. All you know has just been rendered unsure and dangerous. You realise that the ground has turned into quicksand. Now it seems to you that even mountains are suspended on strings.

If you could imagine the most incredible story ever, it would be less incredible than the story of being here. And the ironic thing is that story is not a story, it is true. It takes us so long to see where we are. It takes us even longer to see who we are. This is why the greatest gift you could ever dream is a gift that you can only receive from one person. And that person is you yourself. Therefore, the most subversive invitation you could ever accept is the invitation to awaken to who you are and where you have landed. Plato said in The Symposium that one of the greatest privileges of a human life is to become midwife to the birth of the soul in another. When your soul awakens, you begin to truly inherit your life. You leave the kingdom of fake surfaces, repetitive talk and weary roles and slip deeper into the true adventure of who you are and who you are called to become. The greatest friend of the soul is the unknown. Yet we are afraid of the unknown because it lies outside our vision and our control. We avoid it or quell it by filtering it through our protective barriers of domestication and control. The normal way never leads home.

Once you start to awaken, no one can ever claim you again for the old patterns. Now you realise how precious your time here is. You are no longer willing to squander your essence on undertakings that do not nourish your true self; your patience grows thin with tired talk and dead language. You see through the rosters of expectation which promise you safety and the confirmation of your outer identity. Now you are impatient for growth, willing to put yourself in the way of change. You want your work to become an expression of your gift. You want your relationship to voyage beyond the pallid frontiers to where the danger of transformation dwells. You want your God to be wild and to call you to where your destiny awaits.

You have come out of Plato’s Cave of Images into the sunlight and the mystery of colour and imagination. When you begin to sense that your imagination is the place where you are most divine, you feel called to clean out of your mind all the worn and shabby furniture of thought. You wish to refurbish yourself with living thought so that you can begin to see. As Meister Eckhart says: Thoughts are our inner senses. When the inner senses are dull and blurred, you can see nothing in or of yourself; you become a respectable prisoner of received images. Now you realise that ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’ and you undertake the difficult but beautiful path to freedom. On this journey, you begin to see how the sides of your heart that seemed awkward, contradictory and uneven are the places where the treasure lies hidden. You begin to become true to yourself. And as Shakespeare says in Hamlet: To thine own self be true, then as surely as night follows day, thou canst to no man be false.

The journey shows you that from this inner dedication you can reconstruct your own values and action. You develop from your own self-compassion a great compassion for others. You are no longer caught in the false game of judgement, comparison and assumption. More naked now than ever, you begin to feel truly alive. You begin to trust the music of your own soul; you have inherited treasure that no one will ever be able to take from you. At the deepest level, this adventure of growth is in fact a transfigurative conversation with your own death. And when the time comes for you to leave, the view from your death bed will show a life of growth that gladdens the heart and takes away all fear.

– JOHN O’DONOHUE –

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INITIATION, II

At the crossroads, hens scratched circles
into the white dust. There was a shop
where I bought coffee and eggs, coarse-grained
chocolate almost too sweet to eat.
When I walked up the road, the string sack
heavy on my arm, I thought
that my legs could take me anywhere,
into any country, any life.
The air, dazzling as sand, grew dense
with light: bougainvillea spilled
over the salmon walls, the road
veered into the ravine. The world
could be those colors, the mangoes,
the melons, the avocado evenings
releasing their circles of moon.
I climbed the pink stairs, entered
the house as calm and ephemeral
as my own certainty:
this is my house, my key,
my hand with its new lines.
I am as old as I will ever be.

– NINA BOGIN –

I am as old as I will ever be…this is my house, my key, my hand with it’s new lines…I love this poem! The sense of light and color and memory, smell, taste. The calm and ephemeral certainty; the legs that can travel into any life, anywhere. The dazzling and the sense of age, wisdom and the present moment. Ahhhh.

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THE HUNKERING

In October the red leaves going brown heap and
scatter
over hayfield and dirt road, over garden and circular
driveway,

and rise in a curl of wind disheveled as
schoolchildren
at recess, school just starting and summer done,
winter’s

white quiet beginning in ice on the windshield, in
hard frost
that only blue asters survive, and in the long houses
that once

more tighten themselves for darkness and
hunker down.

– DONALD HALL –

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STANDING DEER

As the house of a person
in age sometimes grows cluttered
with what is
too loved or too heavy to part with,
the heart may grow cluttered.
And still the house will be emptied,
and still the heart.

As the thoughts of a person
in age sometimes grow sparer,
like a great cleanness come into a room,
the soul may grow sparer;
one sparrow song carves it completely.
And still the room is full,
and still the heart.

Empty and filled,
like the curling half-light of morning,
in which everything is still possible and so why not.

Filled and empty,
like the curling half-light of evening,
in which everything now is finished and so why not.

Beloved, what can be, what was,
will be taken from us.
I have disappointed.
I am sorry. I knew no better.

A root seeks water.
Tenderness only breaks open the earth.
This morning, out the window,
the deer stood like a blessing, then vanished.

– JANE HIRSHFIELD –

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