Monday, December 31, 2012

To Marvel At

Be like the wing on the way to the party
that can lift yourself and others.

Expectations, let them serve you, until the
present is always enough to marvel at. 

Photo:  Peter Bowers 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

...the future unknown...


The calendar all booked up, the future unknown.
The cable silently hums some folk song
but lacks a country.  Snow falls in the gray sea.  Shadows
fight out on the dock. 


Halfway through your life, death turns up
and takes your pertinent measurements.  We forget
the visit.  Life goes on.  But someone is sewing 
the suit in silence.  

Tomas Transtromer
translation:  Robert Bly 
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Friday, December 28, 2012

I happened to be standing

I don't know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it 
crosses the street?
The sunflowers?  The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance.  A condition I can't really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that's their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open, 
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm, 
I don't know why.  And yet, why not.
I wouldn't persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don't .  That's your business.
But I thought, of the wren's singing, what could this be
if it isn't a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.  

Mary Oliver

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

For Freedom

As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of ground,
Opening the imagination of wings
Into the grace of emptiness
To fulfill new voyagings,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.

As the ocean absolves itself
Of the expectation of land,
Approaching only
In the form of waves
That fill and pleat and fall
With such gradual elegance
As to make of the limit
A sonorous threshold
Whose music echoes back along
The give and strain of memory,
Thus may your heart know the patience
That can draw infinity from limitation.

As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The tight solitude of a seed, 
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And to give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart. 

John O'Donohue
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Monday, December 24, 2012

On Christmas Eve

I salute you.  I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.
There is nothing I can give you which you have not.
But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take heaven !

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.
Take peace !
The gloom of the world is but a shadow.
Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
There is a radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.
And to see, we have only to look.
I beseech you to look !

Life is so generous a giver.
But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as
ugly or heavy or hard.
Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor,
woven of love by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me,
that angel's hand is there.
The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence.
Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys.
They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage then to claim it; that is all!
But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together,
wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings,
but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and
forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.

Fra Giovanni
(1435 - 1515)
letter written to Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve 1513

Millennium Blessing

There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

It does not come in time,
but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

It is insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

We know we must pass
beyond knowing
and fear the shedding.

But we are pulled upward
through forgotten ghosts
and unexpected angels,

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.

Stephen Levine
Photo:  Peter Bowers

For Absence

May you know that absence is alive with hidden
presence, that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.

May the absences in your life grow full of eternal 

May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere
where the presences that have left you dwell.

May you be generous in your embrace of loss.

May the sore well of grief turn into a seamless flow
of presence.

May your compassion reach out to the ones we never 
hear from.

May you have the courage to speak for the excluded

May you become the gracious and passionate subject
of your own life.

May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle
words or false belonging.  

May you be embraced by God in whom dawn and
twilight are one. 

May your longing inhabit its dreams within the 
Great Belonging.

John O'Donohue 
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Message From Space

Everything that happens is the message:
you read an event and be one and wait,
like breasting a wave, all the while knowing
by living, though not knowing how to live.

Or workers built an antenna - a dish
aimed at stars - and they themselves are its message, 
crawling in and out, being worlds that loom, 
dot-dash, and sirens, and sustaining beams.

And sometimes no one is calling but we turn up
eye and ear - suddenly we fall into
sound before it begins, the breathing
so still it waits there under the breath - 

And then the green of leaves calls out, hills
where they wait or turn, clouds in their frenzied
stillness unfolding their careful words:
"Everything counts.  The message is the world."

William Stafford
Photo:  Peter Bowers 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Task

It is a simple garment, this slipped-on world.
We wake into it daily - open eyes, braid hair - 
a robe unfurled
in rose-silk flowering, then laid bare.

And yes, it is a simple enough task
we've taken on,
though also vast; 
from dusk to dawn,

from dawn to dusk, to praise, and not
be blinded by the praising.
To lie like a cat in hot
sun, fur fully blazing,

and dream the mouse;
and to keep too the mouse's patient, waking watch
within the deep rooms of the house,
where the leaf-flocked

sunlight never reaches, but the earth still blooms. 

Jane Hirshfield

Saturday, December 8, 2012

So Much Happiness

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against, 
A wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up, 
Something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn't need to hold you down. 
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
And disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
And now live over a quarry of noise and dust
Cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
It too could wake up filled with possibilities
Of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
And love even the floor which needs to be swept,
The soiled linens and scratched records...

Since there is no place large enough
To contain so much happiness,
You shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
Into everything you touch.  You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
For the moon, but continue to hold it, and to share it,
And in that way, be known.

Naomi Shihab Nye
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Friday, December 7, 2012

Half Life

We walk through half our life
as if it were a fever dream

barely touching the ground

our eyes half open
our heart half closed.

Not half knowing who we are
we watch the ghost of us drift
from room to room
through friends and lovers
never quite as real as advertised.

Not saying half we mean
or meaning half we say
we dream ourselves
from birth to birth
seeking some true self.

Until the fever breaks
and the heart can not abide
a moment longer
as the rest of us awakens,
summoned from the dream,
not half caring for anything but love. 

Stephen Levine
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Two Loves

I have two Loves.
One is Immanence,
The other, Transcendence.

Loving each more than words can say,
I fear I cannot Live
Without either of them,
Even as one slowly...slips...away.

Growing older, I'm as a man on a train,
My Love on the platform, gazing wistfully.
Our certain parting,
Making Her more Beautiful than I can bear.

For some time now, I've seen Her everywhere,
Breathed Her, Heard Her voice in every sound,
Felt Her beneath my feet as I walk,
And Her warmth as sunlight upon my face.

This Knowing, that I'll not long be with Her,
A Poignancy, near unbearable,
Rather than diminishing our time, Enriches

As Life lurches forward, I hold Her closely.
But Vanishing Time, ever more so,
Allows only our Hearts to touch.
All that has ever...really...mattered.

I see Her still, our touch endures,
For how long, I do not know.
Her Perfume still surrounds me,
For how long, I do not know.

And yet...even as I leave one Love,
Arriving at another, in a time not known,
There is no place, within or without,
Where one ends...and the other begins.

No place where She ends,
and She begins.
No place where I end,
And I begin.

I leave, without moving,
From my Love,
To my Love,
As my Love.

Beloved Immanence,
Appearing within, 
And as,
My Beloved Transcendence. 

Photo:  Peter Bowers

Sunday, December 2, 2012

As Shams Was to Me... (or You Are a Lion ! )

A sheep who had just lost her lamb was in grief, and 
the fullness of milk throbbed heavy within.  And she
prayed the best she could, in her sheep soul, for help.

Soon after that, she came across a lion cub, all alone
and near dying.  Although the scent of him triggered
every warning to her, 

her grief was so great to have a beloved near, and one 
who could bring release of the building pressure in
her glands, that she lay down beside him.

And after a while, he began to suckle her, and they
and God smiled in unison.

Strong, the young cub became, and he was accepted
into the flock by most, always reflecting their traits.
He even developed a passable baa.

About a year went by, when then a real lion came upon
the herd, and saw one of his own eating grass and 
thinking it was a timid creature.

So the aged lion said to his kin, "Brother, what has
happened to you, acting like that?  You have completely
identified with something you are not.

Come down to the lake with me, we will look into
it together.  It will be our mirror.  You will see you
are just like me, a great and powerful king."

Yes, that is the role of the Teacher, as Shams was to
me - showing the one who they are, so they can stop
bleating, crying at the night, and never again be afraid.  

tranlation by Daniel Ladinsky