Saturday, July 31, 2010

First Happenings

A morning-glory morning with its usual glory, dawn particularly startling with citrons and mauves, petunias in the garden flashing their tender signals of gratitude. The sunflowers creak in their grass-colored dresses. Cosmos, the four o’clocks, the sweet alyssum nod to the roses who so very politely nod back.

And now it is time to go to work. At my desk I look out over the flutter petals, little fires. Each one fresh and almost but not quite replicable.

Consider wearing such a satisfying body! Consider being, with your entire self, such a quiet prayer!

Henry David Thoreau wrote: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Consider that we don’t. Instead imagine the phrase “We humans lead lives of quiet prayers, satisfied with our bodies so that we go to the grave with a song in us.” No really, imagine that now. Look down at your body and what do you see? I can tell you what I see in the dimly lit hotel room in which I write. I haven’t had my coffee yet so there is no extravagant dressing of reality here. I see loosening skin, crinkling in the joint areas and even over major muscle masses – what if my skin is folding up, trying to repress a smile or a giggle, hence pinching its lips? Oh the things it has seen me do, so much under the sun and so much in the shadows of night and questionable decisions. I see scars of all shapes and sizes, some visible, some not, but all a tribute to my humanity, my embodiness, my stories of accident and ill health. I see a roll of fat peaking out under my t-shirt, wanting to be seen for what it is – a sign of miraculous physiology that keeps me going when the meals are few and far between.

Wow, that felt good! What a way to begin a day of work, especially my day before the public for I am presenting 3 talks at an international conference. My skin will giggle, my scars will speak, and my fat will nourish me. What a satisfying body! What if every day began like this with a song for our bodies and the body of humanity.

What do you see when you survey your body?

Friday, July 30, 2010


What is this dark hum among the roses?
The bees have gone simple, sipping,
that's all. What did you expect? Sophistication?
They're small creatures and they are
filling their bodies with sweetness, how could they not
moan in happiness? The little
worker bee lives, I have read, about three weeks.
Is that long? Long enough, I suppose, to understand
that life is a blessing. I have found them-haven't you?—
stopped in the very cups of the flowers, their wings
a little tattered-so much flying about, to the hive,
then out into the world, then back, and perhaps dancing,
should the task be to be a scout-sweet, dancing bee.
I think there isn't anything in this world I don't
admire. If there is, I don't know what it is. I
haven't met it yet. Nor expect to. The bee is small,
and since I wear glasses, so I can see the traffic and
read books, I have to
take them off and bend close to study and
understand what is happening. It's not hard, it's in fact
as instructive as anything I have ever studied. Plus, too,
it's love almost too fierce to endure, the bee
nuzzling like that into the blouse
of the rose. And the fragrance, and the honey, and of course
the sun, the purely pure sun, shining, all the while, over
all of us.

Love too fierce to endure

To see life as a blessing, no matter what!

To admire everything in life

….To seek understanding of what is happening, now, this moment

….To dance under the sun as One.

….To bee, to be.

Where the light of love too almost too fierce to endure for you?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Work, Sometimes

I was sad all day, and why not. There I was, books piled on both sides of the table, paper stacked up, words falling off my tongue.

The robins had been a long time singing, and now it was beginning to rain.

What are we sure of? Happiness isn’t a town on a map, or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work ongoing. Which is not likely to be the trifling around with a poem.

Then it began raining hard, and the flowers in the yard were full of lively fragrance.

You have had days like this, no doubt. And wasn’t it wonderful, finally, to leave the room? Ah, what a moment!

As for myself, I swung the door open. And there was the wordless, singing world. And I ran for my life.

Yesterday was a scorcher. Perhaps not so overly hot with a high of 97, yet so engrossed in my multiple writing tasks I had not thought to turn on the air-conditioner which we often do in the late afternoon. Then the wind began to blow and the trees to bow down before the inevitable. Rain came in sheets and thunder shook the keyboard beneath my finger tips. Then, and only then, did I prance up from my desk, throw open the front and back doors, and marvel and the power before me. This morning, the garden spider under the house eaves is busy, meticulously repairing her expansive web that the storm damaged. As she slowly spiraled her masterpiece, thread by thread weaving I thought of how much work this is for her, only to have the web constantly degrading. My spouse remarked, "Yes, it's a lot of work, but what else has she got to do?" I suppose in this ongoing work she finds spider happiness. Might we too let go of the perfect outcome so that we might enjoy the perfect storm, while working on for joy, for life, for each other, for the interconnected web of life?

What is the great, ongoing work of your life?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Children, It's Spring

And this is the lady
Whom everyone loves,
Ms. Violet
in her purple gown

Or, on special occasions,
A dress the color
Of sunlight. She sits
In the mossy weeds and waits

To be noticed.
She loves dampness.
She loves attention.
She loves especially

To be picked by careful fingers,
Young fingers, entranced
By what has happened
To the world.

We, the older ones,
Call in Spring,
And we have been through it
Many times.

But there is still nothing
Like the children bringing home
Such happiness
In their small hands.

I am seeing how Mary speaks more and more of age in her poems, as she herself ages. I wonder if she is losing the entrancement she felt at an earlier age and if we are seeing this in her work? Is she concentrating more on work and contributing to the world, so that there can be more happiness in small hands? Perhaps I project here. Turning 50 a few years back and watching my mother slide into dementia and infirmity, there is the temptation to give into a hurriedness in my days - to get it done now before winter’s dying comes upon me. The risk of course when concentrating on what is happening to our own bodies or those whom we love, is to lose sight of the miracle happening in the world around us. But then spring comes, the flowers renew our visions, and we children go running to our older ones with happiness in our hands.

Maybe, just maybe, they can come to us.

My mother and I have had difficulty connecting in the last decade. Her reality and memory challenges any firm basis for a relationship. Then for my birthday this month she sent a bouquet of flowers. She remembered my birthday! She was able to wade through her mental fog and physical impairments to reach out to the world. And she did it with flowers, the first time she’s ever done that. Together we held happiness in our hands, sharing the gift of spring and flowers, even in the winter. She told me "Child, it's spring!"

What happiness do you hold in your hands – receiving or giving?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I want to make poems that say right out, plainly,
what I mean, that don't go looking for the
laces of elaboration, puffed sleeves. I want to
keep close and use often words like
heavy, heart, joy, soon, and to cherish
the question mark and her bold sister

the dash. I want to write with quiet hands. I
want to write while crossing the fields that are
fresh with daises and everlasting and the
ordinary grass. I want to make poems while thinking of
the bread of heaven and the
cup of astonishment; let them be

songs in which nothing is neglected,
not a hope, not a promise. I want to make poems
that look into the earth and the heavens
and see the unseeable. I want them to honor
both the heart of faith, and the light of the world;
the gladness that says, without any words,

You do Mary, you do.

Like you, I want.

I want to make a life that says out plainly what I mean. I want to keep close in my heart both beauty and tragedy. I want to question everything and try to answer nothing - coming to each relationship and every day with an open curiousity. I want my life to be a poem, never far from breathing in wonder and breathing out gratitude. I want a life of faith so that the light of the world is made more brilliant by my gladness. I want everything, and so, want nothing, so that I might be everything.

What do you want?

Monday, July 26, 2010

North Country

In the north country now it is spring and there

Is a certain celebration. The thrush has come home…

It is okay to know only

One song if it is this one. Hear it

Rise and fall; the very elements of your soul

Shiver nicely. What would spring be

Without it? Mostly frogs. But don’t worry, he

Arrives, year after year, humble and obedient

And gorgeous. You listen and you know

You could live a better life than you do, be

Softer, kinder. And maybe this year you will

Be able to do it. Here how his voice rises and falls. There is no way to be

Sufficiently grateful for the gifts we are given, no way to speak the Lord’s name

Often enough, though we do try, and

Especially now, as the dappled breast

Breathes in the pines and heaven’s windows in the north country, now spring has come,

Are opened wide.

There has yet to be a day when I read one of Mary’s poems that I don’t feel as if I have witnessed a miracle. Some days the miracle brings a tightening to the chest that proceeds an “oh yes, this is what love is.” Today is one of those days and poems. I have been lately thinking how what I have to give and receive is the next breath. It is all that I have control over – to breath in peace and to breath out love. To breathe, dedicating absolute love and union with the beloved world is the one song I have and it is sung in the rise and the fall of my chest. I do not know if I can live a better life next year or be kinder even to those I love most, but I do know that now, for at least this next breath, I can pray with my breath and so speak the Lord’s name. In this way, perhaps I can lessen a bit hell on earth and give heaven’s hope to others, one breath, one song, and one bird at a time.

What song do you sing in gratitude?

On Goldenrod at Field's Edge - July 25, 2010

Ice upon old


Stops me at the edge

Of the field, how


This morning,

The stiff stalks


Slender, exhausted

The gray boss-

All that is left of their

Golden hair-


A crown of snow, and the rest-

Stem and leaves­

Just waiting

In their glass suits

To fall-

Or, if enduring,

To see

The great melt, and the fields

Tinged green-

And the lambs,

Coming again from the

Cozy barn,

With their crazy prancing-

How the cold makes us dream!

In the abundance of summer, with the goldenrod splurging out color and sweet smells, do we not dream, but act? Is there something about the cold, the rest, the dark, the death that gives us the spaciousness for dreaming life into being? I don’t know about you, but here in Florida with week upon week of long days and 90 plus heat and humidity, it feels good to be a stiff, brown plant covered in ice and snow in a field blessed with quiet snow.

I have lived in the north that stiffens the joints in winter, but also breeds enthusiasm, if you just let go and venture out. When we moved to Minesota, we were advised “the winters aren’t so bad if you just get out in it.” So we did. We would bundle up in 6 plus layers and take walks through down town Rochester where the Canadian geese overwintered because the coal plant kept the water open. We would walk among the geese who hunkered down against the biting winds and cold, and occasionally would come upon one who didn’t even show the movement of breathing under his or her snow covered back. They had died of some threat in the short days. I remember picking up one of these frozen birds, stiff with her neck curled over her back and her beak into her feathers. All I felt was love – for her and her kind, which burst out in the spring when the survivors hatched out yellow fuzz ball goslings. Who could dream of greater perfection – cold, death, and life?

What gives birth to your dreams?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How Would You Live Then?

What if a hundred rose-breasted grosbeaks
blew in circles around your head? What if
the mockingbird came into the house with you and
became your advisor? What if
the bees filled your walls with honey and all
you needed to do was ask them and they would fill
the bowl? What if the brook slid downhill just
past your bedroom window so you could listen
to its slow prayers as you fell asleep? What if
the stars began to shout their names, or to run
this way and that way above the clouds? What if
you painted a picture of a tree, and the leaves
began to rustle, and a bird cheerful sang
from its painted branches? What if you suddenly saw
that the silver of water was brighter than the silver
of money? What if you finally saw
that the sunflowers, turning toward the sun all day
and every day -- who knows how, but they do it -- were
more precious, more meaningful than gold?

Just this week I had a conversation with someone who asked "What is it you want?" I answered: "I would have that singing cardinal come down to the screened in porch where we are sitting and ask to be let in. Then she would come sit on my arm and allow me to touch her." My friend suggested this would be against the bird's telos and if a bird did such as this, we would lose his or her's wildness. I believe my friend was arguing that the bird is so very precious just the way she is, if we could but just see her as such. I believe that I too was arguing the same thing. I just did so by telling a story about a bird who desires to be with me, for that is all I desire - to be with birds, to be birds. Oh how I'd live with such heart centered awareness in every moment!

How would you live if you could see the beauty around you in every moment as if it were a fantastical dream, so very wondrous because it is not a dream, but reality?

Friday, July 23, 2010


I think sometimes of the possible glamour of death -
that it might be wonderful to be
lost and happy inside the green grass -
or to be the green grass! -
or, maybe the pink rose, or the blue iris,
or the affable daisy, or the twirled vine
looping its way skyward – that I might be perfectly peaceful
to be the shining lake, or the hurrying, athletic river,
or the dark shoulders of the trees
where the thrush each evening weeps himself into an ecstasy.

I lie down in the fields of goldenrod, and everlasting.
Who could find me?
My thoughts simplify. I have not done a thousand things
or a hundred things but, perhaps, a few.
As for wondering about answers that are not available except
in books, though all my childhood I was sent there
to find them, I have learned
to leave all that behind

as in summer I take off my shoes and my socks,
my jacket, my hat, and go on
happier, through the fields. The little sparrow
with the pink beak
calls out, over and over, so simply – not to me
but to the whole world. All afternoon
I grow wiser, listening to him,
soft, small, nameless fellow at the top of some weed,
enjoying his life. If you can sing, do it. If not,

even silence can feel, to the world, like happiness,
like praise,
from the pool of shade you have found beneath the everlasting.

I feel as if I am reading the Sufi poet Rumi this morning who could have easily written about a thrush weeping herself into ecstasy. For Rumi, for Mary, and for you perhaps there is glamour in the death that brings everlasting union with the beloved other. What I want to know, is how to do that now, and not when I finally lay my bones in the drained swamp grounds of Florida. How am I a Swallow-tailed Kite, now, who swirls on updrafts of grace above my backyard pines? Why am I not now an indigenous person of this area, shelling oysters, building middens that won’t taste oil for another 500 years? How can my mourning of perceived separation fuel everlasting love? It just does I suppose is the answer, not found in books, but in the heart of longing, and of belonging.

Have you ever wept yourself into ecstasy?

Thursday, July 22, 2010


The touch-me-nots

Were still blooming,

Though many had already gone to seed-

Jewel of weeds, orange, beloved

Of the hummingbirds

For their deeply held sweets,

And the ripe pod, when touched

So quick

To open and high-fly

Its seeds into the world.

I was walking

Down a path

Where they grew, succulent and thick

In the damp earth near

A stream, when I saw a trap

With a little raccoon inside,


As it felt, over and over,

The mesh of its capture,

And I had t time-

Just time-

To stumble down to the stream, and open the trap

And say to the little one:

Run, run

And the little one flew-

I did not touch him-

And climbed high into a tree.

And then I too, knowing the world,

Ran through the jewel weeds

As someone, unknown and not smiling

Came down the path to where

The trap lay, stamped upon

By my very own feet,

And while I ran, the touch-me-nots

Nodded affirmatively

Their golden bodies-

I could not help but touch them-

And dashed forth their sleek pods,

Oh, life flew around us, everywhere.

Mary touches not the flowers or raccoon at first, but then stomps on the trap and then touches the flowers. Her heart is touched by the injustice she sees around her, and then she acts and touches the world with reckless abandon, freeing herself and life around her. It seems we don’t really control what we touch or when we are touched. But if we aren’t open to the inherent worth and dignity of all life that says “touch me not” then we might end up imprisoning the beauty without and within.

I have trapped animals before – feral cats that hunt birds on our backyard sanctuary. My heart ached to think of them in their wire cages, their future likely euthanasia at the local animal service shelter. So I don’t trap as many as I did, and hence, there are fewer birds flying around us because of this. My heart is also pained to see wild birds caged in homes as companion animals, such as the parrot species I have spent some much time in awe of as they fly over the fields and forests of Central America. So I don ‘t work with captive birds anymore, and I tell you, I dream of touching their feathers, holding them close, smelling their sweet innocence as I bury my face in their wonder. I so long to touch them, but because I don’t, I pray that there are more birds flying around. Perhaps I’m a bit freer as well.

They who bind to themselves a joy

Do the winged life destroy

They who kiss the joy as it flies

Live in eternity’s sunrise (adapted from William Blake)

What or whom do you long to touch, or be touched by?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Bleeding Heart

I know a bleeding-heart plant that has thrived for sixty years if not more, and has never missed a spring without rising and spreading itself into a glossy bush, with many small red hearts dangling. Don't you think that deserves a little thought? The woman who planted it has been gone for a long time, and everyone who saw it in that time has also died or moved away and so, like so many stories, this one can't get finished properly. Most things that are important, have you noticed, lack a certain neatness. More delicious, anyway, is to remember my grandmother's pleasure when the dissolve of winter was over and the green knobs appeared and began to rise, and to create their many hearts. One would say she was a simple woman, made happy by simple things. I think this was true. And more than once, in my long life, I have wished to be her.

Once upon a time there were a humanoid people whose heart's cycled with the seasons. In the winter, their hearts shrunk to the size of a raison. The cold snows echoed their cool souls and empty faces. Come the spring their hearts began to grow and by summer would be so big that you could see them beating through their skin, emitting a pink glow around their chests. All summer long they would forget their work and their worries, and spend their days laughing in the rivers and ponds, embraced by life, love, and one another. Their favorite past time was to press their chests against one another and see how long their hearts could beat in perfect synchronization. Come fall they held on to each other's hands as if it was the last time ever. And of course it would be, at least until the following spring. Why do I wish I were they?

How does your heart wax and wane?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lingering in Happiness

After rain after many days without rain.
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground

where it will disappear--but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole's tunnel;

and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.

Yesterday I was touched by water that had been buried in the ground a hundred years, or longer. Our day off, we went west to the springs area and snorkeled in Manatee, Fanning, and Otter Springs. It is so refreshing to look down into depths of the Springs where light barely reaches, and feel the ancient water rush up past me, washing my concerns from me. These moments of being held in the springs is happiness and we lingered the whole day there. Though the experience is not all pleasant. The springs are dying. Many of them are choked with abnormal algae growth from nitrogen pollution and the flow levels are down, both of which negatively impact the beings that live in and around them, myself included. So when it rains here and I see the puddles disappear into the lawn, scratchy, sparse, and brown from no watering and no fertilizers, I offer a prayer as it journeys down, “When you emerge may we use you wisely so that many beings may be touched in health and love.”

Do you know where rain water goes in your area? Is it’s journey bring happiness or concern to you?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Soul at Last

The Lord's terrifying kindness has come to me.

It was only a small silvery thing-say a piece of silver cloth, or a thousand spider webs woven together, or a small handful of aspen leaves, with their silver backs shimmering. And it came leaping out of the closed coffin; it flew into the air, it danced snappingly around the church rafters, it vanished through the ceiling.

I spoke there, briefly, of the loved one gone. I gazed at the people in the pews, some of them weeping. I knew I must someday, write this down.

The Lord has been terribly kind to me, and I mean the sacred has been terribly-laden with beauty, power, and freedom. On some days there is fear, but mostly there is a humbleness that I am nothing but the will of life and love. Perhaps nowhere else does this come as strong except in church preaching and praying, and even more so at memorial services. The first time I preached at a church I thought, "Ah, this is what it means to fly free with love", with no bounds or constraints on that pure essence that flows through me to the people, and through the people to me. The world's soul holds me and sets me free. I give thanks to Lord Death who has a way of graciously awakening us to communal love.

What does the soul look like to you, and have you seen it?

Sunday, July 18, 2010


It is possible, I suppose that sometime

we will learn everything

there is to learn: what the world is, for example,

and what it means. I think this as I am crossing

from one field to another, in summer, and the

mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either

knows enough already or knows enough to be

perfectly content not knowing. Song being born

of quest he knows this: he must turn silent

were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead

oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly

unanswered. At my feet the white-petalled daisies display

the small suns of their center piece, their -- if you don't

mind my saying so -- their hearts. Of course

I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and

narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know?

But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,

to see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly;

for example -- I think this

as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch --

the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the

daisies for the field.

There is so much we do not know. Are you content with this? Can you still sing the rightness of your belonging on the planet in the family of things? How do we know in our bones that questions and answers are not the point, but the song we were born to sing? I think it is perhaps to have our hearts in the center of our being. This and no more.

Where do you feel "right" and as if you "belong" without reservation? Can you imagine that being everywhere and all times?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Song of the Builders

On a summer morning

I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God -

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

keywords: god, insect, humble, building, song

Okay, Mary, now I'm stumped. I am not sure what it you are hoping for here: that we remain humble? that we use lots of energy? that we use our creative individuality never knowing how or what we are building? Though I don't know what you are thinking, I hear the song in how you think about God and then translate that wild beauty into your poems. For myself I am haunted by the ache to build something that will really, really help the beings of this universe. What I tend to forget is that if I am singing energetically, even if the song is sometimes that of grief, as long as I do so on behalf of beauty, somehow, someway, I am inexplicably building more space in my heart and in my life, and hence maybe in the world, for others to add on their additions so that we create a way of life that will reduce suffering and aid flourishing. Let us hope this is so.

What are you building without any blueprints?