Sunday, June 30, 2013

strange business

You sit here for days saying, This is strange business. 
You are the strange business.
You have the energy of the sun in you,
but you keep knotting it up at the base of your spine.
You are some weird kind of gold
that wants to stay melted in the furnace,
so you won’t have to be coins.

— Rumi, from "Strange Business"; translated by Coleman Barks

Saturday, June 29, 2013

in love

We are so lightly here. It is in love that we are made. In love we disappear.

― Leonard Cohen

Friday, June 28, 2013

original intent

I am no scientist. I explore the neighborhood. An infant who has just learned to hold his head up has a frank and forthright way of gazing about him in bewilderment. He hasn’t the faintest clue where he is, and he aims to learn. In a couple of years, what he will have learned instead is how to fake it: he’ll have the cocksure air of a squatter who has come to feel he owns the place. Some unwonted, taught pride diverts us from our original intent, which is to explore the neighborhood, view the landscape, to discover at least where it is that we have been so startlingly set down, if we can’t learn why. 

— Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Thursday, June 27, 2013

no matter

It is the peculiar nature of the world to go on spinning no matter what sort of heartbreak is happening. 
― Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

it is well

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

— Horatio G. Spafford, from the hymn "It is Well with My Soul"

Today is my mother's birthday. She would have been 97 (she died in 1997). Mom played piano at church (among many other duties), and this was one of my favorite hymns, partly because every time we sang it in church I remembered the back story of Spafford's life:

"This hymn was written after traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the 1871 Great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago which was decimated by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873 at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone . . .". Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died." (from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

the goal

The goal of man is Truth. Truth is more than happiness. The man who has Truth can have whatever mood he wishes, or none. . . . We have pretended that Truth is happiness and happiness Truth, and people have believed us. Therefore you, too, have until now imagined that happiness must be the same as Truth. But happiness makes you its prisoner as does woe. 

— Sufi teaching

Monday, June 24, 2013

though you may

". . . though you may get a new life, you can't get a new past. You don't get to leave your story. If you leave your story, then how you left your story is your story, and you had better not forget it." 
— Wendell Berry. Imagination in Place, "Sweetness Preserved"

Sunday, June 23, 2013

small vases

The Small Vases from Hebron
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Tip their mouths open to the sky.
Turquoise, amber,
the deep green with fluted handle,
pitcher the size of two thumbs,
tiny lip and graceful waist.

Here we place the smallest flower
which could have lived invisibly
in loose soil beside the road,
sprig of succulent rosemary,
bowing mint.

They grow deeper in the center of the table.

Here we entrust the small life,
thread, fragment, breath.
And it bends. It waits all day.
As the bread cools and the children
open their gray copybooks
to shape the letter that looks like
a chimney rising out of a house.

And what do the headlines say?

Nothing of the smaller petal
perfectly arranged inside the larger petal
or the way tinted glass filters light.
Men and boys, praying when they died,
fall out of their skins.
The whole alphabet of living,
heads and tails of words,
sentences, the way they said,
“Ya’Allah!” when astonished,
or “ya’ani” for “I mean”—
a crushed glass under the feet
still shines.
But the child of Hebron sleeps
with the thud of her brothers falling
and the long sorrow of the color red.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

slimes have much to tell us

There are no unsacred places. There are only sacred places and desecrated places. — Wendell Berry

"The slime molds often recall to me lines from Charles Bukowski’s, The Laughing Heart: '…the gods will offer you chances. know them. take them…' They tell us to take advantage of opportunities and persevere despite difficult conditions. Slimes know how to respond to uncertainty, to adapt quickly with finesse. They embrace possibilities and change with gusto. To meet them, you must go outside often, make yourself available, seize the day. Carpe diem: they do this to survive, we must do it to thrive. Slimes have much to tell us about being fully present in the moment, making the most out of the time we have, living fully in this life."

— Justine Riekana, No Unsacred Place

[Wolf's-milk Slime, Lycogala epidendrum]

Friday, June 21, 2013

why we must struggle

Why We Must Struggle
by Kay Ryan

If we have not struggled
as hard as we can
at our strongest
how will we sense
the shape of our losses
or know what sustains
us longest or name
what change costs us
saying how strange
it is that one sector
of the self can step in
for another in trouble
how loss activates
a latent double how
we can feed
as upon nectar
upon need?

Thursday, June 20, 2013


In any random, sprawling, decomposing thing
is the charming string
of its history—and what it will be next.

— May Swenson, from "Distance and a Certain Light"
with thanks to Billy Collins at The Writer's Almanac, June 19
Read the whole poem here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

small things

“If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, 
those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable.” 

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond
by E. E. Cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Monday, June 17, 2013


A house that does not have one worn, comfy chair in it is soulless.

― May Sarton

Sunday, June 16, 2013

the way

Early in the Morning
by Li-Young Lee

While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher’s ink.

She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
against hair.

My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.

But I know
it is because of the way
my mother’s hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.
Easily, like the curtains
when they untie them in the evening.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

whether or not

Cruelty is a mystery, and the waste of pain. But if we describe a world to compass these things, a world that is a long, brute game, then we bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and light, the canary that sings on the skull. Unless all ages and races of men have been deluded by the same mass hypnotist (who?), there seems to be such a thing as beauty, a grace wholly gratuitous. . . . The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.

— Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Friday, June 14, 2013


Brimming. That's what it is, I want to get to a place where my sentences enact brimming.

― Li-Young Lee, Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee

Thursday, June 13, 2013


The worst is not death but being blind, blind to the fact that everything about life is in the nature of the miraculous. The language of society is conformity; the language of the creative individual is freedom. Life will continue to be a hell as long as people who make up the world shut their eyes to reality.

― Henry Miller, Stand Still Like the Hummingbird

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Briefly It Enters, Briefly Speaks
by Jane Kenyon

I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years. . . .

I am the maker, the lover, the keeper. . . .

When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me. . . .

I am food on the prisoner’s plate. . . .

I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .

I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden. . . .

I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge. . . .

I am the heart contracted by joy. . . .
the longest hair, white
before the rest. . . .

I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow. . . .

I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .

I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name. . . .

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

the shift

by Marie Ponsot

     (for my daughter)

Composed in a shine of laughing, Monique brings in sacks
of groceries, unloads them, straightens, and stretches her back.

The child was a girl, the girl is a woman; the shift
is subtle and absolute, worn like a gift.

The woman, once girl once child, now is deft in her ease,
is door to the forum, is cutter of keys.

In space that her torque and lift have prefigured and set free
between her mother and her child the woman stands
having emptied her hands.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I want to see you

I want to see you.

Know your voice.

Recognize you when you
first come 'round the corner.

Sense your scent when I come 
into a room you've just left.

Know the lift of your heel,
the glide of your foot.

Become familiar with the way 
you purse your lips
then let them part, 
just the slightest bit,
when I lean in to your space
and kiss you.

I want to know the joy 
of how you whisper 

― Rumi

Sunday, June 9, 2013

embrace change

The spiritual journey is one of constant transformation. In order to grow, you must give up the struggle to remain the same, and learn to embrace change at all times. 
— Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul, chapter 9

Saturday, June 8, 2013

life of the spirit

There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. 

— Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Friday, June 7, 2013


A test of what is real is that it is hard and rough. Joys are found in it, not pleasure. What is pleasant belongs to dreams. 
— Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, “Illusions” 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

easy as breath

The secret of poetry is never explained - is always new. We have not got farther than mere wonder at the delicacy of the touch, & the eternity it inherits. In every house a child that in mere play utters oracles, & knows not that they are such. 'Tis as easy as breath. 'Tis like this gravity, which holds the Universe together, & none knows what it is. 

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

reach out

I live my life in widening circles
That reach out across the world.

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours I, 2

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

her tongue

Her tongue will not obey her heart, nor can
Her heart inform her tongue—the swan’s down feather,
That stands upon the swell at the full of tide
And neither way inclines. . . .

— Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra

Monday, June 3, 2013

find, take and learn

Four Wise Axioms 
by Robert Wilkinson 
Find the seeds of spring in winter.
Take a walk around the lake.
Learn to skate in the summertime.
Learn to dream while you're awake.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

the bud

The bud is shy, but the wind removes her veil suddenly, My friend.

— Rumi

Saturday, June 1, 2013

no words

No Words Can Describe It

by Mark Strand

How those fires burned that are no longer, how the weather worsened, how the shadow of the seagull vanished without a trace. Was it the end of a season, the end of a life? Was it so long ago it seems it might never have been? What is it in us that lives in the past and longs for the future, or lives in the future and longs for the past? And what does it matter when light enters the room where a child sleeps and the waking mother, opening her eyes, wishes more than anything to be unwakened by what she cannot name?