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...fire-fangled feathers dangle down...
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There was a time
when things had gone so wrong
I knew they’d been ordained.
It was then I learned
that I learned this lesson
how to receive
and my long dreams
found a hole
inside my heart that could not
could not close
inside myself where
I thought myself unfairly wounded
but not so much that anymore
as what the universe was meant to bring me
came through that hole
and so I practice-prayed
my child’s violin maybe each night
afterward (this night
this is the one)
by throwing out arms far to my sides
and like a giant, just
looked up through the ceiling
as the ceiling looked back down
to ask for whatever I wanted
that was meant to come.
I never slept so well as when
in my innermost, shamed parts
myself to myself I said
that seemed to hold so much
meaning but are now so blank
so unrecollectable except
their forms were some form
some lost music maybe
that strange felt sense
like smell or before smell was smell
only soft familiar ground and a scent of lilacs
wasn’t it? and violets, yes
and the sound of the creek
just after the rain stopped
trees still drip-dripping
and the clouds starting to break
wide open into
(I remember now)
a kind of blue peace
The roped off sea is supposed to be safer,
that’s the way it seems at least,
though anything, I imagine
that actually wants to get in
will find it easy enough, and anything
that actually wants to get out
certainly can find its way.
The warm sun massages
the muscles of my back,
the warm sun colors
the water and the clouds.
Not far beyond the rope
the interrogative eyes of barracuda
swim slowly past — they’re friendly here it’s said
and just beyond that I’ve heard
that an underground river empties,
sweeping upward among the corals,
but here within the buoys
all is well today — as usual
the children swim and frolic
while we parents drink our sweet
refreshing pina coladas.
A dog may drift by in search of handouts
only to be run off by the help.
A poor woman, overladen
and trudging the beach
may try to sell us jewelry
before, she too, is angrily
Oh, tell me, why go to the reef today
when these markers promise
a better tan and
will ever happen if you stay
carefully within them?
To enter this pioneer graveyard in Port Gamble, Washington, is to enter their silence. As I walk carefully among the decaying headstones, their lives, mysteriously summed up in dates of birth and death, and perhaps an epitaph, call out the old grief and their now and forever rest beneath the grass. This one died after only twenty-six years, this one after eighty. This one only a dear infant, gone. A square tower on one side says simply, “Our Mother,” and on the next side, “Our Father.” And one says, “Willie.”
Our Willie on this cold marble traced
Is all that’s left of thee to love
Yet the chain that death hath broken here
Shall be linked by angel hands above
Such places always hold for me a sense of the love and acceptance that unconditionally endures in memory.
When I was a small boy, my older brother and I went off by ourselves to explore a wooded island in the San Juans. It was late in the afternoon with slant light woven deep among the summer firs. Farther on in the forest suddenly we came upon an ancient graveyard for some pioneer family long since gone. A picket fence tipped sideways and in some places drown beneath skeins of blackberry vine and thick drifts of old leaves among the ferns. The headstones, tall and stately and probably very expensive for their day tipped forward or back at odd angles in a wholly uncared for way. It looked like no one had visited here for many, many years.
Unmistakably, this was sacred ground. That was sure. My brother and I, suddenly awed, stepped carefully forward to rake our fingers across the decrepit dates and names, hardly readable anymore. The stones felt warm and oddly comforting to the touch in the late summer light. This was no Stephen King novel ready to erupt into ghosts and terrors, but the place of an unutterable, most profound and rightful peace, a mysteriously overgrown garden of return, strangely intimate with its delicate blossoms and stems carved in stone. We were careful not to invade too much in such a vulnerable place.
What a gift it was to find it! For when we die what were our lives on earth probably will be reduced to a set of manicured stones set with artificial flowers or nameplates for just anyone to notice and wonder about. Cars likely will drive past and visitors may come and go often, taking their pointless snapshots to be placed in folders and filed away. But here, among the trees, something better was happening — and still is. The place itself is sinking back into the earth’s full wildness, hastened by human forgetfulness after a century and more, growing and decaying down and down in a forgotten corner of the island. It makes me wonder how it looks today since this adventure with my brother took place about fifty years ago. All those summers and winters, the rains and fogs sweeping across and through the firs, the berry vines, the nearby maples blossoming and losing their leaves, year upon year.
Truly they are returning. If you were lucky enough to be buried in this place, you might become like them, become not a memory of a person bounded by dates and sentiments, but just the sweet smell of drying leaves and the feel of salt air wafting through the sacred woods of childhood. Then you might truly be because you no longer are.
Here I am standing on a rock. A pretty good picture with my iPhone, I think. What you can’t experience is everything else — the late evening sun on the waves at Pacifica, California, the smell of the ocean and the ‘wine-dark’ look of it. Suddenly the season is October and the air is cooler, and I’m here again, staying at the Sea Breeze Motel. The rain swept in earlier in the day but now is gone. There are two surfers still out on the sunset waves, and the sun is suddenly lighting up the place like a movie set.
I come here because the cinema is always saying something to me. That’s the sea for you. Sometimes what it says is absolutely too much and so I have to look down at my boots for awhile. It reminds me: this is who I am right now. This is who I am today. So many experiences and these are the feet that still carry me to a spot where I can stand and look out across it all. A bit silly, I know. Maudlin. Nostalgic. (from the Greek, nostos ‘return home’ + algos ‘pain.’ And so very dreamlike, this surveying.
I like it here because waking in my room in the middle of the night I can hear the next-door sea thrumming away. I know it follows the ancient pattern, the waves in sync for awhile and then out of sync. They come first well-timed. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. The Greek chorus sings in unison. And then the silence, only slightly too long and I know they have suddenly lost their posture. I hear the white noise of the criss-crossing, demolished forces for awhile. They are all singing their words at once and getting nowhere. They work against one another, and then, abruptly, there is another silence and the sucking of stones deep into the night’s throat. And the big cadence comes again: BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.
It’s dark in my room. I can’t see a thing. But next to the bed I know they are there, lined up perfectly, waiting.
This morning I dreamt that suddenly I’d been given a new home: the greenhouse behind some big mansion where many people lived. The greenhouse sat in a parklike setting, but it was filled to the brim with old stuff, crud that needed to be thrown out before I could really move in. So I felt glad to be moving the unneeded things out of my greenhouse home, but also frustrated with the work — so much needed to be discarded, hauled out as junk or thrown on the pile of recycled garden compost. My friend was there watching me, leading her cat by a tiny halter and leash. No doubt the Jungians will have fun with this.
When I told her about the dream, she said, “Well, it sounds like you have a new home that is about your own personal growth, but first you have to move a lot of old stuff out — and you are doing it!”
But the feeling of the dream also included a separation, a faced loneliness, at least for awhile until everything that is old and doesn’t belong to me, can be cleared away. The feeling was this task should have been done a long, long time ago, and that everyone, in one way or another, must attend to the same process….
A couple weeks ago, I looked out at the ocean from Pacifica, California (grabbing the picture with my phone) and I had a similar feeling…the clearing away of the old. It happens consciously or unconsciously, I suppose, all the waves of subliminal knowing rolling in and through, and leaving me now and then with a potent symbol or a memorable dream.
Today I happened to open a folder I have not used since last fall. Inside, along with my papers, I found some leaves I had picked up from a parking lot one rainy day. I could not bear to let their beauty lie there on the blacktop, waiting to disintegrate under the wheels of unnoticing drivers. I tried to save them from their transience as we all try in similar ways to save ourselves from time. Now it is Spring, but these old leaves, like memories that have suddenly come to mind, say to me again and again how fleeting everything is. Not for a moment can anyone stop the flow….
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the river of the windfall light.
Sometimes no one comes to this blog for a whole day. It sits then as pure potentiality, as someone meditating might sit, waiting to be opened. I imagine that potentiality as simply a raft of electrons waiting to be activated and set adrift, to be seen — a tiny constellation of images and words among the many millions of others.
As if sometimes no one comes to a remote cabin, a private place — available to all — and not so far from an immense sea. As if sometimes there is only the moist wind blowing among the rough figures of warming driftwood.
At one point, one of the angels says (channelled through Gita’s friend Hanna):
You are the guardian of a sacred force.
Share it: do not keep it for yourself!
Then you have nothing to fear.
You are still afraid of the old. Without cause!
Raise the sacred force,
and the empty shell is left behind, powerless.
Gita asks: How could I always feel the force, so as to radiate it without interruption?
The angel replies:
It is just the opposite:
You feel the force only when you radiate it.
The sun never sees its rays:
its moons reflect them.
Know this: The sun, too is but a moon,
for everything mirrors the Divine Light.
THE DIVINE CONTEMPLATES ITSELF IN US.
BE PURE MIRRORS!
In a field
I am the absence
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.
When I walk
I part the air
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.
We all have reasons
to keep things whole.
Just a picture for you.
If this flower can bloom
after months sitting still
in its vase of stones
and waiting water,
then so can you.
So can I.
The soul is full of surprises.
Don’t you know
we open out from unknowing
into fragrant possibility?
A river with a blossom
that floats suddenly
across an empty sky.
En los árboles del huerto
hay un ruiseñor;
canta de noche y de día,
canta a la luna y al sol.
Ronco de cantar:
al huerto vendrá la niña
y una rosa cortará.
Entre las negras encinas,
hay una fuente de piedra,
y un cantarillo de barro
que nunca se llena.
Por el encinar,
con la blanca luna,
Out in the garden
a nightingale sings
night and day in the treetops,
in moonlight, in sunlight.
He sings himself out:
the girl will come to the garden
and pick a rose.
Among the dark oaks
there’s a stone spring
and a little earthen jug
that never fills up.
Through the oak grove,
by white moonlight,
she will return.
This is my son…sixteen years in the past. It seems like only a moment ago that he was running naked on a Molokai beach. Today, he’s grown, has a car, works at Starbucks, will start college in the fall. He hangs with his friends most of the time now, has a cool MySpace site, likes nice clothes and takes pleasure in catching planes to warmer places. Only yesterday I heard his squeal as he ran down the sand to the water, and ran back up the sand chased by the incoming waves.
This is just a celebration, if only through dim recollection, of that feeling of the child, delighting skin on skin in the total freedom and magic of the world.