Underneath Our Shouts and Songs

Unexpectedly a crow. As after several years without, bobolinks seen now two days straight. How long can I go without thinking about ants and their abiding respect for order? Bike tires hum on the back roads underneath our shouts and songs. The sky darkens and our dreams go unfulfilled.

D. studied the yard a few minutes before saying, “I can’t say I think a hell of a lot about your mowing” to which I said “that’s because you’re not a violet” to which he said – after giving it some thought – “I see.” Whiskey by the open fire, late spring cold on your neck, and bears hooting a couple miles uphill. How many bodies do we have to hold before we can say we’ve held them all? Washing rice for half an hour in advance improves the sushi considerably. I hid near the hanging laundry and watched two rabbits work a patch of dandelion.

What kind of Jesus are you looking for anyway? What does the rain think of umbrellas and from what does it long for protection? Be all my sunny days, be all my sumptious nights. Between thoughts a sort of energetic opening into which one slips, like swimming naked at midnight, like not wanting to ever leave. Someday we won’t even need to use radios.

Sliced pears and carrots, beet hummus and cold peppermint tea. One moves slower as if intent on discovering what has always hidden in plain sight. Ernst’s insights into blue return to mind and I am instructed again accordingly. Raisins beckon helpfully. Wrapped in old blankets, a little space left over.

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An Abundance of Pancakes

Jays squall in the pine trees, the neighbor’s voices float like tonally-augmented threads, and faint clouds bunch and gather, obscuring blue, the only color I really trust. One sees what they keep from God and so grief, anger, confusion and fear instantly attend. Oh sleep, why are we always so at odds?

One studies the lilac, its violet blossoms crimping brown and dropping like handsome cadavers into the rainy grass. Sri Ramana Maharshi keeps showing up, somewhat like a mountain I am either unwilling or unable to climb. In the morning there is tea and the decision to read this or that teacher.

Hide nothing? Each time I cross the Coolidge Bridge I mentally picture it collapsing. Survival is not our function but life is.

What a lovely and populous wilderness between the little I know and the lot I say! One folds and refolds a quilt their great-aunt made, forty years ago, a cofusing gift to a little boy but now precious in a way that makes me question God’s intentions. It’s been a long time since I bought a couple donuts and a coffee at five a.m. and drove with my dog to some remote forest to walk with neither compass nor map, making the trail as we go.

Jesus says patiently, “This would go a lot quicker if you’d stop trying to do it by yourself.” In one dream, a red barn burning in the night, red sparks confused with stars, and in another, a paucity of words but an abundance of pancakes, butter melting in generous streams of warm maple syrup. Choose indeed.

Is it that you collect all the tools and then learn there is nothing to build? How strange – and yet instructive – that a dollar bill should remind one to place their trust in God. The internet is not a tree is not a very clear way to redirect the stubbornly misguided.

Holiness is clarity is letting go! What nectar the world is – still – to those whose faith is yet a salty gruel!

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Weighty Symbols Aside

Traces of light through which a solitary wren sings but forty minutes later the range of perception widens to bird song, dawn and inquiry. Longing disguises something, or seems to, and yet cannot undo itself. The nature of a gift matters, as it is inherent in what we are in truth, and so attention to it is never not merited. Owls only appear solitary and bears are more frightened of us than we know. Where would I be without metaphor?

All night the sea rises and falls, rises and falls, and rivers wind towards it while starlight continues unabated. Gravity, like love, is never not at work on us. The perception of sacrifice is also a gift, so long as one is willing to listen to a good teacher. After days of rain, sunlight, as after hours of dark, the dawn. One does not step into resonance, one simply stops denying resonance. Keep going is good advice indeed.

I write while the water boils for tea, close to the kettle so that its whistle will be brief, and not awaken those who sleep. Argument is not the problem, nor are clocks, nor are maps or churches. The neighbor’s horse stamps and huffs, perhaps directing a wandering fox to widen its circle. In my dream, you sought me out in a library, and a hidden narrator championed my obscure but devoted scholarship. Thus this writing, this way.

It is possible to write one’s way through – and beyond – suffering, just as the body is only one way to bear it. How briefly the lilac blooms, as if happiness really could be contained in a sentence. One is at home in the so-called journey or not, and the distinction matters. Swallows again, trailing childhood and the gentleness inherent in masculinity. Without you I would never have learned to bake bread, nor helped a daughter grieve, nor accepted my love of stones, nor – as in time we all must – set the weighty symbols aside and go directly home.

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I Dreamed Again

Gray morning and uncharacteristic cold. One imagines uniforms of the nineteenth century and certain stones on the Irish coast. There are coffin ships on every sea and hearts slowly failing in their function as bellows. All fall but down is not a direction, not anymore.

Adirondack spelled wrong (without the requisite c). Do you remember our long drives through southern Vermont, afternoons given to coffee, bread and cheese? One studies the feathers of dead guinea hens and despairs of understanding anything, anything at all. A single bead of blood at the hinge of the fox’s jaw is seven years later still beautiful, still arresting.

A bluet cannot take you further than you are willing to go, and that is all one needs to know about the so-called spiritual journey. Happiness is not minding what happens. I dreamed again of the last apartment in Burlington – books, a futon and a zafu, and no money, and mornings given to walking beside the lake, distracted as always by beauty. Noodles with hot sauce, hot tea, and chunks of dark chocolate after, sprinkled with cinnamon and lime.

So many differences come down to semantics! A cultural obsession with preciousness? We define ourselves negatively, don’t we. I remember our first meeting with a realtor all those years ago and the disappointment it foreshadowed and how even now I insist on rendering the last lesson dim, opaque and evasive.

Stan Getz records remain cherished though the requisite turn table has long since stopped working. The tendency to perceive ourselves as pronouns obscures a richer inheritance. Your knitting pacifies me, as if gesticulating in the direction of a door. My love, my teacher, what guest shall we welcome next?

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In the Middle of the Night I am Grateful

Insomniac or truth-teller, who knows, but at 1 a.m. the dog and I go outside, tea in hand, to sit quietly beneath front-yard maples rustling in wind. Starlight in harmony with the scent of lilac, the familiar ladle north and a little west, tilted towards  me. Attention is a gift – see if this is not true – and that is why we give it.

Who longs still for signs will be rewarded (with meteors) accordingly. By 4 a.m. the absence of order is revealed – again – and one is brought to prayer, and through prayer to fear. See if it is not true.

The dog chases rabbits, and one car passes on 112, the diffuse beams of its headlights briefly sweeping the yard. How sweet to have chairs and a table out front! How confused I am with months this year, missing May by always writing April, in love as always with L sounds.

Well, we know who teaches us by where they direct our attention. The sound of wind at 3 a.m. in spring maples is intimate, a brother, and thought slows in its presence. Even in the middle of the night I am grateful for dandelions.

The absence of order reflects evasion of responsibility which is simply attention abandoned, not given, and this distinction is critical. Evicted from the monastery, I wandered the Irish coast bereft for many years before I found you, and grateful for your salvational hospitality I stayed with you, and have remained so for lifetimes now, but it is time for me to go home. See the truth in this and be not afraid!

Twice I go to the pine trees to pee, hoping I’m not ruining any purslane or other cunicular delectables. The mind wanders into conversations with people who are not here, and may never be again, and then returns and it is such a relief, it is such a blessing. Old rakes, jump rope, baling twine and two buckets of stones from Bronson Brook.

By God’s grace I am rendered unfollowable and skip delighted through starlit dark. Tenebrous rhythm everywhere.

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More in the Nature of a Dance

Rain showers confuse the month I hold, mind given to assemblies and missionaries and centuries long past. As breezes moan in the hollows and apple blossoms sift down like stricken butterflies. Perception is a habit yet what is unbroken cannot be songless. One grows closer to rose bushes, one pushes against what they cannot say.

Some settling occurs with respect to time. Avoidance of hawk sightings signifies the new willingness. We paused at the field’s edge, watching two fawns play, and not for the last time I wondered why “gambol” is such a difficult word to employ. J. asks after fishing and I mumble about not wanting to hurt either trout or bass and so he asks instead can we bring bagels and tea to the lake and just talk.

One senses at last the Presence and the welcome it extends. One wakens each morning, sad to discover that the necessary transformation has not fully occurred. What was the point, then, of Auriesville? For we descend into argument, and push through to kisses that cannot quite account for the envelope’s darkness.

One sees that engagement begins in decision and so moves to question decision. It is better not to say “love” when one simply means “lust.” Both rising and descent signify movement, so inquire into movement – what moves, how it moves, where it moves and so forth – and remember that absent a landscape movement is more in the nature of a dance than a journey. Oh when will the cartographer close up his shop?

North beckons despite all the reasons for which one wishes that it wouldn’t. Are surrender and bravery all that different? A little rain, plosions of bluets the day after mowing, and rabbit scat in neat piles near the garden. The question is not with who but rather when, for the answer is always now and with all.

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The Way to Jerusalem is Long

If an apple could become fully aware it would say, “I am what the tree is doing.” Question Euclid carefully but wait until after high school to do it (I say from experience). The dog perches on Chrisoula’s sewing table, studying the neighborhood, which at this hour is filled with robins, dandelions, rabbits, lilac and forsythia. Such lovely patterns in which to be so enfolded, yes? As in yet another sentence, yet another dream.

One seeks what matters and finds instead a series of habits, mostly unobserved. I did encounter God in Auriesville, New York but didn’t see that fact until months later. Chopin’s nocturnes are sorrow encoded in technical expertise repeating now. The bluets grow in a rough line extending south to north, not reaching the back yard, and not expanding east to west until closer to the road. You are life playing at learning it is life!

One recalls also a meeting with four camels on a mountain top a few miles south of the Vermont border. Dirt roads in hottest summer above which azure butterflies trace invisible circles. We are hunger organized, desire embodied? When she bends over me, hair falling, mouth opening, I do not think of eagles. Well, there are many donkeys, and the way to Jerusalem is long enough to allow for changes of mind.

Be my mustard seed and I will be your dented accordion. The woman – Kateri I believe – played fiddle (Appalachian hymns to scarcity) at the fair, eyes closed, swaying in a way that suggested a center of balance not located in her body and I watched her while drinking black coffee and working out the history of my relationship to whiskey. What the lilac does is not prayer but then why say that, that way? Sushi remains the one meal I cannot prepare, or prepare only poorly, though the ones who eat it say otherwise. There is no “you” where “I” am, only bears tearing through bags of grain set aside for turkeys and chickens.

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One Senses Eternity

A fine mist falling, like wanting more and refusing to awaken accordingly. Descendents of the backyard rose bush arise near the rhubarb and one senses eternity. Stories, always stories.

The familiar nudge of sleep, tea instead of coffee, and the same old reminder to “stop seeking.” Self-inquiry means to go beyond what we’ve read or been told but it’s so easy to substitute another’s knowledge or experience for our own. Sweet scent of lilac and chickadees balanced on the clothesline and how happy one can be with such simplicity (and yet still insist on making it conditional).

What does it mean to “go beyond” anyway? Dickinson’s poems first perceived as coins, then as notes to a place where you can spend them, and now what? You see, yes?

Bluets edge closer, whispering about a time to fall weeping. A green world once white in which shades of blue are always given more attention. Who tells stories only perceives stories and stories are always containers.

Guilt sensed as a roiling tide, a surf one refuses to visit, though it bangs all night in dreams. One night in April, so long ago . . . Hansel and Gretel are always being abandoned, always saving themselves (and the(ir) father) or else we wouldn’t need to tell it over and over.

Lean into narrative and see what happens! Aurobindo’s sentences are written by God’s finger on the holy water. Holes in the screen – left by cats who long since crossed the bourn – let in mosquitoes.

Don’t ask when for the answer is never not now. Almost is another form of no.

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Prismatic Aperture

They will not close the doors of Heaven because there are no doors because there are no walls within which to frame doors. Be the prismatic aperture you know you are in truth! Yet another talkative male who professes – without a hint of humility – to understand Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.

While I am a yam yodeling om. All the way home? Well, now is not the time for apples, though one does feels a certain soulful tilt in the direction of berries and rhubarb.

One gets very close to Emily Dickinson on the cusp of sleep and then dreams of handwritten poems, the generous circular cursive floating off the page, smoking through the air. The great tragedy in any century is a proliferation of scriptural certainty. I can’t decide if “foolscap” or “lilac” belongs in the next line.

We slip into fantasy, we consent to psychological injury. Versailles haunts in the sense of just how greedy a man can become. Don’t never outgrow love letters.

“If you could be any Christmas carol, which one would you be” she asked at dinner and I said – without it being my turn – “Dickens of course – is there any other option” to which she replied “kindly refrain from being such a pompous ass” which made everybody laugh and a couple days later over coffee I asked if she would mind if I asked her to marry me to which she said “no and yes in that order.” When my father sold his last tractor he cried a little behind the garage and waved me away when I moved towards him. Narrative is the good lover but not the best lover.

Trimming blackberry bushes, assessing the old lilac whose leaves are lovely but upon whose limbs not a single blossom shows. Hugs that surprise you with their intensity! How lovely to live in a home where Fur Elise is played with such care, such elegance, such a sense of space in which the notes themselves redound.

It is not the worst thing in the world to be known around town as an enthusiastic reader of Shakespeare. Nor to remain willing to ask Jesus for help and perceive assistance accordingly.

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Bluets Instruct Me

A little moon over the field, a little cloud to hit or miss it. An owl cries within arm’s reach it seems – throaty ascension of tenebrous vowels – and farther away one answers. The dog is old and prefers not to walk all the way to the pond which makes me sad which – as always – confuses me.

The bluets instruct me to avoid secrecy now and give away as much as possible. To trust God is a form of love, a helpful form. Oh how tired I am, thinking of it all, of thinking at all . . .

Reliance on reciprocity in form remains problematic, a way of avoiding our useful teachers. One treasures silence, or is treasured in silence, or discovers in silence what they treasure. Wanting coffee, drinking tea.

I remember her pouring a glass of wine and holding it to the light and saying – as if surprised – “poetry is no longer my concern.” Burlington Vermont I love you forever. There are times when a sentence won’t do, not at all.

As there are times when we long to fall weeping and so do, and are accommodated thusly. Line endings perceived in terms of space, not time. Taking Frank O’Hara seriously has caused me many problems over the years and yet.

One stands on the porch and listens to foxes bark, their high yips like tearing envelopes. Fire is the father of the man I know best. North, always north.

Is it a sign of age that I perceive the lilac now in terms of the joy it offers bees? Snow White’s optimism puzzles me even as her longing for happiness confirms a subtle interior shift.

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