Saturday, May 31, 2014

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.

Friday, May 30, 2014

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!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

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?

Monday, May 26, 2014

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.

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.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

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.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

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.

Friday, May 23, 2014

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.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Deepening As We All Do

In the forest I remember to be happy. Remember I am happy? Moose tracks - from earlier this morning given their pliability - come up from the pond but then disappear. Trillium blossoms and flowers I do not know the name of abound. Oh world begin again that I might get it right at last!

Turtles slide off fallen pines and the ripples of their passing extending hundreds of yards to shore, just barely perceptible to one who gives attention. What are dandelions but the sun in a form we can touch? Bear scat and acorn caps, memories and dreams. The apple blossoms lose their blush, deepening as we all do in the direction of fruit. She walks with me, arms folded, quiet and strong, mostly beyond my wordy reach.

Maple trees a mindless benison! I stop to talk to L. about the trellis she built from fallen birch branches, studying with her the beds of soil from which morning glories - my second favorite flower next to bluets and tulips and hollyhocks - will soon arise. Oh give attention to all that arises, within and without, and attend the song it is always singing. Tadpoles darting through shaded pools and when I say they remind me of semicolons, she says "Okay smart ass but what sentence are they a part of?" Also, the bird feeder is broken, chewed at last by squirrels I refuse to chase away.

One spends a few minutes before bed pondering the economics of running Versailles in the eighteenth century and does not perceive it as a loss. Thought, perception, translation, expression? At night I dream of the front yard lilac and in the morning its blossoms - at last - are gently brushing the windows. Oh adverbs, you are always hiding something essential. Chickadees, fear, sorrow, rabbits.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lines in the Sand

A little wind pushes me unexpectedly while walking east at 5 a.m.. Bluets a faint blur akin to the half moon in mist (which it is not). All flowers are in relationship to light. The dog circles the neighbor's yard, enters the still dark field, and a moment later you hear killdeer cry, fleeing their hidden nests. Oh.

Om? I am? A yam? Thoughts rest a while near the brook and one is thankful. Venus caught in glimpses only through leafing maples, such lovely hushes.

Or should we study certain French actors and their relationship to accents? We strain the broth, we make soup, and we do it without saying what we mean. Sweeping is always amenable to sadness and longing! Yet you want to get away from words altogether. You want to get away from understanding.

Tired of circling the damn mountain and waiting for Him to arrive with a map, I start climbing and it's easier than expected. Lines in the sand are invitations. How easy it is when we see at last that our will is not at odds with Life. Unfolding oh, enfolding I. Home with tea, nothing else to hold.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Neither Lost Nor Unclear

Walking at 2 a.m. to hear apple blossoms falling, faint stars in homage to a waning yellow moon. One cannot long avoid the presence of fear despite its obscuration by anger and anger's by righteousness. What we give we receive and are identified accordingly.

What was the name of the diner in New York where we ate dinner after so many hours driving in rainy darkness, so sad and frightened, and unaware of how much worse it was all to become? At last I am able to question my investment in chapels. Sneaking out of the garret at 2 a.m. to listen for apple blossoms sifting down from darkened trees as if moonlight itself were whispering her name, the trisyllabic cadence hinging on "L."

One sees that the fear of teaching is simply the fear of knowledge. I stopped near the brook to listen for owls. After many days of rain one smells the earth and walks gently over it as a lover must who takes love carefully.

Emily Dickinson is neither lost nor unclear. Rosary beads make a clicking sound falling to the floor. The nearness now intimidates me, and I am poised to flee, and yet remain, as if beholden, or at last perceiving the lessons of quartz.

"You are the only rock thief I know," said Chrisoula in the forest, and we recounted then the many episodes in our marriage given to my collecting quartz, often in locations where "collecting" is perhaps too generous a verb. One learns, then does, and then finds their teacher was guiding them all along. I could not discern between soft breezes, rustling maple leaves, and softly settling apple blossoms and yet my happiness was unimpeded.

The cello was skillfully - even beautifully - managed but its notes infringed on stillness and so I left and walked to the lake, confused as always about my relationship to art. In Scotland I wrote many letters, including in them lyrics to songs I was working on, and years later was serenaded by someone who had appropriated several images, rendering them in a way that made clear at last that we do not own expression. The dog was tired and chose not to follow me into the forest, which no doubt pleased the deer.

One establishes a base camp - on secures it in an obscure location - and from there ascends daily to perceive the caldera and the stillness of the water filling it. I mean beyond reflection, beyond perception, all the way to what knows itself without the impediments of language.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Letting Go of What is Not Inherent

Soft pink apple blossoms litter the trail, May's declaration of the eternal. We walk together, past the old cellar hole now ridden with yellow sorrel, and past the detritus of the family that so long ago lived there - nails, bottles, buckets, buttons - which surface after rain. Toad-colored leaves or leaf-colored toads? I am the man for whose craft the distinction matters.

And one of the first poems I ever wrote for you was about apples, their pale blossoms falling softly in your brown hair at dusk. This happened twenty-one years ago when we first visited Quonquont orchards, and the memory of it - both poem and picking - softens yet the gnarled interior. Nothing changes but that we remember nothing need change. The blossoms fall again and we walk through them, in the old way of men and women who are in love, and whose love is in the earth and above it too.

At night, stars remind me of bluets, and bluets of what for so long went unsaid. One writes in order to appease others, and to attract others, and then one day remembers Who is always here. Perceive the infinite sea and then do nothing to disturb its waters indeed. As once I stayed awake while you slept, our daughter cooing in your arms, and beheld nothing else but that, and for a moment wanted nothing else.

At last I see that the dogs forgive me, and so I can let them go, I can let them be dogs again. Bees drowse in the tall grass watched over by dandelions. Relinquish what impedes expression. Give yourself now to only this action.

At dusk last night, while I sat quietly and happily, a rabbit grazed at the road's edge, and an oriole alighted on a branch that was close to me. And I loved them but did not linger on them, for there is nothing special in the Kingdom. In you I perceive salvation which is simply the letting go of what is not inherent. Mid-morning, New England, Spring.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Neither Penalty Nor Opportunity

The trail is there, as if waiting. It bears any walker into the forest, sunlight streaming through pine trees. Water sings where the slope allows it. And the red eft hesitates in unseasonal cold, slick and muscular on directionless moss.

Alone is neither penalty nor opportunity. The busy world assembles and groans but it cannot undo Stillness. Esso oil cans splintered by bullets are pushed up by rain, reminding me of what was difficult in childhood. We are not mistaken when we say that pumpkin seeds are a thousand dreams of orange.

Will this writing do? One hears the directive - do not disturb what is placid - and all morning wonders what expression is still allowed. The mail now goes unanswered. And chickadees balance on the clothesline, accepting the form that is given.

Close to what is motiveless and without personality one learns the next stage requires an even lighter load. "Empty," she said over and over, brushing her hand through the air. Where I am going, vows are neither made nor broken. Not this, not anymore.

Roseate dawn after a last spate of rain and roosters hollering in all directions. Somewhere a door closes, and closer one opens. No prayer but the prayer learned in solitude. Starlight given now to night.

Friday, May 16, 2014

No Other Mode Will Do

At 2 a.m. the wind comes, gusty and warm, reminiscent of confusing weeks in Florida. One walks the dog in no hurry, unable to stitch thoughts to order, so giving attention instead to the familiar (the ancient) melody of MacLean's The Gael. Dense clouds pass overhead obscuring the moon, yet a faint luminosity - one that would have pleased Coleridge - attends.

The neighbors car lights are one and I duck in quickly to turn them off, one kind of angel but not another. Is it possible the backyard rose bush cannot solve every problem? One encounters for the first time the metaphor of self as flute in which the breath of God makes music and it resonates, it hums, it does.

C wakes early and finds me in the back room writing and visits a moment before intuiting the fructive welter and so gathers her knitting, a blue and violet shawl that always settles some internal conflict in me. Lilac bushes reach the roof and one watches them drift this way and that in the slow tides of dawn. A sudden spate of rain, against which you duck but continue forward, as if sure in the knowledge that no other mode will do.

The altar trails behind me and I only remember it near the brook, listening to warblers whose interior clocks are clearly busted. Emily Dickinson misunderstood is not the end of the world but it doesn't help either. We baked bread and dusted it after with Parmesan cheese and crushed garlic in oil, eating it warm with pickles and olives, talking about how much fun it was to read mysteries together all those many years ago.

How sensitive I am to any perception of criticism! Relationship now beckons and I ascend its spiral stem accordingly, gripping the green leaves for ballast, bent only on the pale blue blossom overhead. And meanwhile, the man without shoes enters a pawn shop and falls weeping when he discovers his great-grandfather's pocket watch still ticking in a dusty display case (beside a vintage "no trespassing" sign and his grandmother's handwritten recipe cards).

Peace be with you who are ready now to ask for peace! Folds of blanket set aside in order to assemble the perennial question and then enter the answer with all one's body humming. Wind and rain, dog and no dog, and an interior perception of cataclysm I am at last ready to face.

One composes prayerfully, mantis-like, a bluet. One perceives a separate will - the combustible plasticine self - and discards it in the maple trees, arranging happily the notes of Creation.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Behold My Unraveling

Doubt darkens the obvious highway.

Rain secures the bluet's petals in tight folds oblivious to desire.

Awaken and walk and know thyself as two feet with a purpose.

Rolling in folds of blanket alone all night, thought's poorly lit cinema home to what is broken.

Letters come, are tucked away, and we sit out front.

We sit out front and talk about money and house plans and land.

All night one saw with the clarity the responsibility for decision - and the unwillingness to make it which is only fear - and why?

Why is it not enough to go part of the way?

What inside us is content with half-measures, with approximations of love?

The string tails off, stained by the world, and I behold my unraveling the way an antelope watches as lions tear into its heart.

Emily Dickinson asking after God but going into death.

Destroy my poems indeed.

Rain comes in the morning when we are preparing a long walk, and something in us quietens, something that loves a poncho, and softening.

Blood dissolving in water as water gathers on the sea.

She is not implicated as she thinks - nor as she would like - yet she is implicated helpfully, and it will have to do as there is no time left to explain.

Dead horses, dead calves, dead dogs, dead chickens, dead rabbits, dead cats, dead flowers, dead trees, dead cousins.

Dead center: study this phrase carefully!

Expelled from the white garret at last we sleep poorly - oh the thrumming of the heart when night allows the interior raid - and stumble into a gray light, a kind of prayer.

A kind of there, actually, but here.

Between shoes and a quill pen, lilac and what lilac represents.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Minor Differentiations in Circumference

The man without shoes sleeps well for once, waking two hours after sunrise, and studies his toes peeking out from violet sheets, wiggling like little dwarves doing a happy rumba because they were given a reprieve from dark and diamondless mines.

Preparation is holy but decision is the Mind of God.

What we want is what we are and we can only learn this by giving it away, thus the paradox that leaves us for the most part navigating circles and pretending that minor differentiations in circumference are meaningful.

Chickens make temporary homes in the lilac bush, and one notices the bumblebees are particularly energetic and plentiful.

Attention is what matters, and only this, and once one makes contact with that which directs attention, Heaven is no longer an abstraction, and it is this contact with which I am presently wrestling (in the nature of a drowning swimmer being rescued by an angel).

We are given children and dogs in order to learn what it means to love and let go, is perhaps one way to say it, though doubtless there are others.

Swatting mayflies and sipping lukewarm tea, one slips into gratefulness at dusk and it lasts and lasts and oh the sweetness, oh the yes.

Bear unto others what you most desire - forgiveness and love - and discover you are treading miracles in the swelling tides of God.

In other words, who cares what its name is?

I dreamed an enormous moose running away - it was the one whose trail I have been studying eight or nine days straight now - and I let him go happily, into the forest down a steep hill, and thus he is here, now, and you may see him too (if you close your eyes and forget about moose altogether).

Hillman advises us not to retrieve projection - or end it (the traditional therapeutic mode)- but rather to leap out after projection into the world they make so that we might at last learn something new or, failing that, something interesting.

First person singular is triply false indeed!

Catbirds - those ash-colored street fighters - brawl near the backyard goldenrod and watching them I think for no reason of toads and their complex relationship to movement (and realize that what is complex is the way I think about (and, really, write about) their relationship to movement - the actual relationship is natural and simple and accomplished without thought).

Salad splashed with rice vinegar, spicy peanut noodles, raw garlic and ginger, a banana, two kinds of tea, pepitas and cashews, one chunk of dark chocolate and popcorn with nutritional yeast on it.

Some secrets I disclose in the interest of inner peace but others seem to be in the nature of a code and thus I remain in a strained but not yet unnecessary relationship with various codebreakers.

Here is a writing exercise I try from time to time: write by hand the sentence that lies behind each sentence you've written (meaning the ones that you cannot as yet write) and then burn them while praying aloud for all lost and forsaken poets that they might somehow soon (with you) be delivered from the regrettable drudgery of wordiness and the narrative I.

Solitude is a nude beach is the only metaphor to which I can give assent just now.

He wrote "you use the word resonate a lot - too much" and I wrote back "Emily Dickinson declined the invitation to invest her snow."

First order, then simplicity, then gratefulness, and then no then but all.

Love me, love my umbrella.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Far Cry from Heaven

Sometimes when the geese cry from their high place it is a song that contains my name, and what is happy in me elides through all space. Tremulous bluets at last in the yard, fingerling trout balanced in a cold current. What use are names in such a kind and forgiving welter?

We talked at length about how those countries in which atheism is on the rise seem to be having the most success in building a culture that harmonizes with Jesus's program of selfless love and caring for others. Technology is another form of magic, and all the old gods understand this and attend its application accordingly. Clouds settling, reminiscent of velvet, and we go back and forth beneath them in a dream - a remembrance perhaps - of rain in Kentucky.

All life is art. We go deeper into the cave, beyond even the possibility of light, and our breath deepens and slows, and what is God consents to come forth a little. Rabbits in the side yard, unread books, raisins, notes from old friends, and sourdough starter spilling from its container.

So many loose threads and somewhere a woman who can perhaps tie them, render a helpful embroidery - that is the old dream, the one that withdraws from us with each step into the rocky desert. Avoid cliche at all times and in all ways. The tea cools and I heft it in honor of the chickadee, bravely singing in the as-yet-unflowering dogwood, the song for which what is soul in me arises.

For our anniversary we climb Skinner Mountain with the kids - remembering old dogs and goats, burning and repairing and amending maps - and after at home share noodles and kombucha, Buddy Holly playing low. The impulse is to write and not worry who reads, and yet. Who desires God obscures God, and who affects religiosity has opened a department store a far cry from Heaven.

Tired after a long day teaching I fall asleep and dream I stand beneath a cliff composed of blue and yellow stones, a tiny figure gesturing at the top, and I cannot tell if I am being called to ascend or to step aside in order to allow for another's descent. Dad sold the last tractor and nobody knew how to feel about it, so we all pretended it was okay, which maybe it was but still - why not go into it? Hours spent exploring D minor yield sore fingers and a surprisingly aggressive lust.

Between windows, between doors, between dogs. The sentences like cellar wells come to in the forest, yellow wood sorrel blossoming throughout.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Not This Way But Another

What moonlight we are becoming! Or so I think at 1 a.m., leaning on the window, scratching the dog's head, contemplating yet again the descending  gracefulness of all light. Love what presents itself as needing love and remember that details are simply a form of resistance.

I remember eating cupcakes in Lenox, and later drinking coffee outside on a bench, and later yet wandering through tiny galleries, feeling as always the fiscal impoverishment that rises in vain to block the happy expressions of Christ. It is the last morning of 3 a.m. and - for all his complaining - the man without shoes already feels nostalgic.

Oh dawn, you never don't reveal the continuous gifts of God! Often, when relative strangers inquire into my spiritual practice, I say something about giving attention to apples and refusing to refuse to swat mosquitos. The monastery goes with us and we are always "on retreat."

Darling will you tie my string? Pushing 5 a.m. I go out again, this time to check on the chicken shed, for no real reason other than the moon has set and darkness as always makes me do little dances. Little glistenings here and there, little glimpses.

Sooner or later we all begin a rambling journey to the interior. It is okay to take notes and okay to read the notes of the ones who went before. Scraps of birch bark, blue jay feathers, and Robert Frost poems at last understood as saying "not this way but another."

Oh camera, what lies do you not beg me to believe? The trail emerges in part as we go, as our going joins the goings of others. We bend to the real work, we allow another to gift us in a soft way, a moist way.

Yet another minute passes. "Hold on," I say to God, scribbling madly, "I just want to say again how happy the two note spring song of chickadees makes me."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Folds of an Imagined Rose

Bear scat curled in the shape of question marks, littering the trail, suggesting west. The moose track - three days old now - survived yesterday's rain, fastening now to the old alphabets. Blue Jays, forsythia, shotgun shells, quartz points and one idea after another, somewhat like the folds of an imagined rose.

We live at the shoulder, understood now as the listing median between thought and pulse. Absent bluets - yet surrounded by them everywhere - I at last understand the meaning of bereft. As a very little boy I wanted to swallow fireflies both to contain their mysterious light but also to protect them from the bats my father said mercilessly hunted them.

Thought after thought, like the half tones of bells passing over the village into the hills and beyond to where. Swallows - the night blue white-bellied fliers - now visit regularly, exacerbating my experience of flightlessness. A daffodil where skunk cabbage might have done as well.

Who lingers then in the vale of L sounds? Teachers offer direction but not mandates or else they aren't teachers but particularly dangerous learners. Caveat emptor indeed child.

Shreds of birch bark float through the forest and I search them all, hoping against hope to discover at last her name. People are always offering me grills, misunderstanding the value of fire, and also of going without. Tortilla pizzas for breakfast with eggs, olives and the last of last summer's peppers.

Blue jays scraw as I enter the forest and crows drift from their piney nests, carrying the warning forward. Yet the turtle is blessed and never worries the carapace. Faith assembles unpainted barns and offers another poem.

Hold onto it a little longer until you find the walker who can share the far miles, okay? Distance a balm, a dog I am calling home.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Beyond Where Walkers Go

What luxurious dark in which to lose oneself and discover what is not alienable. Light rain at 3 a.m., faint smell of passing skunks and - oddly - bird song not quite contained in the lilac. So the blessing begins, so the hymn stutters forth, and so I walk - away from this and into that - again.

When we put it down in words, it feels concrete, and yet a blade of grass can undo it and often does. F. brought me bluets bunched in her tiny hand, and also a smooth rock. What we mean by "heart" is what we mean by "love," so why not just say it? Entangled ascension teasing out rhymes.

Somewhere up there - beyond all this undulating darkness - is the moon, while somewhere in here - also undulating - is the idea of the moon, and light, and yearning and - most helpfully - the possibility of perfection. Expression matters. Gently I shift away from the lush and personal and desirable and toward the rocky desert of which I went so long afraid. Begin with genuflection, proceed to Benedictine lauds, and then rise and walk beyond where walkers go.

The forest yields no insights for once and so I skip a little over muddy rocks. The slip by which we are defined has already happened so we move now in the direction of healing, which is forever in the nature of anonymity. A full belly and a hand to hold? Turtles are a form of sojourn, the soul preparing its leap.

Well, the mail comes and goes, and one contemplates the space between choice and decision, and finds as always the borderless country. A preferential poetry? She inclined naturally toward flowers and light without in any way compromising her intuitive understanding of space. And the mystery spilling where we kiss its liniment seam.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What Wordless Hymn

Clouds pass, the sky softens, and the blue light of which we are composed prays on us. Quartz in the old garden glitters, shredded taffeta taken for violets flutters in soft breezes. What old turtle shell encompasses us? What wordless hymn?

One kneels to trace the heart-shaped deer print and loses track of time. Letters move mysteriously beneath our pen, sometimes glancing shyly up. Veils shift - translucence beckons - and what goes on does so happily. Jesus in fir trees and the Buddha a slip of birch bark.

What is vast is within us is vast indeed! Stairs ascending through clouds trailing off. When she closed the door and lit the candle, the poems were there, and she drifted with them in all directions, grateful and amazed at once. Our bodies settling in a dream of cattail.

An afternoon given to watching mourning doves and pondering - again - what to do about money. Day old cookies scattered in crumbs beneath the dogwood as yet not flowering. One can use the word "crow" too much, especially when thinking about cradles and callings. The blessing is what we say it is, albeit at a level with which most of us are not familiar.

Out of the dense matter of bodies come ethics and dreams and ghazals. The way you look at me before we kiss, and what we are all doing with hunger. A quart wine bottle discovered intact awaits the first of hundreds of pebbles brought to gleaming in the presence of trout bellies. A certain love, a certain sail, and this.

Heaven Gathers Where Attention Softens

Light seemed to emerge from the trail itself. One's steps went lightly over it, at times rising, seeing above the breezy tops of trees the heron flying away in the mist. Oh warblers, spiraling songsters, you always make me so happy.

And a single brown apple wedged in the high gray interstice of the crab apple tree beneath which one stops, amazed as always at where the gift shows itself, and how luminous it is, and yet how plain and simple as well. You end up talking about Emily Dickinson's relationship with the Old Testament (a reflection of her abiding editorial impulse with respect to God and death) and they stop taking notes and listen, as they always do when you talk about Emily Dickinson. Shreds of violet in tangled grass.

Oh when will the heart consent to its last journey? I study the fence where the bear went through, consider the half-assed repair job, and remember my grandfather who never said it aloud but more lived it so you couldn't escape it: any job worth doing is worth doing right goddamnit. Well, the bear made us all happy, as bears do in New England in early spring.

I brushed dirt and pine needles and other detritus off the sheets, thinking of Jorge Guillen, whose poems I cannot find despite hours looking last night. Your firing squad is my billowing spirituality which encompasses everything in gauze and then takes it on the Ferris wheel to snuggle and woo. Cows bellow in the distance and one laments the lost era of bells.

Thinking too of James Wright, to whom L.S. pointed a good quarter century ago, and how reading him I had that feeling - a hallmark of those days - wait, you can do this in a poem? Well, we are all in relationship with the desire to find - and yet also not find - the ears to hear. More tea, another kiss for the dog curled in the shape of a button, and a plate of roasted veggies in sauerkraut for breakfast.

Let the day go where it will and worry only that you are not resisting the yes for which it longs. The fir tree was luminous as well, so much so that it enfolded me, and I could feel myself falling into the pond and perhaps even beyond and so I did the only thing I could do to resist: take a picture, write a sentence. One finds glass bottles everywhere - and takes them home and cleans them - and then fills them with pebbles washed clean by brooks and puts them on a shelf and it makes me happy, it just does.

Stay close to night and solitude and what wordiness arises there, beloved. Heaven gathers where attention softens thusly.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What Passes for Experience

Is there such a thing as a requisite stumble? One flails in a welter of small lies, doesn't one. Most of what passes for experience is an evasion of our responsibility to remember God. A door can be held open a long time before quietly slipping shut and then what? Those who know themselves only in the responses of others are what loneliness does at closing time.

On the other hand, perhaps we really are an aperture through which the universe observes itself. One cannot find the boundary of awareness, and naturally the center follows them everywhere. The giant ladle so long treasured on the horizon spoons a dark soup where I walk. Rabbits commingling under the front yard pine tree. And later, strong tea perceived as a kind of emotional  antiseptic, much needed.

When we shift on the bed, the mattress whispers accordingly, and the blankets rearrange themselves. A miracle is essentially the insight that miracles are neither needed nor accomplishments. Let your yes mean yes indeed. How I long for the teacher who will tell me to stop writing, stop talking. Prisms are not the way though they illuminate it a little for those yet invested in maps and signs and guides.

Three days straight a flicker visits, and yesterday in the forest I found bear tracks in the muddy trail, and my heart quickened and then grew heavy, yoked still to a body yoked still to signals. Emily Dickinson knew the value of risk and also of making a decision. Symbols resolve nothing, and nothing becomes us. You have to go further than soft sighs, further than the multiplicity of choice, and especially further than always thinking in terms of distance and trails. One begs the historical Jesus for favors and so turns again from the ineffable's generosity. Walking in starlight without a hat - syllable by syllable - learning the lessons of shoelessness.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Augustine's Great Shadow

Hours in the forest looking for hawk nests yields nothing but hours in the forest looking. Don't ask who has the map if you're capable of drawing one. I sleep well for once and wake up confused but happy, which is nothing new. Oh Emily Dickinson, thank you a thousand times a thousand times!

It helps to spend time watching dogwood leaves slowly unfurling, and to devote oneself to the arrival of bluets. We are servants in that order! A beautiful signal arrived in a form I could both recognize and accept and now this, this way. To know oneself as a fool is to know that somersaults and mirror balls are welcome in the kingdom.

If you find the ruins of the cross, all I can say is keep going. Mice scampered through the wood pile and I thought of the men I knew that you will never know and how right now - a child with all of it before you - it doesn't matter, though in time it will, as few of us escape fully the binding narrative of family. Look for the helpers! I am talking about wintergreen lifesavers, tobacco and non-negotiable hats for walking to church.

How tired I am of methods, the mind's cheerful focus on modes. One encounters a wall and thinks, that would be the perfect place for a ladder. Goldenrod near the old rose bush, cartographers looking for work. Witnesses take notes, which is one way to avoid doing it.

Burning winter deadfall and old poems, ashes spiraling into the dull gray sky, leaning on a broken hoe, knowing there is only one way now. Your hand brushes mine while helping fix the winter-battered shutters and we remember that time painting the foyer of our first house - the joke about needing a little caulk - and for a moment the shutters wait while laughter - our laughter - a kind of blossom now that I write it - unfolds and ascends to silence. We live and write and pray in Augustine's great shadow. Premeditated meditation is like kale or flossing, meaning it's fine, it's more than fine, but it's not enough if you want to see the Face of God and live.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hunting the Crumbs

Setting sun illuminating laundry filled with wind, shirts and jeans blown skyward, straining at the wooden clips that bind them. That, always that. While earlier a barn owl sailed low across the trail before me, coming to rest in a budding maple tree, as calm and disdainful as theology in the seventeenth century.

Chickadees come in to feed, picking through plush grass for what the other birds miss. Beggars are okay and we are all hunting the crumbs of God. Oh Gretel, thank you for taking such good care of the white bird, the regal harmonious swan, and your brother too, who needs you still.

Rereading Hillman on the heart one stumbles across that line that the first person singular is neither first, nor a person, nor singular, and remembers the long years of study in Vermont, so lonely and tired, always ready to drift across the lake back to her. Shad move in the river now, their silvery muscles packed with bone, making me think for no obvious reason of tobacco, and canoe trips with my father in the 1980's. One thinks of D. in Paris, or perhaps Germany now, who knows, and wonders if any envelopes are prepping themselves for regret.

Train whistles a little after four a.m., peepers somewhere north which feels wrong somehow, and thin clouds moving quickly below the ten thousand stars I stopped naming when I was six. We ascended low hills without light and sat quietly on boulders beneath scraggly pines, smoking and sharing a six pack and not saying much, because in those days, who could? A dream of ladders, a dream of fences swirling slowly in a brown river flooding the low green banks.

Bluets one mile north - at the historical museum - while in my cold yard only dandelions and a handful of violets near the rhubarb. Things change, or seem to, and it's okay, or it will be - you have to tell yourself that. Sentence after sentence, no one of which defines me, no one of which persuades me that it's better to stay put.

We held hands near the harbor, and kissed on marble stairs while snow swept the air around us, and I remember almost all of that afternoon, and why, and why now? Cat sleeping in the laundry basket, eyes scrunched tight, mewing when we touch her. The kids come back inside with stories of a snake, frantic descriptions spilling into each other, and it makes me think of the quiet herpetologist I interviewed years ago, and how he talked for almost an hour about how important the right pencil is, and how nothing will sharpen it properly but the knife his Grandma gave him in the early fifties.

Thus, one settles and unsettles and settles again. The perennial welter opens and we navigate the interior deluge, bringing love back to love, and waiting a bit to see what happens next.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Nothing a Thousand Times

You can walk a long time in the forest without hearing a single bird and then suddenly the forest in filled with music. At 5:20 a.m. (I estimate) an owl cried out almost practically on top of my shoulder and I stumbled and my heart raced and you could imagine the whole forest laughing. The lesson lately being very much about not forgetting to bring my body. Deer prints in the mud, and near the slope to the pond, a single turkey feather wavering in a light breeze.

When I talk, I am happy, as when I write I am happy, but what I say - what I mean with what I say - is not so important to me, or even especially interesting, which is why so many of my worldly obligations founder and drift. Please forgive my idolatry and my love of my own voice - is that what I need to say? Discussing blue jays with E. the other day I thought suddenly: somebody better come along and help me or this lifetime is going to pass like all the others. I mean coastal monasteries in medieval Ireland, the bellies of tigers, and those dreary northern pilgrimages in which I learned nothing a thousand times.

Her letter - oddly subdued, given her customary intensity - neatly framed the dilemma: would you rather be right or at peace? One storms off in search of forsythia bushes, one kicks the same rock for a good half mile up the road to the cemetery. One begins to realize at last the price and wonders - perhaps for the last time - whether they can pay it. I remember a while in my twenties refusing summits, literally stopping a hundred feet shy, which annoyed my fellow hikers no end, but it was a principled stand, a spiritual one, and I am doing it now but differently and is that what I want?

The barn window broke - again - and we worked quickly in the bouncing beams of flashlights to repair it. How I love mathematicians and how sad I am that they so rarely love me back! C. buys me recipe books - old ones written by women who knew no space between God and food and feeding others - when she wants me to know she loves me. Gestures matter in the sense that they throw wide - however briefly - the veil that obscures the light.

One can't study the dogwood blossoms comfortably because it alienates the birds at the feeder. I am terrified of injuries to my teeth, and of going without water, and insist on various hardships (mostly regarding sleep and shoes) as a way of preparing myself, of proving there is nothing I can't handle. People forget how sociable Emily Dickinson was, and how ecstatic and devoted Jonathan Edwards was, and how nice a fire smells, and how the world opens when you study bird songs and animal tracks. Holiness abounding in the welter we call home.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Through Kisses and Fasts and Prayers

Bird song on what is for me a busy and worldly kind of morning. One rolls through sleep as if on tides meant for another kind of body and wakes as if no time at all has passed.

The dog comes in breathing hard which means somewhere there's a rabbit hiding beneath a shed also breathing hard. Crab apples beginning their soft blush and one thinks as always of dowsing and of the secret life that so many fathers lead.

Prayer is continuous, in the sense of the sea, or outer space, and one moves through it aware or unaware, and knowing the distinction can be helpful. So many voices pleading to be heard!

One moves in the direction of silence, led by words that are hardly their own. Rain clouds overhead and a moist breeze and too many nights without catching a glimpse of the moon.

D. left his barn door open which means the horse was more troubled than usual and at least one chicken is decomposing in a fox belly. We are all hungry and attend our appetites accordingly.

I remember K. telling me in Burlington all those years ago, every time I hear you play I think you need someone who plays accordion but quietly. Ireland reconsidered.

Where one should work, one plays, and this is the result. The tea is not God, nor the old mug containing it, and yet you can become so happy thinking otherwise, it's almost as if the tea is God, and the mug too, and why not?

Comparing chubby medieval angels to pats of butter felt risky, oddly, and while toppling through vales of sleep after, the man without shoes felt unsettled in the sense of wanting to explain something but what. It is not angels precisely but rather the shades of blue through which they roll and how that somehow relates to soup during Lent, or maybe lilacs near Chicago, or am I trying somehow to say thank you without feeling weak?

And then P. telling me "there is something you should be doing but I can't quite figure out what it is," and I laughed at the neat - the fitting - articulation. Sometimes when I think I've wandered far from Jesus I say quietly - desperately really - "are you still there Jesus" and there is always a quiet affirmation, usually involving either flowers, birds, snow flakes, stars, the moon, or beams of sunlight interacting with water.

It is not about women anymore, which means a kind of desert one always avoided, which really really means accepting that God is not partial to landscape or gender, which really really really means that communion is something other than bodies fumbling through kisses and fasts and prayers. On the other hand, how sweetly she sleeps, and how sweet her dreams must be, and how she wakes a moment later as if knowing who is there and says "hey you," and it is true, it is me, and not me also, and I like that, I am ready, I do.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Your Inscape is Your Sanctity

Have you given up? How many letters have I written and received with that underlying yet unspoken premise?

When I walk in the rainy forest I do not remember what I am always trying to forget. We cannot think our way through anything really.

When God made me he left a bird-shaped hole near where my heart is. Do not question what leads to such a beautiful exile.

At midnight laughing, at 4 a.m. with the dog outside, and always exploring the limits of wordlessness. Some edges you fall over and some you are lifted as if by mysterious winds and you wonder why you waited so long to say yes.

I removed my shirt for her, mortally tired, thinking of bees in gardens near dusk, and what happiness I know at such odd – such unanticipated – moments and why it so rarely involves other people. What is the meaning of the sleep for which I long?

I remember bus stations near Cleveland, a hotel in Saint Louis where I first dreamed the dream of you, and all the books I have stolen and lost over the years. Lust is just another form of fear which is why at last I can walk away.

Avoiding the guitar means what voice is now going unheard? We splash through cold puddles, we go all the way to the feeder pond where geese float nervously, and I see again my conflicting propensities for intrusion and celebration.

Go without goals! The idea you are broken – whatever form your brokenness takes – is merely an evasion of your longing to bear love to love.

I whispered after “you are are never getting rid of me” and she laughed and said “it's not up to you though is it” and I knew at last I was home if I wanted to be. Daffodils in a vase, pansies lined up beside the garden, chickpeas soaking in a pot, and poems, always poems.

Oh but the positive element of light is never lacking even though we can be painfully – almost masochistically - inattentive. Your inscape is your sanctity, child, so be not afraid.