Monday, September 22, 2014

Given to the Vastness

And then at night a seam in the clouds appeared through which a single faint light shone as if for me and by extension - reflecting my dim (but still evolving) understanding of love - you, wonderful you.

And the morning passes in a light rain, a fine and steady hush rising as if from fields grateful to be studied, and the dog's tracks by the back door fade, and the many grackles become one bird and soar from north to south in uniform grace above the fallen goldenrod and the last of the wild morning glories.

And bookmarks perceived at last as a special form of readerly love, forever saying "here, here."

For you took my hand and led me up the hill to the cross - the wisteria-shrouded cross - and then beyond to where the sun set over towns we had never seen.

Smoke rising, redolent of deadfall, oh always we are faced with one lesson.

In a vision I build the fire low so she and I could get close to its transformational crackling, tucked beneath the old quilt Aunt Muriel made in the 1960s, kiss by kiss evolving into that timeless love against which night - and even winter - only deepens our resolve.

Oh let us release all late summer crickets forever from haiku and renga and all the other well-intentioned but ultimately ruinous forms (and the beautiful but confused poets employing them).

The dog coming breathless out of the bracken is grace as snapping turtles scuttling the causeway are poems and the apparently perceptive self is merely an excuse for fragments of the whole to be recollected in a lovely, in a redemptive - in a yes, there, yes - way.

I don't care what the sky does but I do give attention to its doing, its movement, which is a way of saying that when we fear our bodies (through hatred or otherwise), we lose the one who loves us well beyond them.

For I await the image - I imagine grace, I imagine naked - because for a little while longer holiness must yet make itself concrete by taking form, which is all the image is: that through which we perceive what is Formless again.

And then I will lay myself down beside you and my hands will be light and the whole afternoon will rise and fall, rise and fall, as so gently you open, so breathlessly entered.

I walk a long time slowly going deep into the forest with an ax in one hand and a small bag with bread, apples and a bent tin cup in the other and the forest welcomes me then as a brother for I am not separate from it, I am no longer beholden to the lovelessness of thought only.

The stars manage to find their way to me through windblown pines and I can only hope they are as generous with you, for whom lost is another kind of animal - dark and prone to hibernation - entirely.

I go as far as the brook, stopping on its rocky banks in darkness to think of the ones I bring with me, and - more tenuously - those who have brought me with them - and then go on, up the hill into the fields, and at last home to boil water for tea and roll out the sourdough, the cold kitchen a lovely friend to one so long accustomed to the interior Lent.

Oh and the train two towns away, those low and hallowed moans, wending north through yet-deep forests, a thousand years old and getting more so by the moment.

I wait twenty minutes or so in P.'s garage for him to finish his call with the builder, poking through his toolbox (comparing it to my jumbled own), running my thumb through the dust on his gun rack, grateful as always to be asked to help anyone.

In a way, "piss with and not into the wind" is damned good advice, applicable in any situation.

On Saturday I shot seven glasses of whiskey by the fire, midnight or just after, showers of gold sparks ascending into rain-kissed pine limbs, doing the odd dance I do when it matters that she know how much I love her still.

Stopping to watch poplar leave spiral down towards me, while chickadees and red squirrels pause their winsome antics to watch me, no doubt pondering the meaning of such a puzzling and obviously dazzled biped.

How sweet sometimes to get sex out of the way so you can go with her anywhere, given to the vastness transcending kiss or letter.


  1. Haha!

    This confused poet
    Hides behind her wall of words
    Cricket sings within....

    These 20 sentences are beyond beautiful, Sean; they travel better than well. And in helping me find my way or, perhaps more accurately, see the way that is always here, they -- and you, of course -- have become "a lovely friend to one so long accustomed to the interior Lent."

  2. I'd like to amend my second line above, if I may, to:

    "seeks everywhere but here, now"

    (the haha was because I have been churning out haikus the past two days; can't seen to stop. Perhaps the sequel to six-word stories. :) )

    Thank you, Sean, for all of this ...You have found the infinite sweet spot and it shines in your writing.

    How wonderful it is to share time and space with our children while recognizing that this, right now, is enough. That it is IT! There are moments I am overcome with gratitude for that opportunity and joy at that revelation.

    To love simply and without question is the greatest gift we can give one another ... and ourselves.

    Thank you ....

  3. Thanks, Cheryl . . . I like your haiku (both versions - never a bad idea to write many versions of the poem - like a hawk circling) . . . I can be awfully elitist and cranky sometimes . . .

    Form is such an interesting question and so important to be attentive to . . .

    The other night I was coming home from teaching and heard a cricket near the stairs. I stopped to listen - smell of woodsmoke, a few stars just coming out over the tree line - and my mind moves as it always does in the direction of writing and I thought of Basho's poem about the dying cricket singing for his life.

    And my brain stayed in that space of wanting to put this cricket into a little poem, a haiku, but I was very conscious that the impulse was imitative, not generative.

    So that sentence was just a reflection of that thinking process. It is always interesting to me when I am in the space of imitation vs. generation - the latter being closer to creation/creativity, I think.

    And then the cricket does enter the writing, passes through it anyway . . .

    I do think the question of form is worth giving attention to, the form that we find resonant or helpful. In a sense, the decision to write a poem rather than fiction rather than an email is a decision about form. And the decision to write rather than paint is a decision about form. And the decision to make a piece of art rather than just listen to the cricket is a question of form.

    If we stay with it, then form - even at the apparently obvious level of the writing - is nested in a series of larger decisions about how we are living, about whose kingdom the world is for us today (to paraphrase the course).

    When I teach creative writing classes I always invite students to discover the form integral to their own experience. The discovery evolves over a lifetime and reflects our reading, our family structure, our sense of what community is and can be, our understanding of time and space both implicit and explicit. And sometimes that form is a mutation in the best sense of an existing form.

    My own twenty sentences are indebted to Harry Matthew though at this point they do not bear much relationship to his particular project.

    I know you were not precisely asking for a riff on form but it has always held my writerly attention . . . It is for me the nexus between insight/inspirit and craft. Every work of art is an altar in its way.

  4. Form tends to monopolize our attention, or perhaps it is better said that it diverts our attention. So, I suppose giving it attention in the way in which you speak of it is necessary to see beyond it.

    (Please forgive me, Sean, I am writing as I think, and I am not as nimble with words as you.)

    I know what you mean about imitative vs. generative, but then I wonder -- as I do about so much these days -- if the distinction really matters, at least if we recognize it.

    I ran yesterday -- for the first time in a month because of the broken toe -- and I saw a single blue morning glory nestled in the grass. Just one. So solitary and so lovely. So right then, on the spot, I mentally composed a haiku. And edited it as I went along. And then tweeted it when I returned home. And then laughed at myself for my desire to do that. It was imitative, certainly. But in the moment I saw the flower, I felt its blue and it moved through and that was enough. The writing was extraneous.

    I haven't been writing much lately (well, except for the haikus). I have sat down and opened a notebook or computer and jotted a few lines, a few ideas and then, nothing... so my making of "art" (because that is just another label, another form, isn't it? ) has been done in the kitchen, mostly gluten-free experiments.

    Today it was mini GF apple cider donuts (or doughnuts, if you prefer) rolled in cinnamon sugar, a recipe Jessie wanted me to have at the ready when she returns home for Thanksgiving (hurray)!

    But tomorrow, who knows. I could give up planning altogether, I think, if I could live each moment as a creative pulse...then every breath would be an altar in its way...or a prayer...or a poem.

    And, because ego just can't be completely tamed, yesterday's imitative impulse:

    Glory in the grass
    bluer than the sky above
    We open as One.

  5. I am almost reluctant to write here, since your poem brought us full circle, but I wanted to comment on creating as movement, as a going beyond, stretching boundaries that are always, for whatever reason, self-imposed.

    It IS all very personal, and although I would like to leave my story behind, not let it get in the way, it sets up limits that my mind still struggles to shake (the elder child, only daughter, of two high school dropouts, she who was and is well-loved but uncertain of being lovable, still in need of reassurance of her brightness, as though this can be quantified by some outside source. Ha!)

    These are the weeds that entangle me on the path. I guess we all have them; we just handle them differently. If we are being true to what arises within us, if we are offering love, if we are genuinely attempting to communicate, is it really necessary to distinguish between imitative or generative? Can we even categorize between the two? Does it matter?

    I appreciate subtlety, am delighted by metaphor. Words can be so delicious in the waves that flow out behind them. But I think I am better at just being present, offering a kind word, holding a hand that is in need of holding, just getting it, maybe, where someone breathes a little easier because someone else gets it.

    It is late, for me, and I am tired ... but what I see, that I may have not seen a year or two or three that there is a movement here, however painstakingly slow it might be...away from self at center...extricating myself from the weeds of my "story" relationship with others...but also toward becoming part of the flow so that what touches me touches you and ripples outward in some wordless energetic language....I am careful when I write here, because I can be sloppy with what I say...

    In baking, there is science and art, and I am comfortable with that combination....I think I am drawn to that balance, who knows?

    A disjointed little rant .... but thanks, Sean, for stirring it's kind of obvious I went on the defense. You would have thought I would have learned by now.

    Miles to go ... :)

  6. Dear Cheryl, please forgive me if my comment is too personal, but I just wished to share something with you. I read Sean's blog for a long time and I find that you are wonderful with words. Not only you are insightful and eloquent, but also very subtle in your metaphors and gentle in your expression. Truly beautiful heart is felt behind your words :) one could even say that in hands of a beautiful heart every single thing it touches becomes a piece of Art! The subtlety that you appreciate and are delighted with, - actually shines so brightly through You, it shines so clearly that I just had to comment. Whatever you give your breath to, -- whether it is writing, baking, running, giving a gentle hand, or capturing a beautiful moment that you and blue morning glory is creative, lovable beyond reflection and simply charming:) Don't limit or judge yourself. Your presence is abundant with gifts and talents.

  7. Dear Sean:) It's been a while... Most of the time I am off:) off*line, off*time, just off:) I spend many hours in nature and just walking. Nature is so wonderful, it opens my being so much (You are such an inspiration in that way, you are the King of the Forest:)) Also painting, playing guitar, singing, cooking, being with my family...these things nourish my joy and creativity ... Doing simple things... Just being present and feeling good, enjoying Life more:) That's all!:)
    I stopped by to see how you are doing and read a lot of what you wrote. You know how much I respect you, and in many occasions I have expressed gratitude. Now as always, I could write a veeery long essay that would compliment your writing and insights in myriad ways. Really, when something is Beautiful, one never tires of writing about it! Admiring it, expressing gratitude for the Relationship. I guess that is Love. I feel this Love when you write about your Life, your dear wife Chrisoula and your lovely children, your dog, the forest, animals, plants, simply put - about your Relationship with everything, with totality of life experience:) Also, I notice an inspired change in you and I think it's amazing:) Your presence is so wonderful, strong and empowered somehow. Love your confidence and self-expression! You have worked so hard and did so much soul seeking, and this summer a whole new door has opened, a whole new perspective... so much freshness and new strenght is in you... Not sure who said it, perhaps Budhha (:)), but this is what I feel in you: that you *found your inner light*:)
    Love*flowers to you and your Loved ones:) And gratitude always*

  8. Sean, *In the Spill of Creation* essay is EPIC! Really exciting to read, great rythm, beautifully woven. Love your voice. Love the way you weave it. Also, love the playfulness, confidence and courage with which you express, it really opens your voice and gives to your writing this seductive quality that speaks to the soul. Really, not only this one, all fragments are amazing. You really are an amazing writer.

  9. Dearest Zrinka,

    Your words passed through and opened me like the blue of that morning glory. How kind you are, how loving. This space we share, this space that is life at its finest and most undefinable, IS personal, how can it be otherwise?

    You heard my call for love and you answered and I felt it ... why else are we here... I am so very grateful for your presence. :) Thank you.


  10. I am just thinking out loud here . . .

    Sometimes A Course in Miracles has a zero sum feel to it, a sort of intellectual rigidity. Maybe it is a western thing: Jesus dying on a barren cross (leafless tree) while the Buddha awakens under a live Bodhi tree, blessed in his meditations by a gift of milk from a young woman . . .

    We are so sure - I am so sure - that we can be right, that there is *the answer* . . .

    The question that has helped me is not - is form real or illusory - but rather what is *contained* by form. It is sort of like a court trial - the form is these lawyers, judges, laypeople, rules, questions - but the content is justice, which is simply an idea that cannot really be contained by anything.

    So with all these forms that seem to comprise life but which are really simply temporary patterns comprised *by* life . . .

    One reason I give close attention to the landscape is to observe its movement - over a summer, a year, a decade, a lifetime. The bull thistle is turning to seed, dying and old, but still so fiercely alive! Life is never not in flux! Truly if we look closely we see that it is always giving itself away! In the way the trial in court "holds in order to offer" justice, the thistle "holds in order to offer" life.

    In a sense, that is all any form does: it holds, temporarily, life, which is Creation, in order that life might extend itself, recreate itself. The forms fold and unfold, come and go, and so on that basis, yes - let us not confuse them for their content, let us not become attached - but at the same time, how lovely to cherish the symbol, the container, through which life, which is love, pulses and radiates, giving itself away . . .

    And we are a form - not only our bodies, but also our mental images and feelings and ideas. Irish Catholic drunk, oldest son, stubborn, isolationist, goaty, etc. . . . I wonder if we can begin to see those labels more in the nature of swirls on the ocean's surface, or the beautiful network of cracks in the ceramic mug's surface . . . In other words, they feel real - feel like "us" - but they are merely part of the form. We think of "our" lives, "our" awakening and so forth but it is really just life - or creation - doing what it always does . . . extending, creating . . .

    Part of what was so helpful to me in time with Emily Dickinson was her sheer joy - her intellect (which was so mighty), her study (which was so discplined and focused) - all of it served her sense of joy, her awareness of God permeating the whole of things. She is Blake's heir this way, but more beautiful and helpful because of her complexity, her willingness to keep going, keep giving . . . Her light is so bright!

    What if there really is nothing to solve? What if all there is is that which is worthy of our attention, which is simply a form of love? What if even our stories are perfect, just as they are? Our lives not a narrative unfolding but more like an image, perfectly whole and perfect, like flowers living and dying, going to see, coming back, over and over bent on the light . . .

    I love A Course in Miracles but I am so tired of its - and the whole western - emphasis on being rigth, choosing right, getting it right. The implication - however much one protests otherwise - is that it is possible to be wrong and thus damned. But I am saying that the lovely young woman or man is always there with the milk and the trees are always ready to shelter us in prayer and *it is not possible to be wrong* only confused about how beautiful and perfect life is, and us too, folding and unfolding in and out of Life itself . . .

    ~ Sean

  11. Hi Zrinka,

    It's so nice to hear from you . . . I am glad you are well, are "off." Perhaps off is the new on? I am so aware lately of how ruinous a screen is and trying to spend less time before them. I am trying to write song lyrics:

    I can't face another screen/
    I can't stand what they do to me

    You are always so kind . . .

    Tara Singh said somewhere that life takes care - we are held, the light is there - and then so slowly it hurts we discover it and it becomes a truth, a reality . . . so simple and clear and yet how many lifetimes do we long for it, renavigating the old circles and so forth . . . I don't know . . .

    Thank you for visiting and saying hello and sharing your light . . . I am always so deeply grateful . . .

    ~ Sean

  12. Cheryl, thank you for your warm and loving response towards me, it opened my heart and I too felt lovely. When love flows, blessings are mutual and received with so much gratitude:) I really appreciate how you emphasize that this space we share IS always personal... I see it as Self exercising Love towards Self – allowing intimacy instead of resisting it, so I agree with you that our relations truly cannot be felt otherwise (than personal and heartfelt), especially when we are genuinely attempting to communicate *toward becoming part of the flow so that what touches me touches you and ripples outward in some wordless energetic language* :) (I love how you expressed it!) I had a very strong impression of you when I read your words. Your kind soul and beautiful face reminded me of a very fine, delicate flower. Yes, a flower :) So I wanted to reflect your beauty back to you and share it, celebrate it, just like you did with blue morning glory:) I love flowers so much and feel that, because of their delicacy and sweetness (that is a gift to us All), they need to be held gently:) With Love and appreciation:), Zrinka

  13. I can almost hear a song that goes this way: *.... Life takes care, we are held and light is there...* Such a beautiful melody is in it.
    Off I go to off - screen (I too am rarely at screen, one of the main reasons being the fact that I prefer when the screen is all around me, when I am all in it:), when screen-Life and I are moving together in all*ways. Feeling Life with everything I am, all senses, body and spirit is somehow easier when I am more off then on:)), off to sing some tune (although my cat doesn't respond well to my music, it wakes him up:) Loved saying hi and sharing our Light together :) ∼∼∼ Until next time... Let there be beauty and joy for us all... In that sense, beginning of *Auguries of Innocence* somehow comes to my mind:) **** Thank you all*ways Sean... Love to you and your loved ones***

    To see a World in a Grain of Sand
    And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
    And Eternity in an hour.