something in the salt
air tells of season’s turn
toward autumn days
How many ‘bridge’ moments have been a part of your life in the past seven days, I wonder?
How many times have you seen, or imagined, or dreamed of a something bright and light and beautiful ‘on the other side’ (of a river, or a headache, or a worry, or a passionately held vision for something, whatever) – and been glad of the provision it took to get you there?
I imagine that, if you’re anything like me, you may surprise yourself as you count up even your most recent ‘bridges’ – the means it took to bring you to a place you wanted to be, or to a decision, or to a good reconciliation, reflection, or resolution.
What will not surprise those who know me at all well is my assertion that, day after day, poetry (most often the creative vision of others) gifts me just such provision for my needs.
Now or never. Is this an advertising hoarding for Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’? Well, it may be, for all I know. But it’s more obviously a giant headbanging brick wall of a general invitation to everyone, everywhere, to ask ourselves, as Mary Oliver put it:
“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Some say “it’s never too soon,” while others say “it’s never too late,” and maybe there’s some truth in each. But here’s a brick wall. And it asks us at the very least to consider NOW … or maybe never. Writing this just before bedtime, it’s time to put my thinking nightcap on. How am I living my NOW?
And should I be?
When I said that all poems are love poems, I meant that the motor power, the electric current is love of one kind or another. The subject may be something quite impersonal
Our beloved poets are the people with whom one can have an ongoing conversation in head and heart, whether miles or eternities apart. I have regular conversations of that kind with May Sarton – who died on another continent in 1995. Poems – and such conversations – often reflect upon ourselves, and others, and the shared environment we all inhabit – physical, mental and spiritual.
If I close my eyes I can imagine May Sarton’s study into being (several of them, through her lifetime, of course); I can see the jug of flowers on a pedestal table, and a lamp lit at evening. And though I never met her, the odd photograph in her books here and there, her poetry and contemplative prose, have each contributed to my mind’s eye and are the stuff of the kinds of conversations I’ve always loved.
May Sarton could feel and write about heartache and joy simultaneously, while watching raindrops on a windowpane. And I think she was right … all poems are love poems – of one kind or another. Poetry, and love, for May Sarton, as for me, is LIFE – and I am thankful for her.
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Nothing lasts forever. Not even torrential Lakeland rain. And things postponed can turn out later to be even lovelier than originally anticipated.
Two reminders then – both from my late maternal grandmother:
i) patience is a virtue, and ii) when you’re in a garden, stand back and take in the wide view, but don’t leave it until you’ve also got up close to detail …
Pianist in the dark
The music is not in the keys
it has never been seen
the notes set out to find
listening for their way
when they move they are the music
they have always been
the leaves stirring in the night air
as it changes around them
the rain arrives in a slow minor
the keys sing to themselves in their dream of dancing
they make their own music
they make it again
Today’s planting session in new raised beds was postponed by the advent of rain so persistent that even the normally blithe rooks stopped squabbling, and spent the greater part of the day huddled in and on their nests. But raindrops on similarly bunched-up plants and shrubs magnified their veined beauty. And the scent of summer in the evening garden, and reflecting on good and worthwhile conversations, helps me conclude that this has been another good day.
I’ve revelled in one of those delicious days inspired by a special friend’s book recommendations! You know the sort of thing? You dip into the opening pages of each of several, and one thing leads to another, and you can’t quite settle on which to tackle first because each looks as good as the other, and there’s a deep blue sky and sunshine, so you have a break to mow stripes in the lawn, and all the while the mind returns to the books, and to more books, and more, and from thence to enthusiastic gratitude – for special friends on the one hand, and for ‘mind time,’ alone sometimes, on the other. And I suppose it was inevitable that I’d remember one of my favourite poems – one that I always reach for when my heart is full, because the day has been.
Eagles and Isles
Eagles and isles and uncompanioned peaks,
The self-reliant isolated things,
Release my soul, embrangled in the stress
Of all day’s crass and cluttered business,
Release my soul in song and give it wings –
And even where the traffic roars and rings,
With senses stunned and beaten deaf and blind,
My soul withdraws into itself and seeks
The peaks and isles and eagles of the mind.
Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, 1878-1962
I’m still setting out to lose myself this week in the perichoresis, the great dance of life, between Brianna Wiest and her marvellous ‘Salt Water’, myself, and the Great Oneness in whom we all exist.
I’m still aware every day of the passing of the beloved poet Mary Oliver in January 2019. I’ve written before that I never met her in person, yet grieve her loss to me and to the world as though we’d taken morning walks in the woods together for years. Mary’s succinct and vibrant poetry has long encapsulated for me so much of the deep and emotional ‘knowing’ that some of us mere mortals struggle to put into words. Her work lives on in her readers, of course.
I’m still – literally, sitting still, in the literary presence of Brianna Wiest, another such great soul who helps me out with her concise clarity:
Is not a rare intervention
It is a restoration of perception
And thus, still smiling, I celebrate restorations and perceptions every day 🙂
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of all things Apple – of the sleek, minimalist, work-friendly design; of the access it – and other modern tech, of course – almost seamlessly affords to everything from art, to banking, to books, contemplation, meditation, music, photography, poetry, and to education on most any subject under the sun – and beyond the sun.
But most of all I’m more thankful than words can express for modern tech’s being the means by which I’m able to be in touch with friends and loved ones all over the world. That it can sometimes feel like friends who live thousands of miles away from my little village in the UK are so very near to my heart is, to me, nothing short of miraculous. And I’m so grateful.
The chief of the World Health Organisation believes that the Covid pandemic ‘may be over within two years’ according to headlines today. And I’ve been reflecting on how quickly – and for many millions devastatingly – our lives can and do change.
Tragedy and loss has been immense in 2020. As I gaze out of my window – my present-day ‘bubble’ – I wonder to what extent the ordinary healthful and humane hopes of worldwide humankind will usher in a better ‘new normal’ the other side of defensiveness and fear?
I’ve been pondering the word ‘distraction’ – something well known to me! – whilst also reflecting on the daily information-retention miracles taking place inside each and every human brain. Today’s distraction was caused by the first three words of a single poem, which transported me, instantaneously, to the moment I read those same words, in that same book, three autumns ago!
Oh my, it was delightful to breathe deep along Edinburgh’s Portobello Promenade today. And quiet though it certainly was, also lovely to see a happy mix of all ages revelling in the simplicity and beauty of it all too.
On every step of this ascent I’d be imagining the view I’d set eyes on at the head of the stair – and it strikes me that it’s this capacity for wondering that makes it such an adventure and privilege to be alive on earth in human form.
When fear makes time weigh heavy and inner lives – behind the mask – become hornets’ nests, buzzing us to distraction; when pleading prayers go apparently unanswered and the stars are dimmed and silent … then, perhaps, it is time to hear the ‘four questions’ of the wise elders:
when did you stop dancing?
when did you stop singing?
when did you stop being enchanted by stories?
when did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?
And sometimes the questions, and even small attempts at answering them, cause us to forget the mask, and barely even notice that the hornets have stopped buzzing, and re-membering we begin – as we’ve done so many times before – to live again.