Love and hope and memory

when you go home tell them
of us and say ‘for your
tomorrows we gave our today’

i

perhaps you did not
see one hundred years ahead
yet Sir you graced each

ii

thank you for singing
love and hope and memory
as you gave your all

iii

you did not know me
but sacrificed anyway and now
live in Love in all

SRM – MM Haiku 51 Day 81

Aloft

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Stories

Sometimes the stories of
the garden of our lives
are written in ink or
by ribbon or toner and
machine, engineered
instrument or flight-capable
quill

Sometimes the stories of
our flowering and light
are written in soft breath
gossamer touch, sunlit
thread, the sudden
resurrections of graces
we’d thought might be quite
dead

Sometimes the stories of
images arise in our hearts
the aching loves and the
false starts and the hopes
and aspirations turned, as on
a wood-artist’s lathe: formed
resuscitations

And so day by day I return
to the garden to be still –
howsoever the stories are
inscribed, however revealed
my spirit knows that in this place
simple, silent and smiling –
they will

SRM

Over our own fathoms

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photo at pixabay

‘But the silence in the mind’

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean
we launch an armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

R S Thomas (link)
Counterpoint, 1990

Many years ago I spent a night in a comfortable bed, set in the centre of a palatially large stone-walled bedroom, in an exquisitely beautiful converted priory in Northern France. Many generations of monks hadn’t entirely left. The beauty of deep silence all around me moved me to inexpressible joy. Silence spoke eloquently of one of the chief trials of contemporary, Western, human experience: the perils of too much noise.

In the morning sunlit-warmed mist, over wide and silent horizon, rooted me to the landscape. It was painful to leave. And I am daily faced with a choice. Either to complain about noise, or to make space often to withdraw from it. Most often I choose the latter, having found it entirely possible, for most of my adult life, and much of boyhood too. Letting go of complaining is best, for it takes up too much time and energy.

Better to remember that old priory, and the morning mist; better to listen for deep calling to deep, the bottomless ocean, the presence. Better to choose regular silent space. And to be still. It’s a matter of will. Yes: counterpoint.

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Inward and outward

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barcelona dawn | photo at pixabay

The Inner History of a Day

Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that travelled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.

The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.

John O’Donohue
The Inner History of a Day
To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

I’ve been enjoying photos of the Eclipse as seen in the US; and good and brave souls embracing and ‘getting back to normal’ on Las Ramblas in beautiful Barcelona; and hundreds of other snapshot fragments of life around the world on the 21st August 2017.

And I’m so grateful for John O’Donohue’s calling our attention to the ‘eucharist of the ordinary’ – that quiet inner life, the dawn ‘born quietly from deepest night,’ where all humankind and natural phenomena together are joined in the ‘work through which the mind of the day / and wisdom of the soul become one.’

Transforming our broken fragments.

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Allegiances

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photo at pixabay

Allegiances

It is time for all the heroes to go home
if they have any, time for all of us common ones
to locate ourselves by the real things
we live by.

Far to the north, or indeed in any direction,
strange mountains and creatures have always lurked –
elves, goblins, trolls, and spiders: – we
encounter them in dread and wonder,

But once we have tasted far streams, touched the gold,
found some limit beyond the waterfall,
a season changes, and we come back, changed
but safe, quiet, grateful.

Suppose an insane wind holds all the hills
while strange beliefs whine at the traveler’s ears,
we ordinary beings can cling to the earth and love
where we are, sturdy for common things.

William Stafford
The Way It Is – New & Selected Poems

A few key dates in William Stafford’s life: born in Kansas in 1914. A conscientious objector in World War II. A man whose habit was to write something daily, who would rise at 4.30am to ‘sit and wait’ for what he knew lay within to be written. His volume West of Your City published by Talisman Press in 1960; Allegiances published by Harper in New York in 1970; the author of over fifty books, he died at his home in Oregon in 1993.

William Stafford thoroughly understood that once we have tasted far streams … / found some limit beyond the waterfall, / a season changes, and we come back, changed …

And therein lies our hope for this old world in our own time and season.

Dreadful elves, goblins, trolls and spiders have always existed. Some of them, some of us too, have sought to be ‘heroes’ – fenced around by their and our own ignorance. It is time for all the heroes to go home.

How then may I and we locate ourselves by the real things / we live by – ?

Perhaps – having tasted – it has always to start with me, with what I now clearly see: that instead of kidding myself it’s my job to change the entire world (whoever I am, whatever my place of birth, gender, skin colour, creed or lack thereof, and wherever on earth I think myself called to be the hero, the unsolicited ‘saviour of the world’) my best contribution to that same world will be to allow seasons and experience to change me.

While strange beliefs whine at the traveler’s ears,
we ordinary beings can cling to the earth and love
where we are, sturdy for common things.

Note sturdy. Not wimps without cogniscence of – or willingness sometimes to act upon – right or wrong. Not people who turn blind eyes to goblins and trolls. Not people who do not grieve, or hope, or offer healing or hospitality, or pray, or live and die. But sturdy. Believing in the possibility of being positively changed. Experienced in the quiet and slow methods and the poetry of seasons.

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Recovered

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The songs of small birds fade away
into the bushes after sundown,
the air dry, sweet with goldenrod.
Beside the path, suddenly, bright asters
flare in the dusk. The aged voices
of a few crickets thread the silence.
It is a quiet I love, though my life
too often drives me through it deaf.
Busy with costs and losses, I waste
the time I have to be here—a time
blessed beyond my deserts, as I know,
if only I would keep aware. The leaves
rest in the air, perfectly still.
I would like them to rest in my mind
as still, as simply spaced. As I approach,
the sorrel filly looks up from her grazing,
poised there, light on the slope
as a young apple tree. A week ago
I took her away to sell, and failed
to get my price, and brought her home
again. Now in the quiet I stand
and look at her a long time, glad
to have recovered what is lost
in the exchange of something for money.

Wendell Berry
The Sorrel Filly, Collected Poems: 1957-1982

What is to be done after a reading of Wendell Berry? A walk outdoors as soon as possible. And if the poem has been feasted upon in early evening then a sunset walk will probably be necessary – with a camera close to expectant hearts.

And so it was … and tonight we did ‘stand / … glad to have recovered what is lost.’ And though these images are written well enough upon the aforementioned hearts, still the photographs, the written record, will remind us, over time, to stand … glad, again and again and again. Awed.

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I am grateful for …

click photos to enlarge – a second time to zoom further

… lingers awhile along borders for a translator to savor secretly,
borrowing from both sides, holding
for a moment the smooth round world
in that cool instant of evening before the sun goes down

William Stafford
from Walking the Borders
The Way It Is – New and Selected Poems

I write a few lines in my meditation journal each day, and from time to time review what I’ve written – looking for patterns and repetitions. One of the most frequent notes that appears in the ‘I am grateful for …’ sections is what I often describe as ‘nature’s art and light’.

And I realise that the poets I regularly turn to have eyes and ears for the detail in the natural wonders that surround them; some having especial penchant for the sky, or sea, or lakes, or mountains, or sweeping plains, or animals and their particular, chosen, encouraged or given habitats, flora and fauna. I delight in all of these.

But most of all I am entranced by light, always changing, writing, painting, softening, sharpening, defining, reaching, touching, listening – full from earth to sky with metaphor and parable, reaching onwards, upwards, and into the heights and depths of the Universe. And into my soul.

So it was during our after-supper walk this evening. So it was a million aeons ago. So for a million, million more. Meditating in and upon light I stand time and again in awe.

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Astronomica

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Photo at Pixabay

The Milky Way

In dark-blue heaven a white road shines
like a sunrise opening the sky,
like a path dividing two green fields,
worn by cart-wheels repeating their journey;
as a ship draws her furrow on the sea,
printing on the white water a road
that unwinds from a coiling whirlpool,
this frontier of the dark height glows,
& splits with light the dark blue heaven.

Translation by Sally Purcell from
The Astronomica of Marcus Manilius, Book 1
(First century AD)

Contemplation often facilitates comparison. Behind the dark-blue of my closed contemplative eyes there’s often to be found a white road – like a sunrise opening the sky. Recurring.

Awe and wonder ask by what great grace the silent contemplation raises hopes for proper opening and right direction?

Rest – if not answer – comes upon a quiet mind’s trusting a way forward that unwinds from a coiling whirlpool … and splits with light the dark blue heaven of our human unknowing.

Far from the City

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Photos at Pexels

… those worlds grand in their complexity
Known by their lesser names of you and me,
For all their flair and depth and hankerings
Hold less dimension in the scheme of things

Vikram Seth
from the poem (click the link) Far from the City Tonight
Summer Requiem
– a book of poems

It is now almost a commonplace that

‘there are more stars in the Universe than there are grains of sand upon earth, and more atoms in a grain of sand than there are stars in the Universe’.

With a click of a computer mouse one can begin to have a sense of dimensions. Earth, with its diameter of 8000 miles; Betelgeuse, inspiring the poet, the second star in the constellation of Orion, with its diameter of 850 million miles. And there’s more. Infinitely more – whether we’re looking out, or in.

There’s tenderness in Vikram Seth’s Far from the City Tonight. Recognised need for proper perspective. And tenderness and perspective too in the heart of one Jesus of Nazareth, both within the walls of Jerusalem (which name, ironically, describes a vision of wholeness, completeness and unbrokenness) and – crucified – without.

They don’t know what they are doing …

We don’t. But through all the ages nonetheless, humankind has cried ‘Hosanna!’ – ‘Save us’. Always on the lookout for Messiah, Christos, Caesar, King, Lord, powerful one, magician. 

Someone – anyone, even – save us from living death.

Someone lead us to a new life, a better life, a resurrection already! – If it’s even possible. Though we’ve had so many ‘messiahs’ through the ages we’ve become both sceptical and fickle. Wall building everywhere – because we’re desperate to hang on to what we’ve got, while simultaneously grumbling ‘Where’s the good life? Is there good life? Where’s the – is there – resurrection?’

Resurrection? Yes: of course, in the vast and alive depths of a grain of sand, of a star, of a person, of many persons, of an immeasurably infinite universe.

Resurrection? Yes: of course, in out of the ordinary Silence.

Resurrection? Yes: of course, where there’s no desire for lordship, or kingship, or national boundaries, or ‘cheap’ magic tricks, or allowed and ignored starvation, thirst or war, or human aggrandisement and greed, or prioritised religious or secular traditions and sophistries taking precedence over prioritised loving.

Resurrection? Yes: of course, just so, said the Nazarene, for any and all who will enter into their chamber, little space, room, or tomb – setting aside (or crucifying) their too easy literalisms, their flair and depth and hankerings – reaching inwards, and outwards, to a fuller perspective, to the Heartbeat, to the Energy of the heavens, of the heights and in the depths.

Far from the City Tonight. Yes: yet in such a room, or tomb, unknowing humanity may yet encounter Jerusalem here and near – and thereby the quiet dawn, height, breadth, delight and depth of a universal resurrection.

It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on :
Festivals at which the poor man
Is king and the consumptive is
Healed ; mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back ; and industry is for mending
The bent bones and the minds fractured
By life. It’s a long way off, but to get
There takes no time and admission
Is free, if you will purge yourself
Of desire, and present yourself with
Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf.

R S Thomas (link)
The Kingdom
Collected Poems, 1945-1990, page 233

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New aeons

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Photo at Pixabay

On the morning of a momentous decision in the US

asleep in her little cot now
softly breathing the calm of the
nursery
twinkling stars picture-framed – close by
her box of toys – and story-book
open at

the page wherein her eyes closed and
she entered the world of little
ones’ dreams where
there’s no noise save for soft echoes
of the tale about bluebirds and
rivers and

great mountains and fountains and girls
and boys and doll houses and train
sets and the
cuddly teddy bear’s rising high
above his fear of giants and huge
disasters

camping close by a lake in a
wilderness space where his silent
revelling
in nature’s spacious truths reminds
him that this old world is not much
given to

over-reacting but keeps turning
in her course and the vast silence
of many
billions of aeons unfolding
before his marvelling eyes and
awed wonder

asleep in her little cot now
but when she wakes we shall recall
the teddy
bear’s knowing and growing in the
bluebird’s mountainous wilderness
together

SRM

At the base of a tree

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Photo at Pixabay

A friend has just acquired a book I’ve loved for a long time and – as is the way with such things – her interest in it has me turning the pages of my copy, years after the first of my many readings of it. And I have entranced all over again. Quaker, Palmer J Palmer always hits the spot for me.

The soul is like a wild animal – tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek …

… And I hope that the reader who sits with this book can hear the silence that always surrounds us in the writing and reading of words. It is a silence that forever invites us to fathom the meaning of our lives – and forever reminds us of depths of meaning that words will never touch.

Parker J Palmer
Let Your Life Speak

Our own fathoms

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Photo at Pixabay

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean
we launch an armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

R S Thomas
Counterpoint, p.118

‘Where is the source of your deepest creativity?’ – I ask my artist, poet and writer friends, the thinkers, imaginative day-dreamers, the most effective doers.

‘In silence’, they reply in unison – some introvert and some the very opposite.

‘In silence. That’s where we live life best. That’s where we’re most creative’.

As R S Thomas has it: ‘… never arriving’.

‘In silence’, the concert pianist tells me, as we board the train after a tour de force recital.

‘Without silence there’s no music. No spaces in between. Nowhere to hang the notes.’

Silent. We’re called – ‘out over our / own fathoms’.

Silent. I rest and thrive in this space.

Doing business in silence

I don’t know a better way to lead than to listen. What is deep listening? It’s a way of hearing where our whole body and being are, in the moment, without controlling it, judging it, or changing anything. It’s letting whatever will happen, happen in the conversation without jumping in. There is no need to clarify anything until you’ve sat in silence and your client is empty of words. Most of the time your client will clarify what’s missing before you step in.

Amir Karkouti
Unconventional Wisdom: Stories
Beyond the Mind to Awaken the Heart

Poetry, of course, is jam-packed full of the kind of wisdom that is accessed by deep listening, past, present and future. I remember being enthralled by the thought that Louis MacNeice must have been one of life’s really great deep listeners. How else could he have begun his Mutations with

If there has been no spiritual change of kind
Within our species since Cro-Magnon Man
And none is looked for now while the millennia cool,
Yet each of us has known mutations in the mind
When the world jumped and what had been a plan
Dissolved and rivers gushed from what had seemed a pool …

It’s a deep-listening ear that makes connections between Cro-Magnon man and our contemporary surprises! MacNeice must have made time in his life for pause as well as for poise.

Whilst I am often prepared to give poetry time to ‘clarify what’s missing’ in my comprehension and (a measure of) understanding of it, I warmly recognise the truth, too, in Amir Karkouti’s unconventional wisdom that, in human encounters, ‘there is no need to clarify anything until you’ve sat in silence and your client [or acquaintance, colleague, dream, friend, love, nature, novel, partner, poem, prayer, wilderness experience etc] is empty of words. Most of the time your client will clarify what’s missing before you step in.’

What a marvellous and extraordinary truth it is that poetry’s careful placing of words can so often point us in the useful direction of contemplative stillness and receptive, reflective, silence.