where might our inner
lives lead beyond the bounds of
to wonder about
the life’s work of butterflies
is to know deep peace
We walked, still, even
after her energy had
waned far, unreplenished
by the ordinary grace of
food once consumed easily
and by most simply taken
And in the walking saw
and felt again and again
that nourishment may
be drawn for the soul
though the physical frame
tires and slows and evening
memories and warming
hopes long held and yet
aspired to. Yes, we walked
still. And as though they had
been aware of a greater than
on Christmas Day in rain
around mid-afternoon and
a five mile tramp from our
beloved fireside she stooped
to feel snowdrops newly
raised from earth between
Not too late this arrival –
not too late – it was a
and is now a photograph
developed upon the backdrop
of my mind. Souvenir
We have come. We remember
And we walk, still
again and again
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
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.
I have learned from long experience that there is nothing that is not marvellous and that the saying of Aristotle is true – that in every natural phenomenon there is something wonderful, nay, in truth, many wonders. We are born and placed among wonders and surrounded by them, so that to whatever object the eye first turns, the same is wonderful and full of wonders, if only we would examine it for a while.
John de Dondis, 14th century
quoted in J S Collis
The Worm Forgives The Plough, 1973, p170
Plenty of reason to have a good English moan about continuing rainfall today – or to sit down to a meditation session, having first noticed the magnificent, soaring canvas of clouds in every shade and hue of grey on high, and the all-the-more-glorious advent of sunlight from time to time, so that the potatoes in our kitchen garden are both moistened and warmed, beneath the chunter and fuss of thirty or so disgruntled sparrows who don’t appear to like rain much. Or meditation.
Open your eyes gently and focus upon just one wonder for a while, breathed the guide – in the fourteenth century. And I did – on this wet July day in the twenty-first. And as it turned out there was no moaning about the rain. Or anything else.
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.
for MWG – during and after corporate meditation
I used to love to walk to school on sunny Spring mornings. The quieter hours still possessed of the mossy, dewy scents of the night – mildest of breezes softly stirring the trees of the park, and dappled light – already suggesting the new dawns that would awaken the synapses of my ever dawdling, day-dreaming brain.
Yes. I have long thought myself familiar with the colours of the spectrum; that I could name them, that I could assign to each a musical note, that I owned favourite orchestral symphonies of light.
But every new day brings surprises – and the sometimes primal response that mists our sight with tears of yearning, or recognition, or unknowing, or delight, or prayer, or a sense of the most exquisite new openness to the charism, the gift of the Universe offering her provision – the ultimate and eternal grace of Love.
And I was surprised indeed by the glory and the colours I encountered in Barcelona’s great Temple of Light. In La Sagrada Família I mistily knew myself a member of the one great and ‘Holy Family’ – the Universe herself. No single one of us ever fully cognisant of the glories of creation’s rainbow – while each of us is graced with ever-changing experience of hues and colours yet unnamed.
‘Sorry, I’m a bit pushed for time today,’ I said to my friend Robert twenty years or so ago. ‘I’ve got to think of something to say to a large assembly of the Women’s Institute tonight. Their invitation asks me to speak on ‘any subject that takes your fancy’ and I’ve come a bit unstuck.’ ‘Nonsense!’ said Robert (and RSC will know exactly who he is!) – ‘just go and tell them about one or two things that really light up your life.’
So for an hour and a half or so I told a large gathering of women my story about what it had been like to live and study for a month on the very edge of Bethlehem, wandering into Jerusalem in the early mornings to buy my daily newspaper, about the colours of the souks, the sounds of the calls to prayer, the scent and the sound of olive groves, of sunrise, and of sunsets over the Judaean desert, of ancient history, and of contemporary youths singing together in groups outside, in late evening warmth, eating ice cream.
Many further such invitations followed. ‘You speak with stars in your eyes and in the telling’ one kind soul told me after an evening during which I’d thought I’d wittered on too much. How often, since, I have thought of Robert’s ‘tell them about one or two things that really light up your life.’ How very often since then I have noticed the things that light up my life. And though aware that tonight you won’t be able to hear me, I can nevertheless show you – as quickly or as slowly as you decide – some such recent lights in Barcelona, Cataluñya, España … with stars – and gratitude – in my heart x
I thought that the substance of poetry
does not lie in the sound value of the word,
nor in its colour, nor in the metric line,
nor in the complex of sensations, but in
the deep pulse of the spirit; and this deep
pulse is what the soul contributes, if it
contributes anything, or what it says, if it
says anything, with its own voice, in a
courageous answer to the touch of the world.
Introductory piece for Soledades, Madrid, 1917
It is this “deep pulse”, I think, this resonance, this courage to put one’s inner-self out there, responding deeply to “the touch of the world”, that has oft-inspirited Angela Locke, a poet friend of mine, with exquisite poems that “came to me complete.”
… so we turn and turn
the atoms of the world in the sea’s hand
in the wind’s hand in form and gravity
atom and atom
so we love and from our loving
from the drawing of the deep earth place
some god some creator
of the rose
from Rose and Stone
Whale Language: Songs of Iona
And that is why I come before poetry in reverence and in awe.
How are we to converse with one another when what our hearts and minds are in awe of (and in awe of often, and lifelong) is also ineffable – impossible, or at least well-nigh impossible, to describe in words?
I am wondering, and shivering – just now returned to our fireside from another cold-night contemplative standing beneath clear, domed and twinkling night sky. Warming, I lift the loved book from the fireside shelf again, turning quickly to Vincent Van Gogh’s great The Starry Night (1889) – and though familiar with it, Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s poetic empathy speaks to me as though in a first encounter. Painters and poets and great, great prophets and parables: reaching, stretching, yearning – and sometimes, when least expected or looked for – suddenly communicating, dying, healing, rising, touching. Like prayer.
What laughter booms across the night sky
from the bellies of heavenly beings? Few hear it,
but sometimes the breath of heaven curls like a bard’s beard
and what has only twinkled begins to beat and throb.
Behind it all a drumbeat calls over the mountains.
The villagers think it’s thunder, those who are not asleep.
Only a few remain awake to see the starry, starry night
and witness what they can barely imagine how to tell.
Some nights the roar breaks the silence. One was there
when it happened, and saw, and tried to tell the secret,
and died young. How much of life he gave for this
we cannot know. We only know that something precious
as nard was poured out at the foot of these hills,
the blue, the yellow bought with solitary tears.
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre
The Color of Light