One thing is certain, and I have always known it – the joys of my life have nothing to do with age. They do not change. Flowers, the morning and evening light, music, poetry, silence, the goldfinches darting about …
Freesias, for me. For my desk. Peppery and colourful. And my best ever morning light? Two best ever! i – Sunrise over Galilee. ii – Normandy. Scented apple orchards and a golden mist hung a few feet above rolling fields, just after sunrise. Evening? In winter when it’s time for firelight. Music? Usually one piece at a time, silence before and aft to hold words, notation, resonance (!) and echo. Poetry? – my way of allowing the Universe to speak to me randomly: close my eyes and take down a volume – pot luck, usually followed by more of good fortune than anticipated. Silence? – why silence? William Stafford’s glorious ‘Listening’ suggests an answer more exquisitely than I’ve ever penned to date. And goldfinches? The ones who seem to enjoy my Japanese Acer as much as I do. Two little tininesses that fly-in disproportionate measures of duty-free joy from wherever they’ve been playing.
My father could hear a little animal step, or a moth in the dark against the screen, and every far sound called the listening out into places where the rest of us had never been.
More spoke to him from the soft wild night than came to our porch for us on the wind; we would watch him look up and his face go keen till the walls of the world flared, widened.
My father heard so much that we still stand inviting the quiet by turning the face, waiting for a time when something in the night will touch us too from that other place.
William Stafford Listening from West of Your City Talisman, 1960
Sometimes, when reflecting on ‘One Year Ago,’ we can see a gentle pointing, back then, to a way to go. This gifts a degree of confidence that we’ll all be shown what we need to know, when we need to know it.
And if, as the years roll by, we observe that time and place and circumstance are our quiet guides, we might become the more willing learners – confident, steadied and quiet enough, often enough, to hear our teachers’ best love and wise counsel. So the colours in Worlds of Wonder continue to reveal themselves, beckoning us to continue our becoming.
Design your life to minimise reliance on willpower – B J Fogg
Yesterday’s ‘where we deliberately and carefully choose to place ourselves’ thoughts have stayed with me, and B J Fogg’s presence in my daily journal firms up a bit more on what I’ve been mulling. Living – or ‘designing’ – our lives deliberately and purposely doesn’t have to involve huge effort and strength all the time. It’s potentially more about a sort of cheerful mental paintbrush and canvas, architect’s desk and drawing pen, meditation stool and silence, list of chapters / book outline. Maybe a listening to what’s going on inside without comment, coupled with making little decisions in the moment: ‘where would be the right place to give this some more thought?’ or ‘would a change of window be a good thing right now?’
I shall be deliberate about where and when I place myself today, without resort to determined willpower, better aligned with flow …
William Stafford’s Listening is open on my desk – one of my all-time favourite poems – ‘waiting for a time when something in the night / will touch us too from that other place.’ This man’s humanity and sensitivity are boundless.
Often I reflect on the quality of listening that is touched upon here. The quality of my life tilts towards good when I allow space for listening deeply, before food, before prayer, before work, rest and play.
So I’m especially delighted today to find a William Stafford musing I’ve not read before, on writing a poem:
Writing it was like getting a lock on a feeling
and just letting the feeling lead me from one
part to the next.