Sunlit flight

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Photo at 2CRG

The now orange leaves of
the Japanese Acer
in our English cottage
garden skitter – a new
Sunday morning’s quiet
autumn dawn – and a light
turn of an Upstream page
like salmon’s sunlit flight
is early wandering
through riverside landscape
with Mary Oliver
while each alone – and in
their own parts – sings new and
silent sabbath-songs deep
in observing hearts

SRM

(* Upstream, is a new Penguin Press collection of Selected Essays by Mary Oliver)

Seasoned observation

Last evening I was thinking about ‘beneath the surface’. Tonight I’ve rested beside the road awhile with a volume of (that great seer-beneath-the-surface-of-things) Mary Oliver’s poems. There’s enough material for a month’s contemplation in her

Song of the Builders

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God –

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

Mary Oliver
New and Selected Poems, Vol 2, page 92

Creative aliveness

In poetry many things are going on at the same time and these layers of time and density of language make the poem uniquely poetic

Donald Hall

Unique – singular and personal. Poetic – to create, to make.

We’re all engaged in the business of creation, awake or asleep. Dr Lara Boyd assured her Ted X audience that the human brain never ceases to be creative. The brain learns something, and in simultaneous response is excited to learn more.

Layer builds upon layer. Many things are going on. Rich and fertile wonder lies in every living brain. It doesn’t need turning on, though it helps sometimes to turn external electronic voices off.

Time to meditate – but I procrastinate and it may be hours before the eventual sitting. Then, ‘small stones’ touched, I want to linger, and resist rising again. Why then do I hesitate so often? Why so much external noise? My most creative, loving aliveness is ever best renewed in contemplative, poetic, silence.

In silence each may discern the poetry of unique existence. Neck muscles click, click, click their way towards quiet observation and relaxation. Souls reach to mixed metaphor, listening for the touch of many-layered regeneration, up down, ground up. Herein lies the poetic. Here contemplative calm. In our world of joys and insoluble vicissitudes, the unique and the poetic offer necessary balm. Roots have their needed share of rain.

…. soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.

Mary Oliver
from Lingering in Happiness in the volume Why I Wake Early
and in New and Selected Poems, Vol 2, page 95

Different arrivals

I wrote the other day about Professor Brian Cox’s reflections upon snowflakes and the fact that each has taken a different journey. I also posted a while ago about Mary Oliver’s The Other Kingdoms. It’s a poem that yields new and ever deeper fruits with every reading – and I’m struck today by the thought that Brian Cox would doubtless appreciate her lines

Consider …

… the snow, for which the peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals.

Mary Oliver
from The Other Kingdoms
The Truro Bear and Other Adventures

Mary Oliver and Brian Cox alike invite us to contemplate. What’s the hidden story (even where and if unplanned or not deliberately intended) behind different elements of creation, whether poetic or physical?  Could either have anticipated that their works would lead me to contemplate an hour’s people watching on London’s Euston Station? Observing people greeting one another it’s plain that there are dozens of words to describe different arrivals. Diversity in unity. Poetic creativity. Life.

The Other Kingdoms

Consider the other kingdoms. The
trees, for example, with their mellow-sounding
titles: oak, aspen, willow.
Or the snow, for which the peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals. Or the creatures, with their
thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze. Their
infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be. Thus the world
grows rich, grows wild, and you too,
grow rich, grow sweetly wild, as you too
were born to be.

Mary Oliver
The Other Kingdoms
The Truro Bear and Other Adventures

A blogging friend I admire shares my delight in the works of Mary Oliver and – on different continents – we’ve both been pondering her The Other Kingdoms, each especially attracted, apparently, by the same lines: Their / infallible sense of what their lives / are meant to be. Ivon’s piece is here. I wonder how many others have carried this poem with them through the hours of this past day alone? Poetry breathes a life of its own and is, in a sense, one of The Other Kingdoms.

Life is ineffably rich. Yesterday I contemplated the farthest reaches of the universe. Today, early, I meditated long upon the agility of the tiniest of wrens – fleet of foot, not just upon the wing; and later on the slant of the sunlight through the window at the gym; still later upon the bravery of snowdrops nodding cheerfully above frost-covered earth; later again upon a vase of Cornish daffodils come North! And upon the miraculous and perpetual developments taking place every day in the lives of my loved ones near and far, scattered family, and dear, dear friends.

And of course I pray for a healing touch upon the innumerable tragedies of the world – but, by poetry’s insistence perhaps, from a space within that holds on to what I can only describe as “love’s perspective” – an indefatigable faith that, ultimately, as Mother Julian has it, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and yea, all manner of things shall be well.” My baby grand-daughter is developing a fondness for little animals – “lambie”, and her family’s dog, and teddy bears. I hope she’ll come to know poetry’s other kingdoms, and

creatures, with their
thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze. Their
infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be.

And I reach out, hoping daily that such a sense might ever grow, and grow, in me.

Elements of belonging

Last evening I got lost in a reverie with David Whyte’s poem Working Together: master teacher of the arts of evocation and of invocation, his poems “haunt” me, hovering in and around me, in much the same way Mary Oliver’s do, or May Sarton’s, or William Stafford’s. Poets who become our favourites do so, I guess, because something of their form, heart, precision and soul takes up residency somewhere deep, deep, deep within us.

… may we, in this life
trust

to those elements
we have yet to see

or imagine

David Whyte
from Working Together
The House of Belonging

Though I knew of the late John O’Donohue’s sublime works (Anam Cara – soul friend; Divine Beauty etc) before I discovered David Whyte, I wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised when I learned that the two were the closest of friends. Each, consciously or unconsciously, writes blessing. The poetic voice of each – the sound, the timbre, the vibration – are heard once, never to be forgotten … may we, in this life / trust …

Some lovely video footage of John, writing at home, comfortably seated beside an Irish peat fire, has left me with a burning desire some day to visit The Burren [YouTube], perhaps to encounter the soul of the great man in the vast and ancient open spaces there, and maybe, by some miracle, to bump into his old friend David Whyte who, I like to imagine, still walks and remembers there from time to time … to those elements / we have yet to see …

But the actual going there, to The Burren, will not, I think, be necessary, even if someday achieved and delighted in. For the poetry of life has already done its work, and friendships I delight in – some of whom I’ve set eyes on, and some of whom I haven’t, have already been shown to be gifts and graces of that ultimate Oneness for which we instinctively reach. All that’s necessary each day is for me to meditate, remember or imagine.

Percy ate the Bhagavad Gita

Our new dog, named for the beloved poet,
Ate a book which unfortunately we had
Left unguarded.
Fortunately it was the Bhagavad Gita,
Of which many copies are available.
Every day now, as Percy grows
Into the beauty of his life, we touch
His wild, curly head and say,
“Oh, wisest of little dogs.”

Mary Oliver
Many Miles

Rowing at the gym this evening, I listened to “Mary Oliver reading Mary Oliver”. This short poem about Percy touched me, brought a bit of perspective to my day, and raised a self-deprecating smile.

Oh, Mary, what a great teacher you are!

Don’t let little things wind you up. Percy ate the Bhagavad Gita? Well isn’t it great we can get hold of another? Pat the little guy’s curls and delight in his having taken wisdom unto himself! Yes: that feels better. So, so much better.

And hey, thirty minutes rowing seemed only five.