Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Interior Altars and Jesus

I head out later than usual. The dog chases a rabbit. Last night she woke me three times. I stood beneath stars groggy and unsure. Something is shifting.

Shifting, evolving. Words matter until they don't, and then they don't matter at all. If you read this, why not say so? Orion eyeballing a distant bear lumbering through the galaxies. I pause at the brook to drink and listen to chickadees.

They remind me there are other ways to think about time. Moments of clarity are increasingly rare! My teachers write and ask me to read more. Hawks frighten the chickens and the chickens frighten moths. What is it I cannot hold back?

One studies a particular expression of love only to learn they've been dismantling the only bridge back to illusions. Who stands beside me now ? Put aside the metaphorical metaphysical bullshit about interior altars and Jesus. The dog waits for me by shadowed ferns. What I am asking is, this together or another?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Impulse to Correct A Sweetness

And so the rain comes, a soft patter from the west. Certain fields go without deer. A quartz perspective, a sense of rising.

Bored crows pick at a dead third where the road turns. We enter the future blind. Slick rainbows, a popping sound.

The rain crescendoes mildly between maple leaves. Crickets scurry beneath tufts of woven grass. Your shoulders, the lines on your face.

One bares her chest, another her soul. Behind the clouds, stars, and beyond the stars, God. I can't remember the last time I saw a deer there.

An ancient mirror, mummified snow. Roads darken as the rain falls harder. Be wary of the impulse to correct a sweetness.

We long to be right. Or not alone. Or dry at least, when it rains.

Sentences elevate existence. Ours.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Something in the Stars

On the trail I find blue jay feathers, shotgun shells, rusted ball bearings and bear scat. Broken glass and oil cans dinged by .22's. The heron passes overhead, traveling west, which means something other than me spooked her. When I dream of you it owns the clarity of quartz and my fingers trailing a passage down your cheek come alive.

One reflects often on the movement of advaita vedanta west - to England and then the United States - and the resultant transformation - still subtle but readily trackable - on Christianity. The words we use matter. As in, "Potomac sunrise." We find ourselves in specificity and then lose ourselves in a greater light no longer fearful. I cannot bear - my body trembles - at the possibility of kisses.

Robins and their babies scatter. A fence, properly understood, binds nothing. One daughter takes her camera to the garden, the other carries a book into maple shadows to read. Often this writing is like notes for later, so I'll remember what to say. We are ripples joining, we extend and grow quiet.

Carry me a little further, won't you? Her letters often remind me of origami, or a yearning to create folds of my own, as if that were a helpful model. As roses are, or kisses. I am electric in you, as you are in me, and it just this side of manageable. We study the sky and see something in the stars that says we have done this before and it is okay, it is going to be okay.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Not Always Knowing

I go blessed though not always knowing. She is in my dreams, her orange sari moving with the wind. She urges me to greater honesty and thus a greater trust. Awakening means acceptance of what is, she says. And I think of you who are still distant yet closer than ever, and something electric passes through me. It sparks.

We are not alive the way we think. Waves roll in and go out. Light can take years to find us. In my dreams, you are always gentle but frequently given to hard questions. How I long to make love to you in the morning, our voices never rising above a whisper! And yet.

One trembles at the sudden depth of longing, as if suddenly realizing the sea has no bottom. There are models for this but they are all in the past and one is beholden now to what is. Your voice softens me, dear one. Avoid judgment, she says again. There are no directions in the country of love. The moon is still and yellow behind a line of maple trees and all the light one needs.

For you I choose the words carefully. As in prayer, in grace.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Crows Appear

And so the light changes. Roseate skies turn violet than blue. My glasses break. Are you there?

I am here, in the tendril narratives we confuse for our lives. The oven hisses, chickadees flutter at the back fence. I hear bells sometimes, other times trains. Your letters make a difference in my happiness.

Can I say that like that? Slow-moving rivers testify to power. I think of her often while walking, a sort of catalogue in my mind of images I think she'd like. One longs, one does.

Impossibly a zinnia blooms in late August. One walks the horse deeper into the forest and the quiet owns an unfamiliar quality. This is not writing the way I want to write. He wrote.

Honesty comes hard. My traveling woman carries secrets and inside her a desert. Crows appear to study me at a distance. I swallow hard - say it - and continue.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Oddly Vulnerable

I walk slowly sometimes. Sometimes I stop. Yesterday I saved a little snapping turtle from the road. Last of the hawkweed makes me want to cry. Come home, won't you?

Certain sticks are reminiscent of snakes. Certain snakes make me sad, how oddly vulnerable they are. In dreams she wears the shirt I use for cutting wood. Quartz glistens after rain and the last of the hawkweed brings tears to my eyes.

Tracks of the dog, tracks of deer and then - more rarely - fox tracks. Chicken feathers on the trail means an unhappy farmer. Have I ever put "coffee" and "struggles" in the same sentence? Probably not.

She struggles over coffee with how much writing to show me. January stars await our going forth. In a sense, my hands already know you. Desire wedded to stillness equals bliss.

Or so it went twenty-five years ago on a dirt road in December! Snakes buried in a frost without dreams. May I share with you the hawkweed, its last flare as the august sun winds its way home? Don't worry, write.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Dream and Not A Dream Too

How blessed we are.

How quiet the brook is before dawn.

How soft the humus when I press my hand against it.

When you speak something in me softens.

In the vale of your attention I soften.

In August, the moon and the sun share the sky, like lovers whose relationship is nearly always outside time.

But now.

Now the goldenrod leans out over the pond.

The deer step gently into the pond.

Ripples reach the far side and continue up the bank into the cool air where I stand electric.

Moonlight fills the hayfield where the tall grass has fallen over in rows.

My heart fills: and worries: and lets go.

Again and again and again.

The traveler I long to hold is nearly here.

The traveler whose lips have called to mine: in prayer, in song, in letters.

For my knees long to bend, my hands to grace soft shoulders.

It is a dream, and not a dream, too.

And I will be here.

For waiting is the perfection of stillness.

And stillness the perfection of love.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

All I Know of Loveliness and Welcome

We roust a bear on our way back from the fire ponds. It peers at me from the oak tree, the limbs of which are its refuge, appearing almost bored. This is what I meant to say. How lovely the forest is, and how welcoming, and all I know of loveliness and welcome.

This writing project cannot be possessed! Nor do I owe anybody anything. I've never claimed to be other than a wordy fool. I've never suggested I can do more than stumble around in search of grace.

Spiders rest in the center of their webs. Beer bottles emerge from the soil, half a century old. That's what rain does: bring the past back to us. How I hate that old intrusion!

It's easy to surrender what one doesn't want. That's what we say the trail means, no? But the question is: what are trails good for? And usually the answer is found off the trail, where the woods grow thick and gnarly, and the bears look at you as if to say: again?

Yes, again! And again and again and again! Now what? Now this, naturally.

Old Anguish

Slow mornings illuminated by bronze light. August clarity. Shadows cross the face of the barn. Now what?

Last night I followed the moonlight deep into the forest. I went off the trail. Being tracked by others scares me and so I won't read her writing anymore. This is not intimate.

The days expand. One feels the breathing of which they are a part. Was this what she wanted? Ravens fill the sky and Monarch butterflies pass in the wind.

Mine is the old anguish of silence and the words to say it. The brook rises in its track and deer sip from it cautiously. This sentence easily becomes you. The next one leaves you behind, also easily.

Interior movement is itself the guide. The mapless are beautiful, as those who claim to study with them know. The fingerprints you see next will not be mine "beloved." I go alone now, every step more quiet than the last.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Happier Now

And the corn grows so tall I can't see over it.

Red-winged blackbirds perch on the ears.

At night beyond the pasture bears grunt working through crab apples rotting in the grass.

And the moon seems to pass.

And the light comes, and grows stronger, and fades.

Sometimes I think of each word as a package, a little gift.

The last of the chicory sags.

The sunflowers are happier now at night.

In the morning, the dog and I walk out to the old fire pond and watch beavers paddling back and forth.

The Great Blue Heron stands quietly in the distance.

Cameras are deceptive.

As sentences are, though differently.

In my dream she said again: the only book is your heart.

I woke happy, tangled in dewy blankets.

All morning I write and read and all afternoon I work with Chrisoula, putting up kale and broccoli and blueberries.

We talk about the doctor and her recommendations.

Hawks pass over and the chickens scurry beneath the shed.

Hummingbirds perch on the old goat fence and at night I walk out to where we buried their bones and see again blood and again feel the sorrow of one who has caused more pain than he intended.

Grapes emerge, and blushing apples.

And in the forest, the smell of pine needles floats on the wind, the only letter necessary.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Only A Lonesome Cry

What is the writing that is not only a response?

Or only a lonesome cry?

The baby milksnake lay crushed on the road, as if it had swallowed a ruby and died expunging it from just below the head. About a quarter mile away, a single crow feather rested gently on the swale.

Is it this?

Is the reader we know more precious - or differently precious - from the one we don't know, but can intimate - can feel - as through some cloudy distance a horse were approaching?

How can we know we are "you" or "I?"

When I write, and you read, are we?

Clouds roll in and the sun fades behind them, an oily smear hidden in gauze. I can't separate love from sex. Or can I.

Her letters are stacked on the desk. Twenty years ago I threw away about fifty letters and what good did that do? I limp beneath memory's hash mark.

Who understands a river understands love.

I believe I led one "you" to a practical understanding of herself as a poet.

As others led (and left) me. I had - have - ideas (or are they hopes?) about how she might express her gratitude. But mostly I miss her and I never know how to say that.

Thus writing, thus this.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Journey of Many Miles

All night I dream of her, with an intensity that is barely manageable. How alone one can be! A few minutes before dawn I rose and held myself gently by the window.

Who chooses me chooses wrongly (he wrote). In the dream, you betrayed everything "for just one song" and then standing with me after in the alley as I led you to my own cramped quarters began to shake with fear at what you'd done. On the walls of the city, the thief's name was written in blue chalk, along with each charge against him, and he paused to scrub them out.

Later - in a dream closer to waking - full of bronze light one is tempted to call joy - she was so fluid and electric (doing cartwheels and blushing) that it almost hurt to hold her and yet I did, happily. The rooster's cry (at dawn) contains whole countries if you listen. We walked from my grandmother's old house to the land I am buying - a journey of many miles - and we walked it together in silence, holding hands.

Does this make sense (I am asking you)? I asked Jesus quite specifically: if there is more to this than desire, please tell me. How slowly I learn about love . . .

How slowly I learn and at what terrible cost? In the morning with my coffee - later than usual and still tired and - yes - fucking confused - all I can say is I would be willing to try it, to have you with me, that way. One's chest owns a certain tremulousness at the thought of leaping, of any perilous height.

And yet. But how.

Are those not the lessons we are sent here to learn?

In my dream, you wore only my old green corduroy shirt, loosely buttoned, the one I cut wood in sometimes, and sipped black coffee while leaning against the counter and though you neither needed or wanted me to fall to my knees, that was the interior impulse and I struggled against it and I still struggle.

And I think: how distant the stars are, how insistent their light.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Always A Happiness

A single moth on the road, pale and still, a perfect triangular fold. There is no such thing as wingless. Or cold.

Near the brook - plashing in darkness - something scuttles the underbrush. Against stars, the slope of the hill appears to undulate. Soon enough she'll have something to say.

The afternoon passed between blueberry bushes and a lame but cheerful enough horse. We fried bacon and talked about the pig, who earlier in Spring we'd fed apples and potato peels. Who goes without wings merely refuses to see that even choice is an illusion.

Well, work. Muddy lawn chairs after so much rain. Even my famous gourd plants are stunted and unsure.

It's okay or it will be. Fran invites me over to look at his oxen and I chide him about his obsession with Chianina and later we laugh at how neither one of us can drink beer anymore. Only the wingless have need of skies.

Coming back before sunrise is always a happiness. The first cup of coffee is best, and settling in to write, this.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Far Corner of the Sky

What do your hands say to you? What do your feet say?

The trail opens in summer when crickets push aside the grass to sing.

And in August, when the first hint of winter shows in the far corner of the sky, the bears leave tracks that say go away, go away.

This letter, not another.

Our feet say travel. They say climb that mountain. And sometimes, lay down and rest.

Our hands say give.

Our fingers and palms expand to accept what is given.

Can you imagine a bed of wild down between rocks at the foot of a hill when the snow flies?

Is your body ever light enough to be lifted by the prismatic wings of dragonflies?

This morning and no other.

And the sun rises and the low clouds dissolve and the light is bright enough to read by.

And the neighbor's horse breaks its fence and comes over to graze.

Fledgling cardinals hide in goldenrod while seed rattles being poured into feeders.

This writing and not any other writing.

What do you feel? Can you say?

Would you ever go beyond that, to where I cannot say?

Monday, August 12, 2013

27

Don't dwell on what will pass away, she tells me.

Dwell instead on what is eternal.

If you do not know what is eternal - or all too often forget - then set your attention solely to attaining this knowledge.

I walk in the forest before dawn.

Often, I walk there at noon as well.

There are voices in the wind, voices in the trees.

The stars are not gone during the day but cannot be seen.

The sacred texts are like that sometimes.

The ones sent to help us are like that, too.

Purple finches groom themselves on the back fence.

And certain fields go unhayed, and certain bells go unrung.

I tell her of my loves and she listens.

Often while we talk she studies her hands.

One time she folded and unfolded a small red cloth with yellow circles on it.

There are many teachers, each created to serve a certain student.

She seems to leave and come back.

Her letters are like a wind that is sometimes steady and sometimes only passing.

Evidence of it is everywhere.

I, too, seem to leave and come back.

The way a song remains long after you're finished singing it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

26

Who writes - of necessity - teaches.

Often in the morning when I look up into the sky it is as if I am seeing my own face.

Between fast-moving clouds, many stars.

Between the bright stars - each comprised of its own yearning - the night.

Mind dissolves darkness.

There are slow bends in the river.

There is a point in the walk at which sees change: at the cellular level, the energetic level.

Habits bind us to the body.

Repetition binds us.

We can go without no one though folly will forever suggest otherwise.

I forget the four directions.

I forget the spiritual lessons.

Mind is a prism through which the world dissolves into streams of light, each one brighter than the last.

Walking I know it, writing I say it.

As soon as one talks, what is is lost.

And yet.

Her letters slow like a brook without rain.

The serious student is not dissuaded.

Yet awakening will bear no unexamined sorrow.

Wordy but happy - at the deeper levels so often unattended - I write and share what I write and you read it and together - this time perhaps - we go home together.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

25

There is a world beyond this world.

There is a way of seeing that has nothing to do with your eyes.

The light of the moon rises to meet you.

The mist on the lake rises to meet you.

You walk as if your shoulders were wings.

Love goes before you, making a way.

Grasshoppers never leap mistakenly into the path of cars.

The tractor never crushes any snakes.

And the doe in the far field sees you watching and returns to her grazing, unalarmed.

All of this belongs to you, and waits only for your yes.

That one syllable is in your throat as I write.

It is like a perfect stone or a drop of water through the sun shines at dawn.

It is as vibrant as the heart of a hummingbird.

It longs to be uttered.

It can never be lost.

It is the means by which the gift of the real world is at last made manifest.

And by which the old tired and broken world is healed at last.

My love, after so many lifetimes of resisting, would you finally speak it that I, too, might know the gentle country of your sacred and beautiful heart?

For the roads I walk are grown dark indeed.

And the many graves voluble.

24

The rabbit hops away from us.

When we reach the space in which it was feeding, we can see the soft indentations left by its hind feet.

The air smells of thunder and torn clover.

We pause by the brook and comment on how low it is, the current barely a flicker of silver over the muddy bottom.

Bear tracks abound.

A Warbling Vireo flies out from the still-bright goldenrod and studies us silently.

When we walk, she talks and I listen attentively.

Sometimes she is given to silence, and I listen to that, too.

We pass the wild blueberry, stopping to admire how thoroughly the robins and grackles have stripped the bushes.

Ferns rise in both hay fields and something invisible stirs amid them: baby turkeys perhaps, possibly grouse.

There are leaves already turning.

We experience longing before we have a name for it.

The work - my work anyway - is to find what goes before language and make contact with it.

Sustained contact, helpful contact.

Near the cemetery we spy a deer, its eyes already fixed on us and even after almost half a century of seeing them, I still catch my breath.

She says it looks like a doe, which I confirm.

There are no fawns visible, which saddens us a little.

We walk quietly then through the cemetery, feeling a cool breeze from the north and west.

Rain is coming and we turn our faces against it.

We walk home past crab apple trees and faded tiger lilies, nibbling bitter fruit, lost in our own thoughts, and every once in a while holding hands.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

23

Roads formerly unpaved now bear the crushed bodies of crickets to Heaven.

Deer step slowly through the marsh, forever away.

It is like that, this life.

It leaves us.

Or it seems to leave.

Be glad in your heart for you are not of the world, she writes.

Her letter arrives like a cloud passes over a landscape.

Who is outside of time is always here and cannot leave.

The very Love that is God is in your heart if you will only say yes to it, she writes.

Her letters are often one or two paragraphs only - an old lady scrawling on crumpled stationary - but this one is almost two pages.

It smells like cardamom.

I carry it with me into the forest where a quarter century ago loggers ripped the place clear.

Baby bears tumble through it now, hooting after their Momma.

Chickadees sing.

A letter is like the person stands before you and speaks quietly into your ear, her hand on your shoulder.

It is not like a photograph which only reminds us of absence.

Do not question your decisions once you make them, she says.

Either your will aligns with God or it does not, in which case God will realign it.

We need do so little!

How I love you (she writes) and think of you often and no prayer I utter is but for you.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

22

The blank page morning after morning.

The cardinal in the tall grass below the feeders.

The mouse with whom I share the back porch.

In the distance, cumuli gather on top of one another and stray towards the sea.

What goes unhurried goes blessed.

The sentences are a dedication.

A declaration.

Goldenrod by the fence, chickens nestling in the dust.

Morning after morning the blank page appears and is filled.

A long day of writing followed by another long day of writing.

We find our practice and it sustains us.

It urges us.

In the first letter she sent after she left she she wrote, "let what guides you guide you and do not be fickle about its intention."

Some mornings I walk by the brook and stop to admire stones I have known for forty years.

There are birch trees beneath which ancient fire pits contain so much pain one wonders if relief is even possible.

Horse graves from which sapling maples now stand, a tiny grove in which chickadees nest, apparently happy.

The world will make a place for you, a place in which you will know at last the grace of God and the utter absence of anything else, but you must accept it.

Yes is the necessary syllable.

I begin with twenty sentences, no one more precious than another.

I say yes: yes. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

21

The lilac bushes begin to grow dull.

The grass grows slower.

At night our dreams fill with teachers and teaching and when we wake, they slowly dissolve, like salt tossed into the sea.

Smile more, she says.

Learn the truth of "you do not have to choose between prayer and anything else."

She points me to the New Testament, especially Paul's letter to the Hebrews.

In her letter she writes, "'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.'"

"Seen rightly, the truth of that is your liberation."

I watch the sun rise and remind myself that right seeing is inevitable.

I woke thinking of the dead baby robin, buried in a rushed grave as the rain began.

How sad life can be!

I was so grieved I forgot the shovel out in the rain, an unpardonable error in the circles in which I grew up.

And this: "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'"

The dog curls up on the bed while I write.

Our walk is coming later than usual.

I cannot shake the dream of another teacher reminding me of the loveliness of Montpelier, Vermont.

I wanted to ask her about her own writing, which has so moved me these past five years.

She was unhappy with how she left it but also amused.

The details - as always - were not for me to know.

And I struggled to say even this much.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

20

Fall comes, or seems to.

The clouds drift higher and the grackles assemble in wheeling flocks.

Pumpkins swell in rainy gardens and apples drag on wizened branches in the secret orchard.

At night one pulls the quilt closer.

One dreams not of death anymore but - oddly - of satisfaction in many forms and settings.

Is it happiness at last?

Or acquiescence?

Her letters come, or seem to.

"My prayer is always with you and will guide you accordingly if you allow it."

It is so much easier when a body is present!

On the calendar I have placed a small check on the day she will next arrive.

The vase of flowers on the living room table looks tired but we are running out of options in the field.

Snowflakes with haiku on them - a spring project with the kids - sift off the wall as the tape dries.

My students are tired too and come to tears easily.

"Always remember there is only one thing and it is always in motion," she writes.

I try to remember but it is hard.

"When the day begins, make time for God, as much as you can, in silence and stillness, and at the end of the day too, and in between as frequently as possible, and do not deviate from this but make it your practice."

She urges me to consider attention in the nature of a gift.

Practice the given.

She says who lingers on reciprocity is bound to sorrow.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

19

Sitting quietly out front with tea.

Giving - not paying - attention.

A breeze comes through the pine trees.

Bronze needles sift down and settle in grass.

One thinks of brooks a mile or more away.

And rivers, which lead to deeper rivers, which lead to the sea.

It is not that we are connected but that we are one.

The space between where I sit and the cardinal browses for seed is not separate from me and the cardinal.

Clouds pass, so many shades of gray.

They move quickly, like schools of fish.

And the grackles now are gathering into flocks.

Hungers of all kind drive us.

When we make contact with one form - and give it sustained attention - it is undone for us.

Inquire: what is it that operates in all space and for all time and always for our benefit?

For what passes does not really pass.

And letting go is really a recognition that there is nothing to hold.

The cardinal finds its seed and satiated flutters away.

Yesterday a moth struggled to escape the lake's drag.

We are like that.

And not like that too sometimes.

Friday, August 2, 2013

18

The I that you believe you are will not withstand inquiry.

Sustained inquiry, pointed inquiry.

Yet it continues.

Something in us says no, let the pain continue.

And it does.

I write to her and tell her how cold the lake was yesterday.

The small bass flopping in shallows, feeding on Taiga Bluets.

We ate cantelope and pumpkin seeds on the shore.

Female mallards watched at a distance.

In yesterday's mail I received a dozen books, including several rare editions, a bibliophile's dream, a gift from a reader far away.

The news is mostly good I tell her.

I am surprised by the good that people can do.

Still surprised.

Before she left she told me to simplify my relationships.

And to do the one thing that God asked of me.

When you know the one thing, don't question the one thing, she said.

Make use of it.

The children liked her, even the shyest.

Especially the shyest.

And so I write happily, and my happiness shines, as if the sun were inside me, a star slowly emerging, its light for anyone who happens by.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

17

Through attention we learn that we are not the five senses of the body.

Through attention we learn that even thought is external.

The sun rises slower and slower.

Can you hear it?

When we grasp at anything we lose it.

What we call "going deeper" is simply the continued application of the fundamental question: what am I?

Slowly we become aware of the space that precedes objects.

Slowly we become aware of the field of energy in which all perception happens.

What is hidden, longs to be found.

Yet we fear it.

The grackles begin to assemble in flocks, wheeling through the deep sky.

Hunger drives them, and winter.

The bears become reckless, scaling fences and barreling through gardens.

After so much negation - I am not this, I am not that - possibility emerges.

What is natural is always there, unhindered by analysis or perception.

It is only that with which we are called to make contact.

If we call it awareness then we have cast a veil across its luminosity, for to name anything is to imply an opposite.

And yet.

Dedicate yourself utterly and without equivocation to realization.

For it is already what is, and there is nothing else but it, and even words (she writes) cannot contain or sufficiently express it.