Monday, March 31, 2014

A Jester in the Chapel

More rain. Coughing and tired, stomach the way it sometimes gets when I get too close to the old way of doing things. I'm not a monk, and I know that, but still. We are where we are - broadly understood - for a reason, possibly a good one.

Earlier, after walking, some words came, the ones I have been resisting for a year now, and of course you were implicated. But so what? Cold nights don't have to beg warm bodies and the muse is hardly specific. There are other ways, even if we are only just beginning to intuit them.

The corner chair bears me up and will so long as I ask it nicely. In my dreams, doves, and in the doves, light, and in the light, you. I mean You. See the difference?

Actually in my dream someone kept trying to get me to visit a psychic - to see the mystical mysterious prismatic and spiraling connections binding us all - and I insisted on simplicity, on just meeting it - call it God if you must - without drama. Tepid broth is the new sexy! A little ice on the maple dissolved readily beneath my thumb and so I will teach, or try to. The dog came after, wet and tired.

My New England yes means I remain cipherish, a jester in the chapel you would bury with your poetry and zeal! How many cherry blossoms have to fall between us, dearest of dear sisters? There are kisses and there is the Kiss and one needs to be clear which one is it is they're after (please read this sentence - I mean the part outside parenthesis - literally). The old author had it wrong, see - J. was wrestling with the idea of God, not God, and only after accepting that fact - thus bestowing upon that wangly argumentative egoic self forgiveness (which is only right seeing) - was J. at last given to see the perfection that abounds - within and without - independent of and contingent on - us all.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Only Here There Is

One perceives a watery landscape, not silver so much as gray, and talk in the house grows quiet as well. A day for swans, a day for building replicas of nineteenth century whalers in glass bottles (tinted green). An interior alarm sounds again, as it has been for almost a month now, and I stumble for the corner chair to give attention thusly. It is time to get serious.

More serious? Living room stacked with books to avoid the basement deluge reminds me how much poetry and theory I've read over the years. Where do we go when we die is not an unimportant question though one learns in time the answer is not as interesting as originally thought. One writes happily through their conflicted feelings about eternity and arrives at the only here there is.

We pile ripe pears in a white ceramic bowl, scoop beet hummus with homemade crackers, and drink sweet tea in bed. For a couple bent on simplicity we are oddly luxurious with socks. A profluence of deer mistaken for shadows? I drive slowly as if trying to recapture a previous life's wagon ride.

Midnight is a frame of mind. Sri Aurobindo's notion - here somewhat paraphrased - of God as continent (i.e., container) solves a lot of problems, not the least of which was Emily Dickinson's odd - even strangled - perception of architecture specifically and space generally. The dog gets up, turns in a circle that leaves her a little closer to me, then curls up tighter, a comfort. Finally I appreciate Gilbert's insight re: "And it dwindled away into definitions."

One approaches God on their knees only to learn (after lifetimes maybe) they have no knees and God wasn't anywhere anyway but where they always were. I remember many years ago telling Jeremiah a long and complex adventure story at bedtime, one that went on for almost a year with all sorts of narrative threads and directions, until one night we agreed to arrive at its end, and did, and he burst into tears then and remained unconsolable for days, even when I tried to revive the story, because he understood better than I that you can't go back into what is over, what is ended. Rose petals swim in the vase on the mantel, a loveliness I return to almost hourly. Here comes one day, now one day is here.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Like Wind, Like Moth Wings, Like Dust

Two days running now with a slight fever and all the rest of it. Brassy sunrise and rain clouds dim my bedroom prisms. Yet another life spent clutching at delight.

Yesterday a cedar waxwing rested briefly on the baby pine I will plant in a few weeks and I remembered Robert Francis' fine poem and read it again, glad for the company. Who isn't with us is with us is thin gruel for those of us lost in the body's lusty welter. The tea grows cold while I write.

There are so many ways to be lonely and only one way to be found! Don't confuse the multiplicity of Brahman with the essential unity of Brahman. It's a way of seeing I'd like to share with you in order to better learn it myself.

Yesterday I watched a bear fumble in the snow on the far side of the pond and bowed to her even thought it was silly (but not too silly). I tell myself I won't see Paris again but of course I said that twenty years ago too and look what happened. Smoke tangled in slow-brightening skies makes me happy, as do squirrels running along the fence, as does denim that faded while you wore it.

One longs to fill a sentence with buffaloes and does but knows instantly they'll have to do it again. Bounty is library visits on Saturday. How I hate not leaving bed!

Resolve to know choiceless awareness and accept no substitute (of which there are many). We come upon old cellar holes, dig around for nails a couple centuries old, talk about the nature of loam. We are all  blossoming, ascending spirals home.

Writing clears a way. Love's offer floats and settles, here and there, always impersonal, like wind, like moth wings, like dust.

Friday, March 28, 2014

What Is Always Being Born

One proclaims again (sick in the library) the loveliness - the ecstatic expansiveness - of Cooper's sentences. What a joy the eighteenth century was for language! "It was a feature peculiar to the colonial wars of North America, that the toils and dangers of the wilderness were to be encountered, before the adverse hosts could meet." Also, "My day has been too long."

Still, one inclines to the sweetness of unheard melodies, threads of song perceived the way smoke is perceived on a moonlit night, intimations of the Grecian urn. We call it love because we have to call it something, or think we do. Silence receives everything if only we will offer the necessary (liberating) allowance. The Romantics - Keats in particular - were looking in the wrong direction for the right insight.

Well, it happens to all of us, sooner or later so might as well get ready now. The road opens up as we drive, a black ribbon surrounded by pine trees and thawing ice-slatted rivers, slow bends in morning dark, no lights for miles. We share the way with everyone or we share it with nobody (or something like that). T. saw a bobcat two days ago and wants to see a moose and knows I know how to find them but I shied away from the implicit invitation to be her - or anyone's, really - guide.

The problem in a nutshell is wordiness confused with religion, and religion confused with maps, and maps confused with the territory, and the territory confused with any landscape other than Heaven. I'm nobody's dog which, if you think about it, is kind of a sad thing to say. Won't you be a blessing in an otherwise rainy day? I spent hours fixing her favorite rocking chair, the one she rocked in for hours before F. was born, and it was a gift, and more than a gift, and not only to her.

In late spring I am always yearning to go deep into the woods and watch what is always being born be born. The darkness broken by little fires that so long have gone unshared. She taught me that poetry was a way of making notes for later, and that later was simply the present recognized, unaffected by the seeming lengths we go to alienate it. How grateful I am to those who came before, on whose beams I rest a while, puttering and singing like a half-drunk carpenter on the verge of a bigger more intimate calling.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Erupting in Soft Creases

By the brook there is an unfolding. Who listens carefully always perceives the next level and - in time - the absence of level altogether. Above the winter bare crab apple tree, clouds, and above the clouds, stars. The emptiness of which one is composed at last presented in a way that is neither frightening nor in need of defiance. I will go to you and be whole.

As the roads now buckle and sink, frost erupting in soft creases down which melt runs. Have we said all there is to say about sap? At four a.m., having walked many miles, far beyond the reach of houses, I come back and drink tea and laugh quietly at how simple it all is, and how hard I make it. "Why" is the least interesting question you can ask! When I whistle, the sound echoes sharply against the forest, and one or two trees creak heavily - certainly - in reply.

That dream and not another. All things are thoughts, and all thoughts are echoes of the Voice for God, and nothing is that isn't God. It's true that for many years I longed to be broken, and carried myself that way to considerable effect and good enough company, but it's also true that was all a big lie and so now - kind of the way something in the lilac bush awakens and begins to blossom months before we see a fleck of green - I can be whole, and happy, little bits of which sail off of me and find you, and other you's too, and we are all a little happier, all a little closer. That was a long sentence! But not this one.

One begins to realize that the chapel they have alternately called a woman's shoulder or a kiss or the sound a shirt makes falling to the floor in shadow is in reality just another way of remaining outside the only monastery there is. Clever won't do! But there is an action of Love that will, and to enter it - to meld with it - one need only relinquish the idea there is anything else to hold or undertake. Before this morning's walk, I set out turkey giblets so they'd be room temperature for Song when we returned. That, then this, and all.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Happy Goat

Out back the snow remains stubbornly piled, crusty underfoot. Chickadees cross it gracefully. Transience is the destiny of the transient. Beyond that, who can say?

Well, I say, and all too often, cheerfully babbling like a brook that can't stop dreaming of the sea it will one day join. We pad around the house barefoot at night, taking temperatures, making tea, whispering reassurances. Your dreams are intelligent in a way that science is not. All I really know is how to walk attentively, the rest is just blather begging for attention.

It's possible I turned away from Jack Gilbert too quickly, was too defensive of Mary Oliver, and made too many allowances for Brautigan. On the other hand there is always another hand. For all my talk of sex and sacred silence, I'd probably just talk her ear off and then fall asleep, snoring and farting like a happy goat. Holiness is what you take with you and allow the fullness of God to enlighten.

Dreams of my grandfather walking up stone stairs. One longs for the old days, when men wore hats. How I love shopping for candles with you! One transitions from tea to coffee and it's like circling the Alps in a train.

So take heart, you who so easily surrender your heart, and stop pretending you still need a teacher. The cardinal is God's smile, as are pancakes with maple syrup and Canadian bacon on the side, at least two thirds of Bob Dylan's songs, the salt smell of the sea after a storm, and certain sentences. We go together, like Hinduism and nineteenth century New England! You shoeless dancer, you rose petal falling from on high.

A Sort of Dogged Prayer

With Spring comes wordiness, as with winter a sort of dogged prayer. Don't think you aren't on my mind, but don't think that's an enviable place to be. Bowls of stew in a dark restaurant after hiking Mount Mansfield, a long debate about Bob Marley's legacy. Please see that anticipation is a form of resistance.

As a kiss is a wild blueberry bush? I brush my teeth a long time now squirrels are visible in the pine trees again. Where are my beloved bluets right this very moment? Obviously somewhere in thought, maybe naked with you, all of you rhapsodizing on violet bands of the spectrum.

Write when you don't want to especially. Think in terms of melody, Chuck Berry or Beethoven or my beloved - my tremulous idolatrous - Chopin. I crossed a dim field to find her, put my arms around her and the rest you can read about it in my memoirs. Her shoulders, the dulcet tenor of shyness.

Those were good years, lost in Vermont, language establishing a base in me. Social skills are overrated! Oh well, my happiness is yours if you want it, but my body belongs to flowers and moose calves, pine cones and birch trees, and any woman who'll bare a shoulder beside me. We are always winning the wrong contest and contesting the wrong activity.

How utterly full of shit one can be and still perceive the underlying - the stratifying - grace! Two months and I'll be out all night, sitting up by a small fire, listening to peepers and coyotes, maybe getting head, maybe not. What a lovely life to so briefly occupy! See how the firelight extols our one body, stars replacing our mouths for a kiss!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Kind of Solitudinous Joy

The chairs and table we bought at a garage sale a few years after moving back to Massachusetts. Grackles attend, the cool gold of their eyes visible even twenty yards away. Snow falls away, daffodils pose their elegant interrogatory, and now it is twilight. One cannot breathe when faced with so many stars.

The obligations of service bear down on me, rendering the body weary, and a decision is made to put the soul "over there" and get back to it later. Books, letters, promises. I think of all the ways a landscape can be desirable, each of which is yet another reflection of the trickster in who we invest. I've moved on so you move on too.

Or else what? I remember discovering apple trees deep in the forest, later seeing my first bear while alone, and wondering - I was five years old at this point - how anything else in life would measure up. This was all about seven miles that way, a thousand years ago, and countless thoughts. Thought, by the way, is more like a renegade army without commanders than an ally in our search for ultimate truths.

Herons approach now, trout take different cognition of their hunger. For a while - in Spring - the trails are loose and crumbling, and one walks slowly, always looking down. I am talking about the decision to remain ungrateful, or only partially grateful (which is just ungrateful in semantic frippery). When I killed the goats she tried to help and it was then I cried, sagging against the barn wall, tired of knowing so much about death, and tireder still of always dealing it out.

Find the source of your conviction that God demands sacrifice and question it, that's all. Blue sky behind slow-moving streaks of white, and farther north - possibly over Cummington - storm clouds, bunched and dark like the devil's idea of blossoms. We move past the mating dance into the real work, which is simply correcting the mistaken dream of subject/object, and it's not necessary to be together to do it. Far out to sea whales surface under glittering stars, drift between swells, billowing compositions who witness a kind of solitudinous joy, not unlike - even now - ourselves.

The Unexpected Familiar

In the dining room where lately I write, a map of the United States torn near Maine, twelve yellowing snowflakes cut three winters earlier, bunches of dried clover on shelves and in vases, potpourri made from last summer's roses, a brass tea kettle and brass candle holder from early twentieth century Greece, hand-carved wooden geese I bought Chrisoula in Vermont when so much of it was still before us, or seemed to be, three yogurt containers piled with assorted rocks from Bronson Brook, a picnic basket the cats like to sleep in, a heart-shaped jewelry box filled with mostly blue marbles, one drum, one hand-carved statue of a pregnant momma from Kenya gifted us a decade or so earlier, a dozen home-made candles in various stages of melt, and on the wall a 2012 calendar which I refuse to take down because December's painting was of a cardinal alert on ice-encased holly branches looking back across his shoulder toward me.

I tell my writing students that when all else fails, make lists and go deeply into them. There is always another level! It's more fun that it looks, kind of like leaving the trail to poke through unexplored forest and finding - here is the title to today's twenty sentences - the unexpected familiar.

In other words, the specific yields the general - it is the nature of spirals - including God. Thus, attention given to detail is never not toward awakening. Thus Dickinson, letters and poems. Thus this, this way.

In my dream - one of them, close to waking - I sang "hold on, hold on" with such power it was like there was no I, only a voice moving through me gratefully - and then - realizing I was singing that way - completely lost it and sang in the same scratchy self-conscious tenor I never don't manage, a reminder that one cannot will authenticity but only allow it.

Aurobindo instructive as always: "In reality, all experience is in its secret nature knowledge by identity; but its true character is hidden from us because we have separated ourselves from the rest of the world by exclusion, by that distinction of ourself as subject and everything else as object . . . "

Wind still howling as last night when Sophia and I locked the chicken shed, talking about the importance of context in any piece of writing, and how hard it is to work it in with subtlety, and how in the end it's a matter of trust, which is not our strong suit, and we laughed because what else can you do but be what you are, writerly and otherwise, and our laughter was caught up in the gusty wind and blown a couple hundred miles east to the sea.

Redwinged black birds crowd the feeder. In a couple weeks they'll be homey in swampy reeds abutting the fire pond, building nests and tending eggs. I'm trying to let them be this spring, not symbolize them, not freight them with the burden of my misplaced - still! - identity.

A new combination of tape and glue seems to be holding my glasses together, facilitating a  less-precarious reading experience. Hold on!

All we are really doing is saying again what was said before, trying to adjust it for new listeners lost in their own particular shared dream. Writing is grace when given to that purpose, attended not by angels but by the pure nature of Love, which is in you but not of you, and longs to extend through you, your writing.

We frame the lovelier paintings as if product rather than process were what matters. The pine siskins remind me if I want to find North I have to keep moving, keep writing, keep feeding others, let sky be sky and sing from even the lowest branches.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Space in which All Loveliness is Witnessed

Four a.m. clarity fades. I have to call it back, not unlike working with dogs, that hard-to-manage blend of forcefulness with love. Does tea help? Yes, tea helps.

And thinking of you, too, who gift me at odd hours without asking a thing in return. How happy "how happy chickadees make me" makes me. Well, wordiness. The way geographic distance inhibits the expression of a certain longing while laying manifest another.

Cave amans! Yesterday's lentil soup emptied into Mason jars today reheated and served with slivered apples. I mean the translucent red of the cardinal's wings in flight would break my heart if such a thing were possible (outside the nonsense of metaphor). Dried rose petals stain my fingers and the nights are full of rain.

But would you? The soft maroon fuzz of maple buds at a distance, the plenary warble of the brook in early spring, the first tentative thrust of daffodils. Be with me the space in which all loveliness is witnessed? Or are we - like wandering pine siskins - beyond that now?

Eschew code (he wrote). Some stones were meant for the garden, others the river, while I was meant for Latin. Shreds of birch bark cross what remains of the snow, nearly invisible, the perennial condition of those who consent to be Love's penumbral light. Mercy, beloved, mercy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bent on Grace but Facing Penance

Cold: more cold: over and over cold. Moonlight streams unconditionally, being the same refulgence Cleopatra knew. Thought empties itself and what remains? Be humble, if possible, and if not humble, at least quiet. I mean, first do no harm.

I mean the whiteness of moonlight on snow, the cry of coyotes a mile away, and the clear forgiven emptiness that always attends now. Holes in my boots and holes in my jacket mask the abundance I perennially hoard. Fear. Coming back one smelled woodsmoke mingled with cedar and later yet saw faint braids entwining framed by the moon. A gloveless, trembling and lusty traveler bent on grace but facing penance.

You understand that letters are unafraid of ash after being read, yes? Refusal bleeds through the illusory images called life and demands a truer accounting. Her name has nearly slipped my lips twice in three days, she who has been gone now longer than I can count. We scale the hill in opposition to gravity, doing what sap cannot, but what we - not the royal, the plebeian we - must. Who strains toward Heaven has misread the relevant maps of course.

Oh write to me, won't you, fastening here and unfastening there? Candles a poor substitute but light a good idea. And sing a little louder that I might give attention to what so far has only lightly pressed the borders of - the ecstasy of - knowledge. The voluble morning knows our secret names and where we hide them. Such gracious syllables, such benevolent shadows.

Allowances, Invitations

We walk up Sam Hill, the opposite direction of sap, stopping to scratch the oily wool of D.'s Shetlands. Poplar leaves make a scratchy sound as they precede the breeze across crusty snow. Pale blond carapace, unwound cigar, slippery blank papyrus on which my little poems are pressed! Without ballast, spiritual or otherwise, we topple.

As without metaphor we founder. Those who argue that deconstruction is a train you can't take to the end misunderstand the altar inherent in any paradox. There is a certain motel in Vermont overlooking a certain valley to the east and a certain bakery (that sells wine) less than three tenths of a mile away. Fumbling at twilight, happy whispers opening to undulating quietude, one shoulder brushing softly along the other's.

What is natural goes unhindered forever. The back fence leans, saliva hisses in fire, and whiskey accompanies almost every lie I've ever told. The sentences are a comfort until you need something else, and then they are that. It's true I am the next cardinal you see, itself a kind of kiss.

He sat in the corner writing, bound by grace to avoid the worst of his inclinations. One dreams of women and wakes tired, wishing the requisite psychic travel would end. Your hand soft, slow, and the fall of your hair muffling my cries, and after a long sleep, the one I seem bent on avoiding. Prayer redounds to all our benefit, one way or the other.

Complicity means risk and thus begs clarity. In summer I sleep outside. One wakes early to practice a certain dance, the steps to which change almost daily. I mean allowances, invitations, fusty blankets, and hoarse owls.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We Travel Forever Singing

How cold it can be in March, far out in the open fields, wind bearing down my neck as if in vengeance. Old sins visit, begging to be reconsidered. How I miss the tenderness that I imagine characterized our brief correspondence.

I walk in such a way that the moon is first to my right and then to my left but always it is west. Thin clouds bunch above the trees, working against the light but in the end only able to transform it. Nobody is awake at this hour, you go at your own pace.

You lying down, pulling me closer. You shedding memory, becoming more and more translucent, like a polished shell or a flake of quartz in rain. You drifting across the lake when I most need you present.

One perceives a spiral, each enfolded circumference glittering, a spiritual tornado, the eye of which is God. Vowels are space, consonants the helpful fence. How gentle I long to be and yet how secret my gentleness remains!

Near the driveway - coming home - I bent to listen for the sound of water beneath the morning ice and heard nothing. Certain bells in Germany continue to ring in my ears, as certain trains never arrive, and we travel forever, singing and drinking. Just like that, the red-winged blackbird returns, and I think of the ones who care about such things, who perceive and attend the sacred calendar.

At the farthest point out - nearly in another town - I gave up and turned back, face stung with cold, heels numb, and oddly scared though of what I could not say. Grace is never opportunistic! As her lips remain a distant gift, likely to never be opened.

And so I come back to my corner and write, getting up now and then to check on the moon, which has almost fallen all the way below the horizon. What a circle we make, wordy and fumbling, stubbornly insisting on finishing together.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Somewhere Over Ireland

I remain clumsy with cameras, perhaps unsurprisingly, given their mechanical intrusion on the supraplenary nature of image. The old family bible at last relinquished, albeit tearfully, at the dump. Prismatic striations flow from the west to the east end of the bedroom but happiness stays strangely distant. Plain talk as ideal, plain talk to mark the way. And yet.

How frightened of myself I am and remain and as a result, how divided. It is imperative we question consequence, staying with the analysis until we realize we are being led to freedom through no effort of our own. God in a woman's voice, God in her shoulder, and God in the way she lets you lean against her before you go out walking. A letter in transit somewhere over Ireland. How many church floors I have swept searching for the one altar before which to fall weeping!

"To clutch" the salient - the cautionary - verb now. The old dog watches me from his bower of light and plenitude. I walk the forest crying, as if Jesus really were a shepherd and I a lost confounded sheep. Binoculars abound! On the other hand, how happy I am, thinking of the spring's first bear.

Attention given without condition yields awareness of an underlying harmony. Can we - at last may we - move beyond the crutch of metaphor? We are not completed by another and the idea we can be remains obfuscatory. Yet the sun appears to scale distant hills and lines of trees and its movement insists on yet another - a deeper - form of surrender. I mean moonlight as the envelope into which she tucked herself a thousand times a thousand lifetimes past.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A World Without Maps

I'd forgotten about moonlight, pale striations up and down the trail, the forest moving towards you as you move through it, all as if in a dream. Chastened by wind in fickle March, frost thickening on the door. The dog slows and looks back, asking if it's necessary and for once I concede. Tea beckons, helpfully.

The multiplicity of Brahman is not an argument against the unity of Brahman. God present in flakes of snow, ever urging us to greater awareness. One day I too will want to turn back from the long walks, the harder trails and who will say yes, it's okay, I love you? In order to find room to write I have to move drums, polyhedral dice, a quilt in progress, a basket of laundry and about two dozen paperbacks ranging from Calvin & Hobbes to Catching Fire to a nineteenth century Shaker cookbook (a gift from Chrisoula) that shouldn't be out but is.

Eschew prayer to write! And make the writing the prayer. Is one way to say it and so I do but really, who knows. The heater rumbles in the basement and the dog curls up on the couch, confused that I'm not on the zafu, but not unhappy.

In my dreams, marriage, and in the marriage an ideal of service, and how light and happy I was to at last be thinking only of others. Is that the answer because if it is I've always known it and even had a couple of great teachers. One strays toward the Light and finds it is everywhere, always. A thousand lifetimes thusly disciplined.

It was a world without maps until I began to read E.D. closely. Nothing ends and there are no answers! Head tucked, snow in my boots, nothing on my mind but the first cup of tea, black and scalding, gratefully swallowed. Slowly one perceives the nature of clutching and so lets go, steps back open and the blessing proceeds to oh . . .

Hungry Kisses in Darkness

I think of Cleopatra by her window at night, Egypt starving and the world's most powerful men bearing down on her with armies. A little rain falls while we walk. And later in the barn, bumping hay bales and shovels and stumbling through uncoiling hoses, I hear mice leap from rafter to rafter, burrowing back into piney walls. A sigh that precedes the soft cries muffled by hungry kisses.

In darkness - jacket thrown on banks of snow - one works calmly, knowing the limits now of effort and control. Study consequence if you want to find God. How strange to have grown so content with thought, the twining narrative with its secrets and semantics. When she bent over me I traced the curve of her shoulder dappled with sunlight and dreams of crocuses rushing the sun.

Beneath the paint, wallpaper reminiscent of the mid-1960's, and we stopped to give attention to it, as if voices from decades earlier were asking for forgiveness. I rise in darkness, fumble for clothes, mumbling the same prayer that ushered me to sleep. You, always you. And Her, too.

Be aware of what props facilitate creativity. Write about writing. Praise is a form of consequence, and also resistance - yours and someone else's - so let it pass the way sunlight passes, and certain relationships. The page, properly understood, is a symbol of what is - approach thy wordiness accordingly.

Or not. For three days I struggled to work the word "saffron" into my writing and it wouldn't come so I wrote "Cleopatra" instead. Old photographs of older dogs discovered while cleaning the basement give rise to tears and my daughter says later "but it wasn't even your dog" and I say - only learning it as I do - "none of them are but still." You prism, you rain drop, you kiss where I am softest.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Seasonless Center

A few flakes of snow fall, and icicles elongate, but Spring is coming. One knows it from the impersonal - from the seasonless - center. The brook a freshet heard half a mile away, rushing its banks not in sentience but in joyous dreams of sea. If we give attention, we see the nature of life is cyclical and that properly understood, circumference permits neither travel nor return. With you, one, and alone, one, and the difference is the north wind in pine boughs, and the silence after it passes.

Thus we wake at three a.m. and stumble east onto crumbling snow trails. The owls establish the familiar tonal narrative and one is lifted by it as by hands that know better than ours what is needed. Cold lentils for supper and for breakfast reheated tea and cloves of garlic. The specificity of any sentence is merely a rehearsal for letting go, a falling back into what is general and abstract. For a long time I was a student and then one day became a teacher.

It is true - it is beyond doubt - it stands all reason - that God does indeed long for us, as we long for God, though one can quibble about the semantics (the least interesting form of resistance). That which is is always there and always accepts our attention. Somewhat akin to seeing Van Gogh originals, then walking for hours alone through Amsterdam, alive differently and incapable of language. So I pause by the pine trees I planted a quarter century ago just to hear the sound of snow falling through them. Action transcends activity.

The names of the world's savior are legion and mostly lost to those of us still worshipping history. How happy I was to come home and settle into a corner to pray, and how simple my prayer was. Thankfulness opens an internal channel and allows us to perceive at last that we are not origin. The brief flash of sunset seen through an icicle. I mean the luminescent movement of which we are composing.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Into Afternoon and Beyond

At noon pockets of Watts Brook emerge from beneath tuffets of snow and I make notes for later. Fionnghuala points out a hawk and only after watching a few moments do I say - both in joy and amazement - "that's a golden eagle, honey." We track its broad arc not speaking until it's swallowed up, of view.

In my dream, Emily Dickinson's headstone radiates a thousand times a thousand shades of blue and gold, and I sit quietly crying in the luminous benison. Roadside maples age faster because of salt. We pause at the crab apple tree - take note of deer tracks in punky snow near its roots - and I resist the urge to kick down the realtor's sign fifty yards away. Fuck all commodification.

An abundance of prayer (broadly defined) heals many wounds, including the one that prohibits our acceptance of Love. We slip down the forest hill to get closer to the old stone walls in search of chipmunk tracks but it's too icy - the snow too crumbly - to find any. Ascending a woman's voice home. Not for the last time do I walk these trails wishing you - yes, you - walked beside me.

Mornings given now to choiceless awareness, the Gift expanding naturally into afternoon and beyond. Yesterday I watched a deer watch me across the river and felt again the related engines of hunger and fear. Always question survival.

More sunlight confuses dinner preparation and I find myself rushing to bake sweet potato fries, dress a chicken, roll out naan. Once we figure out - and, critically, accept - that nothing is happening to us that is not happening to everyone else, our separation from God is ended. How enticing - still! - the Heaven below.

Body as bluet, body as prism is just another method. C's note - unexpected and thus intimate - rendered the morning an old if familiar joy. We went all the way to M's farm - watched Herefords plod patiently through not-quite-mud-yet - and came home with our coats off, watched over by Turtle and his old effulgent shell.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Passes Now For Prayer

Stepping outside with the dog - just before 4 a.m. - I pause to consider how soft the air is, as if April were visiting with March's blessing. Clouds float quickly overhead, blotting and revealing stars, and I step carefully to the road, sensitive to ice. My Father is with me, at my Mother's behest, and together we walk into the dense blessings of Her mystery.

Or so I say - or think - being happy and tired and grateful at once. The dog stays close as more and more she does, though where the road dips she bolted into forest after what I cannot say. At last one perceives the movement of which we are all composed - and all composing - and understands it requires neither defense nor explanation.

Though I do slip - without entirely falling - a sort of graceful slide really - where the hill is steepest, laughing hard which must have given somnolent owls pause. Trees creak and moan and I picture Jesus perched in the interstice of wintry limbs, watching me pass, as grateful as any letter when at last the envelope opens. Coming home I said aloud "thank you" and again "thank you."

And paused to hear the sifting hush of northern winds in distant pines rendered contrapuntal by snow melting - even in darkness - off the house eaves. Oh I need nothing now but this! Or that and this, really.

Aurobindo again, here paraphrased: the divine inclines towards us as we extend towards it. Just before I went inside an owl hollered from the other side of Route 112, out past Watts Brook, where days ago I spied moose tracks and learned - again - I am only alone when I insist on alone. Tea, candle light, the old punchy zafu and what passes now for prayer after the real prayer passes.

When at last we accept there is no more learning - only application - the whole of Creation bends to make it so. All effort is a form of resistance. Come home to me when you are ready, and learn that we never parted.

Rooster, poet, storm-fed crow. Emily Dickinson - sister, master, most intimate of cartographers - abounds and abets, again.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Gathering Rivulet of Days

There are sad faces set like stone, men and women leaning in chairs so that rectangular beams of sunlight - shaped by mottled windows that haven't been cleaned in years - spill across their laps, rise to their necks and flood the anguish of misapprehended decades. The cold braces us, as we walk across the brick pathway, unsure of what to say in such funereal circumstances. Was it a thousand years ago I held you in a storm and said goodbye (in that other language, the one we both flirt with remembering) as the first faint traces of sunlight split the rocky cliffs at our feet?

At this late juncture - so close now to the insight that leaves nothing to undo - I bid farewell to coffin ships, grandfatherly poetry, and studying the sea floor for evidence of wrecks or whiskey. Voices rise and fall within silence and it is that silence to which I (and by extension, you) am now directed. Thus this, this way.

The deer are leaving the deep forest, hungry and frightened, the open swell of their brown eyes a country that defies all incursions. One stands a long time studying the dark lines of trees against the first faint traces of sunlight in New England, ignoring cold fingers, breath racing in tumescent lungs, remembering old goodbyes that even now shape the gathering rivulet of days. You, always you.

One gravitates naturally to a kind of writing that is obtuse, exclamatory, indifferent to punctuation. Days are always more interesting than people but quartz in a river is a thousand times more interesting than all my days put together with a bow. One falls into life, and continues falling, until at the bottom they reach a soft sort of golden loam in which enormous kind turtles reside, dispensing wisdom and telling jokes.

Often I will sit outside after midnight and fish around the crusty snow below the bird feeder to find unsplit seeds to chew on while time passes, as it must since I insist - still - on learning what I already know. One infers Spring from many sources - the presence of deer, the shift of crows from backyard to forest, the gathering lilt in her voice, and the way some people grow stingy with their sentences. Below the snow, buried in frosty earth, bulbs consider spitting a green frond at the light and at least one of my prayers encourages said expectoration.

Letters sent that never arrive are not without effect! We are called not to wait on becoming nor to ponder its absence but rather to be the saints we naturally are when all our attention is given to love (which is simply what is, no more and no less). Snow is just water having a certain kind of experience and when it reaches the part of my lips - turned skyward, turned westward - it melts and becomes another kind of experience, as in time we all must.

The man without shoes learned a dance many lifetimes ago and he repeats it night after night, regardless of the weather, regardless of who is (or is not) watching. Way out in the pine trees - where in the fire pond banks of ice are learning to be water again - he is joined briefly by God, turning an ecstatic and luminescent pirouette herein reduced to language in order to reflect - as best as I am able in this writing this way - the awkward radiant joy of the prodigal son at home in his Father's arms.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Discarded Map Trying to Find Itself

One accepts, briefly, the music of Bethlehem. And dreams in which - while searching for lost mittens in the soft snow of late winter - one is advised (again) to write more.

"Have fun" is the lesson nobody taught me and which year after year I struggle to understand. On the other hand, there is a mirror ball in the living room, prisms and their lovely spectra in every room, and a bird feeder outside, at which - even now - one can only stare in a sort of puzzled amazement.

Fellow travelers, not followers. And yesterday - coming home late from teaching - I thought I heard the cry of the red-winged blackbird and something in me lifted - as it has since childhood - at the possibility my old friend and confidant had returned from warmer climes.

Of course I do not let children capture fireflies while of course I insist that they sit out with me some summer nights - lit up those loving green flares - and tell stories about fireflies. Movement in the kitchen recently is bent on simplicity and locality - does this ingredient naturally exist within a one hundred mile radius, say - and the effect is both challenging and delightful.

The dog sleeps curled in the shape of a button, while I twist and turn, like a discarded map trying to find itself. In last night's bedtime story - not the province of the very young in our home - the kids adopted pirate personas and their performance made me laugh despite my fatigue and the story - as stories do - went much longer - and in a different direction - than expected.

I told D. the other day that for me sex was going the way of cigarettes and he laughed and said where's your smoke gonna show now, poetry? It is important in reading Dickinson closely to understand that she was her own influence and that this reflects a useful strategy of composition.

Chrisoula points out - gently but with real clarity - that I am deeply sensitive and easily hurt, which complicates the essential relationship of forgiveness, and when I said "okay, but what am I supposed to do about it," she replied "stop being sensitive" which produced one of the more fructive silences I've experienced in a long while. I was married in the Country of Turtles and it is still there that I know myself best.

Sri Aurobindo reminds me that "so long as we work only through the mentality governed by appearances, this something beyond and behind and yet always immanent can be only an inference or a presence vaguely felt." One feels then the need to let go of images - long a staple of the creative impulse - but trembles a little at such an apparently unretractable leap.

Look, says A., who is presently the teacher I find most annoying, in part because she is also the most insistent that I teach too, writers write. For breakfast later, pancakes soaked with warm maple syrup and apples sliced so thin you can read through them.

Thus the morning passes in a soft haze, squirrels leaping from pine bough to pine bough, and rabbits sneaking through snowed-in rose bushes. Everyone offers the man without shoes a pair of shoes but it was never shoes he was after.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Simple Almost Wordless Happiness

. . . and walk with you. The quarter moon is where I dreamed it would be, south and a little east across my shoulder, a soft feather slowly floating, like goose down on the fire pond. Watts Brook is buried beneath ice and drifting snow and the silence is unsettling - a portent perhaps - while the hill rising to the west is spotted with moose tracks. Blueberry bushes stand like withered hens beneath gunmetal skies at noon. You say you want to walk here but not everybody does.

Missed appointments, difficult texts, stomach aches. The choice is not between spirit and matter, the old divide that continues to dog us. At three a.m. the stars are lovely, inspire a kind of simple almost wordless happiness, and one need neither explain nor defend it. Certain reading is no longer helpful and needs to be put aside. The crucifix from my childhood - its blond plastic Jesus long since fallen away - rests on the window sill next to my prisms.

Ask not from whence the Light comes for it comes always from the You and I of Creation, that lovelily union. It is important to question everything but also important to come to gratefulness, and this is the spiritual practice now. Forced writing is still writing in the sense that one can learn from anything if they are willing. Coming home cold the rooster scraws and one thinks of foxes who smell spring on the North wind. I don't want to teach today, I just don't.

Gravel mixed with salt mixed with ice which - if one bends to study it and does not quit - reflects the starlit sky of four a.m. and thus serves as a reminder that beauty is both subtle and pervasive. What we call "our" lives are in fact merely a procession of stale images from which we scrounge a most unsatisfactory love. Naked remains an ideal. I fold the blankets and straighten the books before praying, not because God cares about clutter but because the puttering somehow clarifies the who that prays and the who that listens. Just because I did not hold your hand in the forest this morning - snow crackling underfoot, starlight fastening to birch trees, coyotes yipping on the far side of the river - does not mean you were not there.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Whispery and Gifting

The trail lightens as I go, slower and slower in the cold, willing the internal transformation. Sky hidden behind pine boughs, bird song perceived as colorful arches slung between, north to south. Beer cans near the pond, also fresh shotgun shells. In a sense, north comes to us. Activity, says one of my teachers, is subordinate to action.

And so I walk and walk and make my prayer and give attention to thought and to what goes without measurement. Snow slips into my boots and melts but then grows frigid against my heels, making me limp. Birch trees scar and darken the older they get. Poor but blessed means making notes for later but not always sharing them. Tea after we know the sun is rising for certain is best.

Though last night stepping out at midnight into the field to stand dizzy beneath spiraling stars one wondered if any light need ever do anything else. How, for example, do stars at noon harmonize with the sun? Blood knows the moon long before any you does. C. came in after to hold me, smelling faintly of lilac and honey, and much was said without the frail travois of words. I mean, sleep getting less so all the time.

Or so he writes, being as always outside the relevant church, tending to its gardens and watching bees drowse in the phlox. Seen a certain way, no road leads anywhere while seen another, they all lead to the same interior clearing. The deer steadied herself after leaping then leaned gently forward, softly whispery and gifting. Thus the world, that way. Yet it always unfolds like this: briefly I recognize Truth only to lose it through pursuit, the flawed activity of possession.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

My Fear of Hunger

There is only so much desire I can bear. Hence, North. When I waken, the moon is encased in blue light and the snow is reaching up to it and I walk slowly across the fields, growing lighter with each step. Far off - possibly one town over - coyotes sing and their song runs hot needles through the blood, songs that thread joy to death and to hell with regret. This writing, this way.

Years ago I wrote thirty thousand sentences about hunger, my fear of hunger, and for weeks after stayed up until two or three a.m., feet dangling in the fire pond while ghosts wandered up and down the far bank through drifting yellow mists. Noon is worse. A companion is imperative. The dog hesitates near the old airstrip, looking at me as if to ask if there is another way which there is not. Back at the house, Chrisoula made tea and waited, and a little snow fell despite the clear skies.

One can admire the artifice of narrative yet to do so properly requires clarity about what is made vs. what is created (and by whom). Further down the trail, deeper into the forest is my real name, my secret name, the one given me by crows who forty days after my birth rocked the wooden cradle beside which my mother fitfully slept. Gratitude is redemptive, cheese extravagant, and the female cardinal a Godly signifier. Logs break in the stove and the dog starts, returns to dreams, and the man without shoes pours another whiskey and accepts another sentence. Letters never sent are not without effect.

After dinner we read Dickinson aloud to one another until we arrive at "bulletins from immortality" and fall quiet in order to learn. One pictures swans floating across a quiet inlet and further in the distance pale triangular sails mistaken for whitecaps. My mother was not unwilling to share her personal spiritual cartography but was genuinely puzzled as to how. Twilight grazes amidst baby pine trees planted two years ago when the horse was still alive. We merit love, we repair each other's socks.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Happiness That Does Not Question Itself

Morning begins in a blur: faint mallow of eastern horizon, shifting fold of curtains, dreams fading like bad t.v. too often indulged. The dog trembles a little in sleep, assorted rosaries rattle against the headboard. One stumbles to put on water for tea, steps out back with the dog to pee in crusted snowbanks, shaking so hard in cold as to make a dozen golden ellipsis. There is a happiness that does not question itself, and a self that does not wonder what it is, and our calling demands we discover both. Thus crows, thus the shoulders of so many women, and thus long hours on a zafu in the dark.

Prisms begin in the upper northwest corner of the bedroom and drift slowly south and east, deepening as they go. Reminiscent of the moon and its own slow path to the sea? J. calls from Maine to remind me of my obligation to look differently at house building. We talk about oxen, fallen trees, and the nature of possibility, its relationship to reality. "You think too much," he says at last, adding - only partly joking - "get your ass out into the woods with an ax."

C. folds laundry while I finish my sentences, eyes on the bird feeder. In a sense, to look at anything is to look at the self, and how we look is the secret to peace. With whom we look? I have never not had time to write. And yet what a complicated relationship I have had with fences!

Yesterday's blue bird is not today's sixteenth sentence nor does it appear there. Complicity abounds in all of us until we arrive at yes and consent to the helpful dismantling of guilt. Discernment precedes joy, Christ precedes Heaven and cows precede steak? Well he was right of course and so C. and I sit down to another long dialogue which is on one level about what house to build but on another level is about seeing clearly transition within the evolving blessing of our marriage but which is really simply about aligning our thinking with Truth as God created it. Ask and ye shall receive indeed.