Thursday, June 29, 2017
What Lilla Watson said - "If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." The students stay with me for two hours, no breaks, all of us pushing hard on the God question, the being good question, the getting it clear question. My exhaustion when we finally stop makes them laugh. Earlier I noticed buttercups absent from the meadow, the replanted fir tree alive but leaning. Elm and maple logs I should sell or split or maybe just leave to the slow burn of time. We who are haunted by honey bees that died in hives we were unprepared to care for . . . You can ruin anything - a sentence, a sandwich, a marriage, a dog. Ferns on the west side of the house are thick and luscious, hinting at how to finish what keeps you from the work of love. A long letter unsent, a simple prayer unsaid. The ones who think I have something they don't linger after, mute offers crackling like lightening. How can I explain? Whatever happened is gone, and whatever will happen is gone as well. The woman who taught me not to fear my poverty lays down with me beneath a cross that is little more than splinters. It hurts but we are not cold. For all our lives alone.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
A little rain falls while Finnie and Chrisoula feed the chickens, their voices soft in the soft summer rain. The way life can at times be a wordless song, a just-bearable sweetness. What is it about reciprocity that matters? Or seems to matter? How readily we slip into the conditional mode, as if the Lord ever withheld anything . . . One's study turns now to the gift they were given in creation, and the way in which they can no longer avoid the call to extend it. You have nothing but that which you give away? Or did we only dream there was somebody out there bereft? Writing all morning about how to write about that which cannot be written about, a paradox that yields to love, which is to say, there is nothing to be solved and we are the ones who solved it. What are peonies after all but holiness showing up as peonies? What is Christ if Christ is not the buttercups? Be kind, and if you can't be kind, be still, and if you can't be still, then don't worry about it. Yesterday I went to the river and learned there was no river. Today I am being carried away to the sea.
Monday, June 26, 2017
An oven mitt made in Guatemala that somehow ended up hanging on the wall in the hay loft where most but not all of my writing is done. Icarus falls and dies in the sea, but his death was preventable or, at a late (but not too late) juncture, has become so. I remember walking the hot streets of Jerusalem, lonely to the point of tears, and sad that one who was so unhappy at home should be so homesick when so far away from home. Chrisoula asks me to drive with her to Grace Hill Farm and I do - we park in a little cut, she goes inside to buy cheese, milk and butter, leaving me transfixed by a red-and-yellow wind spinner stirring in the breeze. Plans for the second vegetable garden begin to take shape now the strawberry beds are settled. We go out often in the morning before the heat rises and study the landscape together, often without really talking. We are of one mind but of course it is possible to make both too much of this and too little. Attendant risks abound but love abides no caution! Visiting the river near dusk one notices the eddies are like gold and silver threads raveling and unraveling on a swift dark surface. This loveliness is like bread to me: a single crumb is equivalent to a thousand years of prayer.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
The given is merely what is present. Precedent? All morning on my knees in the new strawberry beds, stopping now and then to watch cowbirds pick through the pasture, turkey vultures execute their broad slow circles through the sky. The buttercups, the phlox, the honey bees and milkweed. Nothing exists - can be experienced - outside the circumference of cause and effect. The plants are thin with broad leaves and already fruiting. Towering cumuli where the Lord once lived, where the meritorious dead went after the earth became inhospitable. Where we trip, where we fall, and where we push ourselves back up. Or maybe we are simply lifted by one who isn't troubled by our ingratitude and ignorance. The dark nights of Thérèse were about as surprising as mushrooms after it rains, but on the other hand, she knew what the priests could only pretend to know because they'd been taught how to say it. That which is planted, grows, that which grows, fruits, and that which fruits, dies. God is the common denominator in human experience - that which all humans recognize, regardless of what they call it, or whether they bother with naming it all. Late but not too late a requisite orthopraxy offers itself. "Read me closely," says Thérèse, her voice dreamy and clear. The strawberry plants will need rain. Rain falls. Look! A word is missing and for once it's not my job to find it.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Heavy rains give way to blue skies and the world is thus made safe for laundry. It was always so. One postulates a theory of Christ predicated on attention, on not looking elsewhere. On no longer insisting on the personal prerogative? Travel plans, writing projects - at last perceiving an end to favoritism. What is it about the sky that makes the wingless monotheistic? Snakes don't ever seem Godless or confused. Thérèse wrote that her only guide was self-abandonment, and quoted favorably Saint John of the Cross saying "I've finished all other work except that of love." What happens when you no longer insist on this or that medium? When you accept the utter absence of either merit or demotion? We who - having tasted the lovely division - push back from the table so that others might partake of our share. There is this tempest, there is this shore. There is this cloaked stranger huddled sleeping in the boat, whose rest matters more to me now than than any guidance or safety.
Friday, June 23, 2017
Bereft of sleep - unable to articulate the prayer that insists on a home in my throat - I go out back and plant a shoulder high fir tree near the horses. Worms writhe in cool soil the color of my cut-up hands. In June, the slow burn of familiar errors multiplies. Buttercups, clover, and where last year I started a little riding trail, wild roses, a pair of them. Each face of the church steeple - hazy in the distance - tells a different story. The irises die too fast, the peonies crumble before our eyes . . . Tom asks why I don't ride horses and it's hard to give words to that messy conflagration of penance, love and forgiveness. All afternoon sitting under the apple tree reading Thérèse of Lisieux's Autobiography, hallucinating it was written for me alone, a sort of theological valentine straddling three centuries. After supper I grab a cold Narragansett and head out back. It took Therese a year to die, which struck her as a long time to forego consummation, but what can you do? I'm strangling on the word God gave me to give to the weary. Strung by grief between sun and moon, the fatherless man sucks nails from his palms and holds them in his mouth so that nobody will be crucified again. Such beautiful confusion! Such happiness and pain! Such a long - and getting longer - way to fall.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
You wake up - the bed as vast as the end of war - and think: sunlight matters. A perfect loneliness ensues, like Venus at dawn. It's okay to talk to God and whoever Jesus was, you know he was a listener. Last night's rain stripped the buttercups, the pasture looks empty. Our hands cannot hold the world, therefore we hold the other's hand. Or is it that the world is a difficult text - a finished text - and we are its scrawl? "I just want to look at one more pretty thing before I go." The swallows matter, the irises matter. "Apple tree" this summer has been both a totem and a place one likes to sit. Life is fluxional, also fabulous. One resides where the other says "blue." Sees blue? Oh, let others be right, let others be wrong. These sentences didn't ask to be written and neither did I. How sweet the clover is, for those to whom that sweetness is given.
Monday, June 19, 2017
What I cannot get used to but must - that loneliness. In June then, you. In a dream she settles on her knees in the orchard. The clover sighs, the stars are clear and still. We are slow together and patient, we minister to each other, we who are confused about what what it means not to live by bread alone. When the glistening streams reach her shoulders, I clean them with kisses and other adorations. Was this the sentence for which I was made fit? We only think we choose the altar - in truth there is no altar, there is no choice, and there is no worship. Apples fall in early summer, reminding us how little we know about purpose and utility. There are entries in Thoreau's journal I still have not read but hope to by next winter. There are promises we made before we knew what making them meant. Questions the marriage raised but as yet has failed to answer? At times it seems the table is forced to hold more than just our books and plates, doesn't it? In a dream her name was Justice. There is this unexpected - this unwavering - proximity to peonies now, as if there were actually a God, and that God were actually inviting us to rethink our relationship to ecstasy (the nexus of forgiveness and consent?). In a dream she insists on joy. How few of our prayers require kneeling or words! How the other coming closer makes us holy! How the peonies don't wait on yes or no, just bloom!
Thursday, June 15, 2017
What is falling out there in the distance? Something yellow, something that spirals. It's pretty, what I don't know, the not knowing unfolding, the unfolding knowing how without asking. What is open doesn't yield to analysis, while what fills it - briefly, slightly - is only partially addressed by Husserl. She says quietly she is tired of being a woman whose only job in life is to clean up after men who break windows. We are not placeholders, we kiss our fingers after, and we decline to rush past the infinite mosaic. Wait for her to join us before the infinite mosaic? Corvids intimate a mode of existence not predicated on promises. I want to tell you that even "sky" mistakes its own referent. One lingers over the intimate meal, one never gets past saying grace. For many years, the traveler studied her ticket, imagining a Venn diagram at the center of which was a name she didn't recognize. Far beyond the reach of balance it is I who am falling.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
One begins to feel the way it would feel to confide in oneself. Insight happens but we are allowed to explore a broad - a broadening - array of stimuli. Pacifism is provocation! I walk with Fionnghuala to the river early, we wade through fast-moving shallows looking for green stones. Morning is a form of butterfly. Becoming the man who says to Icarus "I will catch you when you fall." Determinism breeds compassion or is it just that I am not alarmed by all this letting go? We who are no longer implied in what we study, who are a smooth channel of content. When there are chocolate chips in the muffins, when there are blueberries - those happinesses. In a sense, all that is happening is signaling, where reading the signals is also a signal. The purple iris is a lifetime fathered by earth and sky.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
Unfortunately I don't have any answers. She pushes the sheets back, straddles you without asking, and your body responds - you're hard, you're moving in her - but you are also somewhere else, you are always "somewhere else." Dreams of Leonard Cohen singing Hallelujah, his voice filling the room, my faltering scraggly own a poor companion. No wonder dogs have been the real totem, especially strays nobody else will take. Living as if there were a bargain-basement adoption fee tattooed to one's forehead. We for whom the stranger's mouth is a tabernacle. Waking early like the old days, recoiling a little swallowing coffee, foregoing scripture in favor of bird song and the strange - that expansive tremulous crystalline decidedly Christian - stillness that is fast-becoming the not-you you briefly embody. That stump stared stonily - sullenly - not stubbornly - at the sky, and I was the author of its death. The remaining hemlocks are russet when the sun rises, its rays briefly set a certain way, a loveliness in passing. Christ is not less, Christ is not more. Imagine some ground we share - that allows us to love one another quietly, fructively, actually. A bluet does not travel, therefore a bluet owns what relationship to narrative? It's settled: since sheep are complex, we will make use of a scythe. What will the world ask of you today? What strategies will you devise to avoid responding and - critically - avoid seeing clearly that strategy is your response?
Friday, June 9, 2017
Going out early to study the gourd-and-pumpkin garden - two hundred or so square feet of upended pasture, ready to be tilled. Why else allow for bodies? As a child, swallows were a kind of totem, although any animal we didn't kill or eat was worth studying. Divisions abound, each hinting at the whole from which it was rent (and the whole to which it will return). That which exists beyond guns and appetite intimates the sacred, or at least its possibility. Cycles are relevant as a model though they offer little consolation to the pigs who so clearly do not want to die. It's possible this is the resurrection. One wonders at their obsession with consent, how it becomes precious in a way that suggests something else is at work, perhaps a subtle - almost unnoticed - plea for forgiveness. Reading a recent interview with Volk, puzzling (appreciably) over his point about the visual field being an "organ" within the total field of one's consciousness. Having learned I will never learn enough, I have begun to appreciate sipping again. The last few hemlock branches await disposition, a last uprooted stump stares stubbornly at the sky where a few weeks earlier its limbs gave form to the wind. My resistance to chainsaws is legendary around here but my body is beginning to protest this insistence on sawing by hand. In the end it's like nothing matters but love (and its kin - contemplation, clarity and service). Therefore, be intentional, attentive. "It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone." The garden becomes us - our bodies, our prayers, our promise. And swallows have to eat too.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
The urge to speak a certain way, to say it in a way designed to evoke a certain response. One doesn't always know what's coming but coming - like going - happens. The object of desire cannot be denied language, though it may be a private one, all but unrecognizable. We harvest early radishes in a light rain, we plant an extra row of pie pumpkins. Is it as simple as swallows swooping through the purpling sky at dusk? The path steam from the tea takes rising . . . The garden defines us because it feeds us but also because we work hard within it. We are not not the garden. That moment when one notices the collective also notices. The neighbor's kids ask what I'm doing, it's hard to remember not everyone makes sun tea in Mason jars. I can't explain anything, let alone this. Thanks are not always in order but one appreciates the sentiment. It turns out that bearing the spiritual projections of others is not the Lord calling after all. Just because we contribute to ruins doesn't mean we aren't also tourists. The man who swallowed his passport waits on the woman who still isn't sure how - or when maybe (are those different questions - yes they are different questions) - to use hers. Sunlight brightens the back porch. I will go there now to write this.