When, in the cavern darkness, the child first opened his mouth (even before his eyes widened to see the supple world his lungs had breathed into being), could he have known that breathing trumps seeing? Did he love the way air sighs as it brushes in and out through flesh to sustain the tiny heart’s iambic beating, tramping the crossroads of the brain like donkey tracks, the blood dazzling and invisible, the corpuscles skittering to the earlobes and toenails? Did he have any idea it would take all his breath to speak in stories that would change the world? ~Luci Shaw “Breath”
Breath created the world by forming the Words that tell the stories that change everything and us.
Walking in February A warm day after a long freeze On an old logging road Below Sumas Mountain Cut a walking stick of alder, Looked down through clouds On wet fields of the Nooksack— And stepped on the ice Of a frozen pool across the road. It creaked The white air under Sprang away, long cracks Shot out in the black, My cleated mountain boots Slipped on the hard slick —like thin ice—the sudden Feel of an old phrase made real— Instant of frozen leaf, Icewater, and staff in hand. “Like walking on thin ice—” I yelled back to a friend, It broke and I dropped Eight inches in ~Gary Snyder “Thin Ice”
We are surrounded by divisive opinions about all manner of things — how we should live, who is privileged and who is marginalized, who we should believe, who we cannot possibly believe — these battles of words hog headlines, scroll the bottom of our screens, blare from classrooms, city squares, radios and podcasts.
Continual conflict, literally a splintering crack creaking with our weight, occupies too much of the world’s scarce resources, while compassionate people stand stranded on the frozen lake of political emotions.
The trouble with such overheating in the middle of winter is that we all end up walking on too-thin ice: both those who are far too overconfident in expressing their own righteous views and opinions about how much more they know than others, and those of us who passively listen and judge between the blowhards.
We’ll all end up breaking through the ice, thoroughly doused by the chilly waters below.
Lord, have mercy on us, show us your Light, blend the division between shadow and dawn, help us recognize the cracks creaking beneath our feet, compelling us to fall to our knees, before you and you alone.
‘May you live in interesting times.’ Chinese curse
If you ask me ‘What’s new?’, I have nothing to say Except that the garden is growing. I had a slight cold but it’s better today. I’m content with the way things are going. Yes, he is the same as he usually is, Still eating and sleeping and snoring. I get on with my work. He gets on with his. I know this is all very boring.
There was drama enough in my turbulent past: Tears and passion – I’ve used up a tankful. No news is good news, and long may it last. If nothing much happens, I’m thankful. A happier cabbage you never did see, My vegetable spirits are soaring. If you’re after excitement, steer well clear of me. I want to go on being boring.
I don’t go to parties. Well, what are they for, If you don’t need to find a new lover? You drink and you listen and drink a bit more And you take the next day to recover. Someone to stay home with was all my desire And, now that I’ve found a safe mooring, I’ve just one ambition in life: I aspire To go on and on being boring. ~Wendy Cope “Being Boring”
Four days snowed in might be boring to some folks.
It was wonderful, especially when I’m snowed in with a special someone who I love to stay home with, who is my safe mooring.
Today I’m heading back out on slushy roads, back to the life of all-but-boring clinic work, full of non-stop drama.
But my ambition is to go back to that boring life on the farm with that someone I want to stay home with. Soon.
Abandon entouré d’abandon, tendresse touchant aux tendresses… C’est ton intérieur qui sans cesse se caresse, dirait-on; se caresse en soi-même, par son propre reflet éclairé. Ainsi tu inventes le thème du Narcisse exaucé. ~Rainer Maria Rilke “Dirait-on” from his French Poetry collection ‘Les chansons de la rose’
Abandon enveloping abandon, Tenderness brushing tendernesses, Who you are sustains you eternally, so they say; Your very being is nourished by its own enlightened reflection; So you reveal to us the theme of Narcissus redeemed.
So like the Valentine sunrise brushing the sky this morning:
There is nothing so tender as love in full bloom– no longer an enclosed bud with potential but opened fully petal unfolding upon petal in caressing abandon.
…Then how his muffled armies move in all night And we wake and every road is blockaded Every hill taken and every farm occupied And the white glare of his tents is on the ceiling. And all that dull blue day and on into the gloaming We have to watch more coming.
Then everything in the rubbish-heaped world Is a bridesmaid at her miracle. Dunghills and crumbly dark old barns are bowed in the chapel of her sparkle. The gruesome boggy cellars of the wood Are a wedding of lace Now taking place. ~Ted Hughes from “Snow and Snow”
I wish one could press snowflakes in a book like flowers. ~James Schuyler from “February 13, 1975”
It’s true that three snow days in a row is unprecedented in our part of the world. Being snowbound by driveway-blocking drifts has its advantages until it isn’t fun any longer and means even more work to be done both on and off the farm, especially for a physician stranded from her closed clinic.
I’ve been doing my best taking care of our clinic’s patients via messaging, text and other media, but there is a limit to my virtual reach: I can’t palpate a tender belly, or feel swollen lymph nodes or listen to someone’s palpitations, though it is a little easier to discern despair, anticipate anxiety and work out someone’s worries from afar.
But I do have a view of the wedding lace of our woods and the sparkling chapels made of our tired old barns and buildings on the farm. I’m reminded that even I can be dressed up with a covering as white as snow. So lovely to look at, if only to be preserved for the long summer days that lie ahead — a wilting snowflake pressed into a book like a flower remembered, its fragrance still attached.
Birds afloat in air’s current, sacred breath? No, not breath of God, it seems, but God the air enveloping the whole globe of being. It’s we who breathe, in, out, in, in the sacred, leaves astir, our wings rising, ruffled — but only the saints take flight. We cower in cliff-crevice or edge out gingerly on branches close to the nest. The wind marks the passage of holy ones riding that ocean of air. Slowly their wake reaches us, rocks us. But storms or still, numb or poised in attention, we inhale, exhale, inhale, encompassed, encompassed. ~Denise Levertov “In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being“
God reminds us when we are at our most anxious and needy: He cares for the birds and feeds them, lifts their wings in the wind and their feathered down keeps them warm. He gives them air to ride upon and air to breathe.
If them, then He cherishes us as well.
We too breathe in, breathe out, ruffled and fluffed, surrounded by the air we need and the air that lifts us. Lacking down, it is His breath keeping us warm.