Holy and Hidden Heart

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“Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery it is.
In the boredom and pain of it,
no less than in the excitement and gladness:
touch, taste, smell your way
to the holy and hidden heart of it,
because in the last analysis
all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.”
~Frederich Buechner

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Be and Be Better

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When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly…

Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
~Maya Angelou from “When Great Trees Fall”

When I need to be restored,
humbled and forgiven,
I walk back to the woods on our farm
to stand before the great beings
cut down in their prime
over one hundred years ago,
their scarred stumps still bearing the notches
from the lumbermen’s springboards.

Old growth firs and cedars
became mere headstones
in the graveyard left behind.

They existed, they existed,
their grandeur leaves no doubt.
I leave the woods and come back
to the world better
because they existed.

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Stumbling Upon Spring Again

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repost from 2004 (published in May 2007  Country Magazine)

The past few weeks have been particularly dark and dank.  February often feels like this: the conviction winter will never be finished messing with us.
Our doldrums are deep; brief respite of sun and warmth too rare.

I feel it in the barn as I go about my daily routine.   The Haflingers are impatient and yearn for freedom, over-eager when handled, sometimes banging on the stall doors in their frustration at being shut in,  not understanding that the alternative is  to stand outside all day in cold rain and wind.  To compensate for their confinement, I do some grooming of their thick winter coats, urging their hair to loosen and curry off in sheets over parts of their bodies, yet otherwise still clinging tight.  The horses are a motley crew right now, much like a worn ’60s shag carpet, uneven and in dire need of updating.  I prefer that no one see them like this and discourage visitors to the farm, begging people to wait a few more weeks until they (and I) are more presentable. Eventually I know the shag on my horses will come off, revealing the sheen of new short hair beneath, but when I look at myself, I’m unconvinced there is such transformation in store for me. Cranky, I  put one foot ahead of the other, get done what needs to be done, oblivious to the subtle renewal around me, refusing to believe even in the possibility.

It happened today.  Dawn broke bright and blinding and after escorting horses out to daytime paddocks for a sun bath, I heard the fields calling, so I heeded, climbing the hill and turning my face to the eastern light, soaking up all I could.  It was almost too much to keep my eyes open, as they are so accustomed to gray darkness. And then I stumbled across something extraordinary.

A patch of snowdrops sat blooming in an open space on our acreage, visible now only because of the brush clearing that was done last fall. Many of these little white upside down flowers were planted long ago around our house and yard, but  I had no idea they were also such a distance away, hiding underground. Yet there they’ve been, year after year, harbingers of the long-awaited spring to come in a few short weeks, though covered by the overgrowth of decades of neglect and invisible to me in my self-absorbed blindness.  I was astonished that someone, many many years ago, had carried these bulbs this far out to a place not easy to find, and planted them, hoping they might bless another soul sometime somehow.  Perhaps the spot marks a grave of a beloved pet, or perhaps it was simply a retreat of sorts, but there the blossoms had sprung from their sleep beneath the covering of years of fallen leaves and blackberry vines.

It was if I’d been physically hugged by this someone long dead,  now flesh and blood beside me, with work-rough hands, and dirty fingernails, and broad brimmed hat, and a satisfied smile.  I’m certain the secret gardener is no long living, and I reach back across those years in gratitude, to show my deep appreciation for the time and effort it took to place a foretaste of spring in an unexpected and hidden place.

I am thus compelled to look for ways to leave such a gift for someone to find 50 years hence as they likewise stumble blindly through too many gray days full of human frailty and flaw. Though I will be long gone,  I can reach across the years to grab them, hug them in their doldrums, lift them up and give them hope for what is to come.  What an astonishing thought that it was done for me and in reaffirming that promise of renewal,  I can do it for another.

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To Bear the Light

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Rain-diamonds, this winter morning,
embellish the tangle of unpruned pear-tree twigs;
each solitaire, placed, it appears,
with considered judgement,
bears the light beneath the rifted clouds —
t
he indivisible shared out in endless abundance.
~Denise Levertov “Bearing the Light”

Indivisible inestimable abundance —
as belighted jewels
descend from heaven
to adorn the plain and meager
on earth.

Nothing warrants
such grace falling like rain,
to cling like sequins sparkling
on our veil of tears.

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Tenderness Upon Tenderness

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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’

Translation by Clarissa Aykroyd

Abandon upon abandon,
tenderness upon tenderness…
Your hidden self unceasingly
turns inward, a caress;

caressing itself, in and of its own
reflection illuminated.
Thus you’ve invented the tale
of Narcissus sated.

 

The dozen red roses from my husband for Valentine’s Day brought this beautiful piece to mind:
There is nothing so tender as a rose in full bloom–
no longer an enclosed bud
but an opening,
petal unfolding upon petal
in caressing abandon.

Morten Lauridsen’s choral version –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWXVZlrLa6E

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Given the Choice

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I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain. But when I look up,
saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don’t cut that one.
I don’t cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,
an unseen nest
where a mountain
would be.
~Tess Gallagher “Choices”

Such tenderness,
such recognition of the other,
to save the nest
and all future potential nests
rather than a clear cut stripping
for the sake of unimpeded world view,
when the freedom of a mountain backdrop
is sacrificed–

such tenderness
when the right to choose can only mean
choosing to do right.

 

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The Air Sighs

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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 that created the world
by forming the Words
that tell the stories
that change the world.
We rest in that breath today,
sighing in Sabbath.

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