Saturday, March 11, 2017

Love Letters

Love Letters

Every day, priests minutely examine the Law
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.

Before doing that, though, they should learn
How to read the love letters sent by the wind
and rain, the snow and moon.

Ikkyu, 'Ikkyu and the Crazy Cloud Anthology', trans. by Sonya Arutzen

Friday, February 24, 2017


Listen. Put on lightbreak.
Waken into miracle.

W. S. Graham

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

If not, not

Two Cats
Katha Pollitt

It's better to be a cat than to be a human.
Not because of their much-noted grace and beauty—
their beauty wins them no added pleasure, grace is
only a cat's way

of getting without fuss from one place to another—
but because they see things as they are. Cats never mistake a
saucer of milk for a declaration of passion
or the crook of your knees for

a permanent address. Observing two cats on a sunporch,
you might think of them as a pair of Florentine bravoes
awaiting through slitted eyes the least lapse of attention—
then slash! the stiletto

or alternately as a long-married couple, who hardly
notice each other but find it somehow a comfort
sharing the couch, the evening news, the cocoa.
Both these ideas

are wrong. Two cats together are like two strangers
cast up by different storms on the same desert island
who manage to guard, despite the utter absence
of privacy, chocolate,

useful domestic articles, reading material,
their separate solitudes. They would not dream of
telling each other their dreams, or the plots of old movies,
or inventing a bookful

of coconut recipes. Where we would long ago have
frantically shredded our underwear into signal
flags and be dancing obscenely about on the shore in
a desperate frenzy,

they merely shift on their haunches, calm as two stoics
weighing the probable odds of the soul's immortality,
as if to say, if a ship should happen along we'll
be rescued. If not, not.

"Two Cats" by Katha Pollitt, from The Mind-Body Problem. © Random House, 2009

Monday, January 30, 2017

Warding off the Darkness

"If you can’t seem to make yourself happy, do little things to make other people happy. This is a very effective magic trick. Focus on others instead of yourself.

Buy coffee for the person behind you in line (I do this a lot), compliment a stranger, volunteer at a soup kitchen, help a classroom on, buy a round of drinks for the line cooks and servers at your favorite restaurant, etc.

The little things have a big emotional payback, and guess what? Chances are, at least one person you make smile is on the front lines with you, quietly battling something nearly identical."

Tim Ferriss on How He Survived Suicidal Depression and His Tools for Warding Off the Darkness

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

You are standing in the sky

“Look at your feet. You are standing in the sky. When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, but the sky actually begins at the earth. We walk through it, yell into it, rake leaves, wash the dog, and drive cars in it. We breathe it deep within us. With every breath, we inhale millions of molecules of sky, heat them briefly, and then exhale them back into the world.”

Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

From here.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A tree stands there

"Every year a given tree creates absolutely from scratch ninety-nine percent of its living parts. Water lifting up tree trunks can climb one hundred and fifty feet an hour; in full summer a tree can, and does, heave a ton of water every day. A big elm in a single season might make as many as six million leaves, wholly intricate, without budging an inch; I couldn't make one.

A tree stands there, accumulating deadwood, mute and rigid as an obelisk, but secretly it seethes, it splits, sucks and stretches; it heaves up tons and hurls them out in a green, fringed fling.

No person taps this free power; the dynamo in the tulip tree pumps out even more tulip tree, and it runs on rain and air."

Annie Dillard

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Trees, Curators of Time

"Time is kept and curated in different ways by trees, and so it is experienced in different ways when one is among them. This discretion of trees, and their patience, are both affecting.

It is beyond our capacity to comprehend that the American hardwood forest waited seventy million years for people to come and live in it, though the effort of comprehension is itself worthwhile.

It is valuable and disturbing to know that grand oak trees can take three hundred years to grow, three hundred years to live and three hundred years to die. Such knowledge, seriously considered, changes the grain of the mind."

Robert Macfarlane, 'The Old Ways: A Journey On Foot'

On a related note:

Britain's mightiest oak: A staggering 1,046 years old, it's still going strong:

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Life

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.

from 'The Round', Stanley Kunitz

Friday, December 30, 2016

But everything glorious is around us already

All That Is Glorious Around Us

is not, for me, these grand vistas, sublime peaks, mist-filled
overlooks, towering clouds, but doing errands on a day
of driving rain, staying dry inside the silver skin of the car,
160,000 miles, still running just fine. Or later,

sitting in a café warmed by the steam
from white chicken chili, two cups of dark coffee,
watching the red and gold leaves race down the street,
confetti from autumn's bright parade. And I think

of how my mother struggles to breathe, how few good days
she has now, how we never think about the glories
of breath, oxygen cascading down our throats to the lungs,
simple as the journey of water over a rock. It is the nature

of stone / to be satisfied / writes Mary Oliver, It is the nature
of water / to want to be somewhere else, rushing down
a rocky tor or high escarpment, the panoramic landscape
boundless behind it. But everything glorious is around

us already: black and blue graffiti shining in the rain's
bright glaze, the small rainbows of oil on the pavement,
where the last car to park has left its mark on the glistening
street, this radiant world.

Barbara Crooker

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Perpetual Becoming

"Indeed, even though all monks are committed to the same task, deep down - as doctors or hospital construction workers are - the details of their practice are as different as their wildly divergent times and cultures.

A Christian generally longs to be rooted in the home he's found in God; the Buddhist, more concerned with uncovering potential, is more interested in experiments and inquiries, always pushing deeper.

In fact Christianity works from very uncertain beginnings toward a specific end (redemption and a life with God); Buddhism starts with something very specific (the Buddha and the reality of the suffering he saw) and moves toward an always uncertain future (even after one has attained Nirvana). The image of the open road speaks for a perpetual becoming."

Page 140.
'The Open Road - The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama'
Pico Iyer

Monday, December 26, 2016

I am speaking to you

Making the House Ready for the Lord
Mary Oliver

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice--it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves

and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances--but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;

what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know

that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Down Hysterica Passio

"We all have something within ourselves to batter down, and we get our power from this fighting. I have never 'produced' a play in verse without showing the actors that the passion of the verse comes from the fact that the speakers are holding down violence, or madness - 'down Hysterica Passio'.

All depends on the completeness of the holding down, on the stirring of the beast underneath. Without this conflict we have no passion, only sentiment and thought."

W.B.Yeats, in a letter to Dorothy Wellesley. From 'Yeats: The Man and the Masks', by Richard Ellmann

[Notebook 5, 1989]

Thursday, December 22, 2016


One Brilliance

frost in the dried weeds—
sometimes it takes the cold
for things to find their shine.

Rosemerry Trommer

Saturday, December 17, 2016

All that is outside, is also inside

"How else could it have occurred to man to divide the cosmos, on the analogy of day and night, summer and winter, into a bright-day world and a dark night-world peopled with fabulous monsters, unless he had the prototype of such a division in himself, in the polarity between the conscious and the invisible and unknowable unconscious?

..."All that is outside, is also inside", we could say with Goethe.

But this "inside" which modern rationalism is so eager to derive from "outside" has an a priori structure of its own that antedates all conscious experience. It is quite impossible to conceive how "experience" in the widest sense, or, for that matter, anything psychic, could originate exclusively in the outside world.

Page 38, 'Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype', from 'Four Archetypes: Mother, Rebirth, Spirit, Trickster', by Carl Gustav Jung, 1953

Monday, November 28, 2016

A sheet of rice paper

This World

I am alone making guacamole, and he is on a plane
getting ready to act out marriage rituals
with people who will stop calling once the kids come.

I feel skeletal and ashamed like my insecurities
have made me instead of the other way around.
That’s when I stab myself with a serrated knife
attempting to extract a pit from an avocado.

Blood bubbles behind the bundle of loose nerves
like oil waiting to erupt from the ocean floor.
Living, I suppose, is a lot like mining.
Most days you find nothing.

But how strange and humbling it is to realize that your skin
is no tougher than a sheet of rice paper,
your heart no more resilient than a light bulb,
your love no less a stranger than an old classmate
you make eye contact with in passing at the gas station.

He will come back to me or he will not,
and I will go on living. The window into my hand,
before the blood remembers its job is to flow,
is so deep and clean I lose my breath,

and for once see the world exactly as it is—a boat
that we let carry us off. We could
just as soon throw the anchor down,
light the dynamite, and swim away.

Rae Hoffman

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