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Saturday, August 15, 2015 – 6:13am  (with thanks to on being)
Photo by Hamish Irvine

Wild Sanctuary

BY TOM JABLONSKI,  GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
worked in the environmental field in industry, consulting, and government for over 25 years. He lives in Blaine, Minnesota and blogs at Ecological Leadership.

A patch of wilderness, a remnant of land not completely taken over by humans at that point in time, surrounded me. It was a small strip of land located between Highway 65 and the vacant land that paralleled it to the west, and the housing development in which I lived.

At one time the land was likely cleared and the earth had been reshaped. Old berms and piles of dirt marked the landscape, but the wild vegetation had reclaimed the disturbed soil. My observations were interrupted by the call of some animal. I thought it might be a bird, crying out in a loud shrieking that almost drowned out the sound of traffic on the highway. The call got louder and then softer. The chickadees that flitted around the nearby trees seemed to ignore it. What was the call and who was making it? And what was my call?

I had been doing some volunteer work to try and fill my day with some meaning, but the tasks did not fill me with the sense of accomplishment I sought. What was it like to experience a real sense of accomplishment? Maybe it was not experiencing accomplishment that kept me going. For what more was there in life once accomplishment had been achieved?

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Round Lake in St. Paul MN.

Credit: Jim Brekke License: Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

The leaves had mostly fallen off all the trees, and they lay covering the ground. A brown layer interspersed with a patch of black where the leaves had been pushed away to expose the rich, black humus below — a silt-sand-organic matrix filled with microscopic life.

As was typical of those times of solitude, two airplanes sliced through the sky above, their engines churning out there own matrix of noise, exhaust, and propulsion. The sun broke through the overcast sky, sending a strong beam of light and warmth my way. Some remnants of grass dangling from a brown stem rocked back and forth in the breeze that blew through the tangle of wilderness. The trees in the area appeared to be a hardy lot: poplars, box elders, and other shrubs.

A red fox walked through the clearing in front of me, wandering within 30 feet of where I sat. It passed through sniffing the ground, not seeming to notice me as I watched and marveled at the site of it.

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A fox near Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado.

Credit: Max and Dee Bernt License: Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

And then it faded away into the past year’s dried grass. Times like those were good times. This patch of wilderness brought me back to the areas of wilderness I spent time with during my childhood. Going to that place reminded me how sacred those small patches were. They were sanctuaries for life, for creation, for sanity.

So what was it that brought me to that spot at the time when the fox would share its presence with me? And was it the fox that made the strange call I heard when I first came to the place? What brought the leaf down from the tree above and caused it to land in the open spot between my left thumb and forefinger? Were all of those happenings merely coincidences, merely chance meetings of different life forms? Or was there a connection, was there meaning, a message to me telling me what I was called to do? Or was it that I simply enjoyed sitting there, observing, savoring; escaping the places that did not seem to fill me with the same sense of awe.

Small birds somewhere in the distant treetops sang a soft short song — a calling out, an experience of joy, a voice announcing a presence. A crow much further away cawed. The hum of the traffic masked the softer sounds, the more distant sounds. And vines enveloped the tree and the brush, below which I sat ruminating my life.

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Light illuminates the Reservoir Canyon Trail in San Luis Obispo, California.

Credit: Steve Corey License: Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

The tree that I sat under reminded me of the tree that the Buddha sat under while experiencing nirvana. What creatures, what voices, which distractions called out to the Buddha as he pondered his own life? Was there more to enlightenment then simply being present to that which existed around me? Was the moment all there was? Now that I had found it, was I called back to chop wood and haul water, clean bathrooms, vacuum and go on with the volunteering jobs that did not give me the sense of meaning and accomplishment I sought? Could it be that smiling at some kids or helping one or two of them to zip up their coat was all I needed to accomplish that day?

Questions like those would not likely be answered. They likely existed to simply keep me prodding along, to keep living, to keep moving, and to keep interacting. It seemed like it was the interactions of life that could give me the sense of accomplishment I desired.

The time of reflection, serenity, and existence would not hold meaning if it was not shared through the interactions called life. Maybe what I needed to do was to not just focus on the fox, or the voice of the bird, but to pay attention to the brush, to the distraction, to the traffic, and the long grass that hid the fox. The breeze picked up, the sun receded behind a cloud, and I felt chilled. It was time to recede myself from that remnant of wilderness, time to return home to face the distractions of my life, time to focus on the mundane, the ordinary, and find what I sought.

A strange call reverberated dull. Questions of meaning filled the skull. A fox — red, soft, and close to the ground — walked through the place as leaves tumbled down. Sniffing the earth, searching, and blending, it entered the zone, the place of grass bending. The red coat began to disappear, its white-tipped tail the only memory it was near. Time, space, and tranquility. It seemed that was what life could be.

image

directive christopher serra

Directive

Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the
weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a
quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping
covered.
And there’s a story in a book about it:
Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels
The ledges show lines ruled southeast-
northwest,
The chisel work of an enormous Glacier
That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.
You must not mind a certain coolness from
him
Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.
Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
As for the woods’ excitement over you
That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
Charge that to upstart inexperience.
Where were they all not twenty years ago?
They think too much of having shaded out
A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.
Make yourself up a cheering song of how
Someone’s road home from work this once
was,
Who may be just ahead of you on foot
Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.
The height of the adventure is the height
Of country where two village cultures faded
Into each other. Both of them are lost.
And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. The only field
Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall.
First there’s the children’s house of
make-believe,
Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
The playthings in the playhouse of the
children.
Weep for what little things could make
them glad.
Then for the house that is no more a house,
But only a belilaced cellar hole,
Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.
This was no playhouse but a house in
earnest.
Your destination and your destiny’s
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
Too lofty and original to rage.
(We know the valley streams that when
aroused
Will leave their tatters hung on barb and
thorn.)
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterside
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,
So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says
they mustn’t.
(I stole the goblet from the children’s
playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering
place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.

Robert Frost

“Directive,” from the book, THE POETRY OF ROBERT FROST edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1947, 1969 by Henry Holt and Company. Copyright 1975 by Lesley Frost Ballantine. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

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The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

– David Whyte
from Songs for Coming Home
©1984 Many Rivers Press

with thanks to “The Opening of Eyes

A Goodbye

(Thanks to Blue Eyed Ennis)

Primary Wonder

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their coloured clothes; caps and bells
And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamour
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, 0 Lord,
Creator, Hallowed one, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

Denise Levertov

Ever Deeper Roots in Love
by Brother David Steindl-Rast

You, from whom we come
And to whom we go,
Unchanging love,
You give us time for change and growth
In this time of great change in my life,
please, give me courage to change and grow
and cheerfulness amidst growing-pain.
Let me take ever deeper roots in love
Make me faithful without clinging
And let me remain faithful in letting go.
Into your hands I lay my life
And the lives of all whom I love.
Amen.

From Prayers for All People
collected by Mary Ford-Grabowsk from here

Anyone who knows Paul Gallico’s beautiful story of the snow goose will understand the words of this song below :- “God Speed – The Snow Goose. ”

Snow-goose-007

Silver white
symphony of water,
wind and light
where a saltmarsh meets the sea
sanctuary, sanctuary

Grey and green
the painter’s eye sees every hue between
and every brushstroke’s reeds or rain,
reeds or rain
ease his pain

Now it’s my time,
my turn to hold you
my time,
my turn to set you free
God-speed

Black and white
the mighty wings that never tired in flight
that crossed an ocean
in one bound
brought to ground

Pearl and gold
with violet eyes to fire a heart grown cold
brings her burden
to be healed
to be revealed

My time,
my turn to hold you
my time,
my turn to set you free
God-speed

Black and red
the port aflame,
so many good men dead
with peppered sail and angel’s wings
salvation brings

Crimson blue
saltmarsh sunsets
gulls fly through
the snow goose has no tale to tell
just farewell

Now it’s my time,
my turn to hold you
my time,
my turn to set you free
God-speed

The words of the above are found in this video below – the only version I could find.  The video quality is not the best but the audio is reasonably OK.

The introduction to the song says it is a tragic story but I feel that is too narrow a description. It is sad, but for me it represents the cycle of life, experience, love and letting go, and speaks also of salvation and hope. The snow goose is a Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit and an especially important one for me.

I don’t know why this song speaks so much to me at this time, but it seemed an appropriate one to finish on.

clark's run trail

I live near a wilderness area with two joining creeks in a span of woods.  A scout troop maintains a trail that extends for two or three miles and ends at a nearby grade school elevation point.

There are two owls who inhabit its space.  Some kind soul built a large wooden nest to encourage their presence, but I rarely see them.   My joy is occasionally catching a glimpse or hearing their sounds since they are very illusive.  Sometimes at night I can listen to them from my bedroom window.

It could be that they are barred, horned or snowy owls–all are found in Maryland. Likely, a barred owl because of the sounds I hear.  Maybe another kind(s).  One day I will know.

Here are picture of barred and great horned owls:

barred owlhorned owl

 

owl field

Mary Oliver, “White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field”

Coming down out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings — five feet apart —
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow —
and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows —
so I thought:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us —
as soft as feathers —
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light — scalding, aortal light —
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

owl in field in snow

The days slowly brighten, but windy, bitter nights have taken hold. When the
wind slows, a profound quiet settles in the forest.  Occasional creaks and cracks
echo in the frozen world, and in the night, the owls call deep in the forest or
just outside my window.  (here)

owl in flightc

Snowy Owl

Out of the great, green, grove of trees,
In the darkness of the night;
The snowy owl came silently by,
A graceful poem in flight.

Out of the shadows of the dark,
When the day is finished and done;
The swift, hurried flight of the owl takes place,
Out on its midnight run.

Out of the great, green, grove of trees,
As fast as any clock can go,
The wings beat hard and fast,
And rustles the fallen snow.

The snowy owl, a prince of a bird,
It’s dominance reigns supreme;
Out of the blackness that covers me,
Out of my thoughts and dreams.

Out of the great, green, grove of trees,
It glides with a mystic wing;
Out of the night that swallows it,
To see it, would make your heart sing.

david lessard

owl

The owl is known for its mystery, magic, vision, and guidance.  It is also one of the most ancient signs for spirit contact.  The Romans thought owls were harbingers of death while the Greeks considered them a positive omen and an owl flying over a Greek army at the dawn of battle insured victory. 

In Celtic lore a beautiful woman named Blodeuwedd was fashioned out of flowers. She was created to marry a lonely man cursed to have no human wife.  Blodeuwedd soon fell in love with another man and killed her husband.  The victim was then brought back to life and, as vengeance, the faithless Blodeuwedd was turned into an owl.

In “Macbeth” Shakespeare uses an owlet’s wing as a charm and Rowling’s Hedwig is Harry’s most faithful friend.  In Winnie the Pooh Owl is the stuffy and esteemed mentor and teacher to the others.  He was not based on a stuffed toy, so he is illustrated as a live animal.

In addition to having magical properties, a owl is thought to be the wisest of birds. 

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory