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The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

– Philip Larkin

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Spring Carol

When loud by landside streamlets gush,
And clear in the greenwood quires the thrush,
With sun on the meadows
And songs in the shadows
Comes again to me
The gift of the tongues of the lea,
The gift of the tongues of meadows….

So when the earth is alive with gods,
And the lusty ploughman breaks the sod,
And the grass sings in the meadows,
And the flowers smile in the shadows,
Sits my heart at ease,
Hearing the song of the leas,
Singing the songs of the meadows.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1918)

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begin again

Rilke:

“May the stars carry your sadness away,
May the flowers fill your heart with beauty,
May hope forever wipe away your tears,
And, above all, may silence make you strong.”

  redwood-forest

Here, in an ordinary train station in Wuppertal, Germany, the group Árstíðir began singing the Icelandic hymn “Heyr himna smiður”. The hymn — the oldest known Scandinavian hymn — dates back to the early 13th century when the Icelandic chieftain Kolbeinn Tumason is purported to have written these familiar words on his deathbed. Then, more than seven centuries later, the composer Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson put them to music.

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For those interested, here’s one English translation:

Hear, smith of the heavens,
what the poet asks.
May softly come unto me
thy mercy.
So I call on thee,
for thou hast created me.
I am thy slave,
thou art my Lord.

God, I call on thee
to heal me.
Remember me, mild one,[1]
Most we need thee.
Drive out, O king of suns,
generous and great,
human every sorrow
from the city of the heart.

Watch over me, mild one,
Most we need thee,
truly every moment
in the world of men.
send us, son of the virgin,
good causes,
all aid is from thee,
in my heart.

Because Árstíðir sings this hymn in the cathedral of a train station rather than a concert hall, the experience feels special, significant, universal. And this act contributes to the transforming the everyday into something aspirational, transformative.

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last year’s fall equinox from my neighborhood 

Spring is finally here and we are treated by a supermoon, a solar eclipse (viewed from other parts of earth) and the vernal equinox.  At 5:36 a.m. the solar eclipse began and at 5:46 we had the vernal equinox and this evening at 6:45 p.m. (all Eastern time) the Northern and Southern hemispheres will be illuminated equally and the day and night are each approximately 12 hours long.  The Sun crosses the celestial equator going northward; it rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west and the Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the sun’s rays.

Eclipses can only happen at new moon, when the moon appears is entirely in shadow.    As it glides past so close to us it will not be visible in the continental United States, but can be observed from the Faroe Islands or the Svalbard Archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean when it is fully blocking the sun.   A “Supermoon” refers to a full or new moon that coincides with perigee — the moon’s closest point to Earth in its orbit — and will not happen again until 2053 and 2072.    (Here is the completed video of the Faroe Island event:  It is dark at 1:10:36)

Scientists reveal that while there is an impression of a face to a casual viewer, the irregular surface of the moon was actually formed from dark lava that flowed many billions of years ago. And they recently have discovered that this lava flow continues from recent eruptions, and Sarah Braden, a lunar scientists has said,

“The existence and young age of the irregular mare patches provides a new constraint for models of the lunar interior’s thermal evolution….(and there is) evidence for volcanic eruptions at ages much younger than previously thought possible, and in multiple locations.”

This illustration shows the names of the large marias as seen from Earth. Credit: Peter Freiman & Background photograph by Gregory H. Revera
This illustration shows the names of the large marias as seen from Earth. Credit: Peter Freiman & Background photograph by Gregory H. Revera

ESA’s Sun-watching Proba-2 minisatellite had a ringside seat to view the eclipse from orbit, using its SWAP imager to capture this image of the moon passing in front of the sun.

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last year’s moon at the capitol

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

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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