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Wednesday, January 20, 2016 – 2:32am
Photo by Kent Miller

Notes from a Week in the Winter Woods

I’ve been on retreat at a cabin in the woods since last Monday — a silent, solitary retreat. As my time here got underway, I took a few notes each day — a sort of mini-journal — and got the idea of stringing them together.

Monday, Jan. 11, 2016
Arrived in mid-afternoon at my rented cabin in the snow-covered Wisconsin countryside. Went inside, lit a fire, and unpacked the car, quickly, motivated by the sub-zero wind chill. Outside, acres of bright fields and dark woods. Inside, just me. Plus enough clothing, food, and books for a week of silence and solitude.

Last night, someone asked if I liked being alone. “It depends,” I said. “Sometimes I’m my best friend. Sometimes I’m my worst enemy. We’ll see who shows up.”

It’s 9:00 p.m., an hour before Quaker midnight, but I’m going to turn in anyway. I’m drowsy and at peace. The fire I’ve been staring into seems to have burned away the worries that tagged along with me.

Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016

Woke up about 5:00 a.m. and lay awake for another hour in the dark, watching my worries rise phoenix-like from the ashes and flap around to get my attention.

“Welcome and entertain them all!” says Rumi in The Guest House.

“Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”

Guess I need to have a chat with the “beyond.” Looks like he/she/it didn’t get the memo that I came here for some peace.

Now, a few hours later, I’m feeling that peace again. It came from a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast, all ready simultaneously despite the fact that I’m a certified kitchen klutz. It came as well from looking out on the snowfields, brilliant under the rising sun — but beautifully etched with the shadows of trees and stubble poking up through the snow.

The “beyond” was right: peace comes from embracing the interplay of shadow and light (and a good breakfast doesn’t hurt). After breakfast, I read the January 12 entry in A Year With Thomas Merton, a collection of daily meditations:

“It seems to me that I have greater peace… when I am not ‘trying to be contemplative,’ or trying to be anything special, but simply orienting my life fully and completely towards what seems to be required of a man like me at a time like this.”

Simple and true, but so easily lost in Type-A spiritual striving! What was required of me this morning was simply to make breakfast despite my well-documented ineptitude. The deal is to do whatever is needful and within reach, no matter how ordinary it is or whether I’m likely to do it well.

This afternoon, what I needed was a hike, though the wind chill was six below. I’m no Ernest Shackleton, but I learned long ago that winter will drive you crazy until you get out into it — and I mean “winter” both literally and metaphorically. “In the middle of winter,” said Camus, “I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.”

I didn’t discover summer on my hike. But the sun blazed bright on the frozen prairie, warming my face. And high in the cobalt blue sky, a hawk made lazy circles as I’ve seem them do in July. For January, that’s close enough to summer for me!

Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016

I slept poorly last night, and I know why. An hour before bedtime, I binge-ate a box of Jujyfruits while reading a book about spiritual discipline. The book made a few good points but was not well written, and I scarfed down the Jujyfruits as a stimulus to stick with it. My bad. But clear evidence that I could use some discipline!

I feel better now because the oatmeal I made for breakfast — on my second try — was healing. Pure comfort food. On the first try, I got the ratio of oatmeal to water wrong and left it on the burner too long. The pan looks like a grotesque avant garde sculpture of metal and grain: “Agrarian Culture Defeated by Machine.” Again, my bad. But my kitchen klutz credentials have been reinstated.

I guess my theme today is “Screw-ups in Solitude.” In solitude, my bads make me grin. If I committed them in front of others, I’d be embarrassed or angry with myself. Self-acceptance is easier when no one is around.

The Taoist master Chuang Tzu tells about a man crossing a river when an empty skiff slams into his. The man does not become angry, as he would if there was a boatman in the other skiff. So, says Chuang Tzu:

“Empty your own boat as you cross the river of the world.”

In solitude, I can empty my boat. Can I do it when I’m not alone? Maybe.

“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self. It is not about the absence of other people — it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.”

That quote comes from a book I wrote, so I should probably give it a try!

Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016

Woke up at 2:00 a.m. and found myself regretting some things I got wrong over the past 77 years. Wished I had been kinder, or braver, or less self-centered than I was, and had a hard time remembering the things I got right.

Knowing that the 2:00 a.m. mind is almost always deranged, I got up at 4:00 a.m., dressed, made some coffee, stood out in the dark and cold for a bit, and saw Venus gleaming low in the southeast. The goddess of love: that helped!

Then I read the January 14th entry in A Year With Thomas Merton. Once again,my old friend had a word I need to hear, as he reflected on the complex mix of rights and wrongs in his own life:

I am thrown into contradiction: to realize it is mercy, to accept it is love, and to help others do the same is compassion.

Merton goes on to say that the contradictions in our lives are engines of creativity. It’s true. If we got everything right or everything wrong, there’d be none of the divine discontent or the sense of possibility that drives us to grow. What we get wrong makes us reach for something better. What we get right gives us hope that the “better” might be within reach.

Now I feel ready to step into the day animated by the counsel of Florida Scott-Maxwell:

“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done… you are fierce with reality.”

I fully intend to get fierce and real today. But before I do that, I’m going to take a nap!

Friday, Jan. 15, 2016

This morning, for no apparent reason, I woke up with a grin, another one of those “guests” Rumi spoke about, “sent as a guide from beyond.” But this time the guest is a welcome lightness, a sense of impending laughter.

Most of my heroes are folks who are no strangers to laughter. Grandpa Palmer comes to mind. The man was proof-positive of William James’s claim that “common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds.” Grandpa taught me to drive when I was 14. First time out, I made a dumb, dangerous move on a back-country Iowa road. When we came to a safe stop, Grandpa was ominously silent for a moment. Then he said, laconically, “If I’d of knowed you was gonna do that, I don’t believe I’d of asked you to drive.” He never said another word about my near-disaster, and for the past 60 years I’ve driven accident-free!

Merton was well known for his sense of humor, a quality not uncommon among monks. In The Sign of Jonas, a deeply moving journal of his early years in the monastery, there’s a line on page 37 that always makes me smile:

“I had a pious thought, but I am not going to write it down.”

And I love this claim, found in a Hindu epic called The Ramayana, as told by Aubrey Menen:

There are three things which are real: God, human folly, and laughter. The first two are beyond our comprehension, so we must do what we can with the third.

I’m sure I’ll experience all three today. The first is ever-available, if my heart is open. The second is guaranteed, since wherever I go, there I am. As for the third, I’ll do what I can with it. As Chesterton quipped:

“Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”

Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016

A cardinal in winter(Parker Palmer)

Today’s opening line in A Year With Thomas Merton, “You can make your life what you want” if you don’t “drive [yourself] on with illusory demands.” I don’t think it’s entirely true that I can make my life what I want. But it would help if I stopped making demands on myself that distort who I really am and what I’m really called to do.

After five days of silence and solitude, many of the demands that hung over me when I came out here have lightened or lifted. Since I’ve done little this week to meet those demands, the lesson seems clear: they were mostly the inventions of an agitated mind. Now that my mind has quieted, its “illusory demands” have vaporized, and I feel a deeper peace.

I remember a story my businessman dad told me about how he dealt with pressure. In his office, he had a desk with five drawers. He’d put today’s mail in the bottom drawer, after moving yesterday’s mail up to the next drawer, and so on. He’d open letters only after they had made it to the top drawer. By that time, he said, half the problems people wrote him about had taken care of themselves, and the other half were less demanding than if he’d read the letters the moment they arrived! As Black Elk said to the children in his tribe when he told a teaching story:

“Whether it happened that way, I do not know. But if you think about it, you will see that it is true.”

Of course, the curse called email did not exist in Dad’s day. Still, his story points the way: make five folders for my email, and use them as Dad said he used his desk drawers. In certain respects, you can make the life you want!

Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016

Sunset in winter(Parker Palmer)

On this last full day of my retreat, I’m still meditating on the opening line of the January 13 entry in A Year With Thomas Merton:

“There is one thing I must do here at my woodshed hermitage… and that is to prepare for my death. But that means a preparation in gentleness…”

What a great leap — from death to gentleness! So different from Dylan Thomas’s famous advice:

“Do not go gentle into that good night…
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

When I was 35, raging seemed right. But at 77, it’s Thomas Merton, not Dylan Thomas, who speaks to me.

The prospect of death — heightened by winter’s dark and cold, by solitude, silence, and age — makes it clear that my calling is to be gentle with the many expressions of life, old and new, that must be handled with care if they are to survive and thrive.

Sometimes, of course, that means becoming fierce in confronting the enemies of gentleness. If that’s a contradiction, so be it! As Merton said in The Sign of Jonas:

“I find myself traveling toward my destiny in the belly of a paradox.”

Robin and Linda Williams with Garrison Keillor and Richie Gorski on the synthesizer…

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Across the Blue Mountains

One morning, one morning, one morning in May
I heard a married man to a young girl say
“Go dress you up, Pretty Katie, and come go with me
Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny.

“I’ll buy you a horse, love, and saddle to ride
I’ll buy myself another to ride by your side
We’ll stop at every tavern we’ll drink when we’re dry
Across the Blue Mountains go my Katie and I

“Well, up spoke her mother, and angry was she then
“Sayin’ daughter, oh dear daughter, he’s a married man
And there’s young men aplenty more handsome than he
Let him take his own wife to the Allegheny”

“Oh mother, oh mother, he’s the man of my heart
And wouldn’t it be a dreadful thing if we should have to part
I’d envy every woman who I’d ever see
Go ‘cross the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny”

(Well the last time I saw him, he was saddled to ride
With Katie, his darling, right there by his side
A laughing and a singing and thankful to be free
To cross the Blue Mountain to the Allegheny)

We left before daybreak on a buckskin and roan
Past tall shivering pines where mockingbirds moan
Past dark cabin windows where eyes never see
Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny

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Past dark cabin windows where eyes never see
Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny

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river rock collection spot near harrisonburg

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My last travel in life with my husband was across these mountains to a new home together.

It lasted for another twenty-five years.  I am so glad we made the trip and took the chance.

We did it about the same time that this recording was made and I much remember going with him to hear Robin and Linda sing together in a lovely Virginia venue.

One of our many cherished memories.

Most of these photos were taken on our travels through the Allegheny Mountains and through the Shenandoah River area which is also captured here.  The first photo were taken in the Allegheny mountains in May and the two river pictures were taken of the Shenandoah, also in May.

Truths We Learn From Winnie The Pooh

Since first appearing in 1924, Winnie the Pooh has innocently stumbled through the Hundred Acre Wood, leading friends and readers on curious and memorable adventures. The lovable bear is the brainchild of A.A. Milne, inspired by his son, Christopher Robin, and his toys.

1. “How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet “You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh”
2. “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
3. “The things that make me different are the things that make me.”
4. “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”
5. “I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”
6. “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
7. “Promise me you’ll never forget me because if I thought you would, I’d never leave.”
8.  “Sometimes the smallest things take the most room in your heart.”

 

9. “A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.”
11. “A little consideration. A little thought for others. Makes all the difference.”
12. “Love is taking a few steps backward, maybe even more… to give way to the happiness of the person you love.”
13.  “A day spent with you is my favourite day. So today is my new favourite day.”
14. “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

 

15.

 

  
16.  “We’ll be friends forever, Pooh, won’t we,” asked Piglet.       “Even longer,”  Pooh answered.
17.  CHRISTOPHER ROBIN was going away. Nobody knew why he was going; nobody knew where he was going; indeed, nobody even knew why he knew that Christopher Robin was going away. But somehow or other everybody in the Forest felt that it was happening at last. Even Smallest-of-all, a friend-and-relation of Rabbit’s who thought he had once seen Christopher Robin’s foot, but couldn’t be quite sure because perhaps it was something else, even S. of A. old himself that Things were going to be Different; and Late and Early, two other friends-and-relations, said, “Well, Early?” and “Well, Late?” to each other in such a hopeless sort of way that it really didn’t seem any good waiting for the answer.
One day when he felt that he couldn’t wait any longer, Rabbit brained out a Notice, and this is what it said:

“Notice a meeting of everybody will meet at the House
at Pooh Corner to pass a Rissolution By Order Keep to the Left
Signed Rabbit.”

He had to write this out two or three times before he could get the rissolution to look like what he thought it was going to when he began to spell it; but, when at last it was finished, he took it round to everybody and read it out to them. And they all said they would come.

“Well,” said Eeyore that afternoon, when he saw them all walking up to his house, “this is a surprise. Am I asked too?”

“Don’t mind Eeyore,” whispered Rabbit to Pooh. “I told him all about it this morning.”

Everybody said “How-do-you-do” to Eeyore, and Eeyore said that he didn’t, not to notice, and then they sat down; and as soon as they were all sitting down, Rabbit stood up again.

“We all know why we’re here,” he said, “but I have asked my friend Eeyore–”

“That’s Me,” said Eeyore. “Grand.”

“I have asked him to Propose a Rissolution.” And he sat down again. “Now then, Eeyore,” he said.

“Don’t Bustle me,” said Eeyore, getting up slowly. “Don’t now-then me.”

He took a piece of paper from behind his ear, and unfolded it. “Nobody knows anything about this,” he went on. “This is a Surprise.”

He coughed in an important way, and began again: “What-nots and Etceteras, before I begin, or perhaps I should say, before I end, I have a piece of Poetry to read to you.

Hitherto–hitherto–a long word meaning–well, you’ll see what it means directly–hitherto, as I was saying, all the Poetry in the Forest has been written by Pooh, a Bear with a Pleasing Manner but a Positively Startling Lack of Brain. The Poem which I am now about to read to you was written
by Eeyore, or Myself, in a Quiet Moment.

If somebody will take Roo’s bull’s-eye away from him, and wake up Owl, we shall all be able to enjoy it. I call it–POEM.” This was it:

Christopher Robin is going
At least I think he is
Where?
Nobody knows
But he is going–
I mean he goes
(To rhyme with knows)
Do we care ?
(To rhyme with where)
We do
Very much
(I haven’t got a rhyme for that
“is” in the second line yet.
Bother.)
(Now I haven’t got a rhyme for
bother.. Bother.)
Those two bothers will have
to rhyme with each other
Buther
The fact is this is more difficult
than I thought,
I ought–
(Very good indeed)
I ought
To begin again,
But it is easier
To stop
Christopher Robin, good-bye
I
(Good)
I
And all your friends
Sends–
I mean all your friend
Send–
(Very awkward this, it keeps
going wrong)
Well, anyhow, we send
Our love
END

“If anybody wants to clap,” said Eeyore when he had read this, “now is the time to do it.”

They all clapped.

“Thank you,” said Eeyore. “Unexpected and gratifying, if a little lacking in Smack.”

“It’s much better than mine,” said Pooh admiringly, and he really thought it is.

“Well,” explained Eeyore modestly, “it was meant to be.”

“The rissolution,” said Rabbit, “is that we all sign it, and take it to Christopher Robin.”

 

So it was signed PooH, WOL, PIGLET, EOR, RABBIT, KANGA, BLOT, SMUDGE, and they all went off to Christopher Robin’s house with it.

 

“Hallo, everybody,” said Christopher Robin–“Hallo, Pooh.”

They all said “Hello,” and felt awkward and unhappy suddenly, because it was a sort of goodbye they were saying, and they didn’t want to think about it. So they stood around, and waited for somebody else to speak, and they nudged each other, and said “Go on,” and gradually Eeyore was nudged to the front, and the others crowded behind him.

“What is it, Eeyore?” asked Christopher Robin.

Eeyore swished his tail from side to side, so as to encourage himself, and began.

“Christopher Robin,” he said, “we’ve come to say-to give you-it’s called-written by-but we’ve all–because we’ve heard, I mean we all know–well, you see, it’s–we–you–well, that, to put it as shortly as possible, is what it is.”

He turned round angrily on the others and said, “Everybody crowds round so in this Forest. There’s no Space. I never saw a more Spreading lot of animals in my life, and all in the wrong places. Can’t you see that Christopher Robin wants to be alone? I’m going.” And he humped off.

Not quite knowing why, the others began edging away, and when Christopher Robin had finished reading POEM, and was looking up to say “Thank you,” only Pooh was left.

“It’s a comforting sort of thing to have,” said Christopher Robin, folding up the paper, and putting it in his pocket. “Come on, Pooh,” and he walked off quickly.

“Where are we going?” said Pooh, hurrying after him, and wondering whether it was to be an Explore or a What-shall-I-do-about-you-know-what.

“Nowhere,” said Christopher Robin.

So they began going there, and after they had walked a little way Christopher Robin said:

“What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?”

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best?” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.

And then he thought that being with Christopher Robin was a very good thing to do, and having Piglet near was a very friendly thing to have: and so, when he had thought it all out, he said, “What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying ‘What about a little something?’ and Me saying,’ Well, I shouldn’t mind a little something, should you, Piglet,’ and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing.”

“I like that too,” said Christopher Robin, “but what I like doing best is Nothing.”

“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say ‘Oh, nothing,’ and then you go and do it.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing now.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again. “It means just going along, listening to all the things
you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

“Oh!” said Pooh.

They walked on, thinking of This and That, and by-and-by they came to an enchanted place on the very top of the Forest called Galleons Lap, which is sixty-something trees in a circle; and Christopher Robin knew that it was enchanted because nobody had ever been able to count whether it was sixty-three or sixty-four, not even when he tied a piece of string round each tree after he had counted it.

Being enchanted, its floor was not like the floor the Forest, gorse and bracken and heather, but close-set grass, quiet and smooth and green. It was the only place in the Forest where you could sit down carelessly, without getting up again almost at once and looking for somewhere else. Sitting there they could see the whole world spread out until it reached the sky, and whatever there was all the world over was with them in Galleons Lap.

Suddenly Christopher Robin began to tell Pooh about some of the things: People called Kings and Queens and something called Factors, and a place called Europe, and an island in the middle of the sea where no ships came, and how you make a Suction Pump (if you want to), and when Knights were Knighted, and what comes from Brazil. And Pooh, his back against one of the sixty-something trees and his paws folded in front of him, said “Oh!” and “I didn’t know,” and thought how wonderful it would be to have a Real Brain which could tell you things.

And by-and-by Christopher Robin came to an end of the things, and was silent, and he sat there looking out over the world, and wishing it wouldn’t stop.

But Pooh was thinking too, and he said suddenly to Christopher Robin:  “Is it a very Grand thing to be an Afternoon, what you said?”

“A what?” said Christopher Robin lazily, as he listened to something else.

“On a horse,” explained Pooh.

“A Knight?”

“Oh, was that it?” said Pooh. “I thought it was a– Is it as Grand as a King and Factors and all the other things you said?”

“Well, it’s not as grand as a King,” said Christopher Robin, and then, as Pooh seemed disappointed, he added quickly, “but it’s grander than Factors.”

“Could a Bear be one?”

“Of course he could!” said Christopher Robin. “I’ll make you one.” And he took a stick and touched Pooh on the shoulder, and said, “Rise, Sir Pooh de Bear, most faithful of all my Knights.”

So Pooh rose and sat down and said “Thank you,” which is a proper thing to say when you have been made a Knight, and he went into a dream again, in which he and Sir Pump and Sir Brazil and Factors lived together with a horse, and were faithful Knights (all except Factors, who looked after the horse) to Good King Christopher Robin . . . and every now and then he shook his head, and said to himself, “I’m not getting it right.”

Then he began to think of all the things Christopher Robin would want to tell him when he came back from wherever he was going to, and how muddling it would be for a Bear of Very Little Brain to try and get them right in his mind.

“So, perhaps,” he said sadly to himself, “Christopher Robin won’t tell me any more,” and he wondered if being a Faithful Knight meant that you just went on being faithful without being told things.

Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world with his chin in his hands, called out “Pooh!”

“Yes?” said Pooh.

“When I’m–when– Pooh!”

“Yes, Christopher Robin?”

“I’m not going to do Nothing any more.”

“Never again?”

“Well, not so much. They don’t let you.”

Pooh waited for him to go on, but he was silent again.

“Yes, Christopher Robin?” said Pooh helpfully.

“Pooh, when I’m–you know–when I’m not doing Nothing,
will you come up here sometimes?”

“Just Me?”

“Yes, Pooh.”

“Will you be here too?”

“Yes, Pooh, I will be really. I promise I will be, Pooh.”

“That’s good,” said Pooh.

“Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.”

Pooh thought for a little. “How old shall I be then?”

“Ninety-nine.”

Pooh nodded.

“I promise,” he said.

Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh’s paw.

“Pooh,” said Christopher Robin earnestly, “if I–if I’m not quite” he stopped and tried again –“. Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won’t you?”

“Understand what?”

“Oh, nothing.” He laughed and jumped to his feet. “Come on!”

“Where?” said Pooh.

“Anywhere,” said Christopher Robin.

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.

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