But a flicker

Yesterday our tree got a
a trim, only it isn’t really
our tree. It is actually our
elder, deeply rooted in
earth. Being closer to sun,
it beams. Scooping up wind,
it sings. Stretching across our lot,
it draws us in, only it really
isn’t our lot, our plot, our earth.
We belong to it, or so said
Chief Seattle, and I suspect
we would all do well to
trade “seize” for “see” and
be a bit more circumspect
at the prospect that we
own anything. We are
but a flicker across the
spectral vision of the divine
whose seeing us is the only reason
we have not yet slipped back into
the dust from whence tree imbibes life.

Yesterday, our tree got a trim.
Today, I touched its trunk and breathed.

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Come Sit with Me a Bit

Not so very far from
the door You stand, You,
source of my life, my strife both.
You stand between here and there,
and yet ‘stand’ is not quite right:
You whom I chance to meet with
the breath of a child, in
the wrinkle of the aged, on
the hard, smooth surface of
a rock – grandfather, grandmother.

I do not know You and yet I know You knowing me.

Come, sit with me a bit.
Let our breath be as one, so when mine
ceases, death is bested by love.
Let our seeing be as one, so that hope
finds a fallowed field seeded with tears.
Let our hearing be as one, so I finally
hear the trees, the stars, singing You,
in my hearing, seeing, breathing
You.

Our Bodies are not Stupid

Last week at curling I had a most interesting interchange with a fellow in the locker room. He mentioned in passing that the lock on his locker was one he had in high school. He is a bit younger than me, but not so very much, and so I knew that his combination lock is about the same age as my eldest adult daughter. “You must have that number burned in your brain,” I commented, and he replied “Actually, I have no idea what three numbers open up this lock. My fingers just make the motions needed.” He said he would need to watch his fingers do the motions to find out what the numbers are. But I suspect that this wouldn’t work, because when I think about a repetitive task, I find that thinking about it gets in the way of doing it. He would probably have to have someone look over his shoulder while his fingers opened the combination. Every now and then I have a similar kind of experience when working with a bolt, or such, in a tight spot where I cannot see. It is almost as if I have to stop thinking, or think about something else while my hands go to work. It seems that our fingers sometimes know things that our heads do not.

There are philosophers who have noted that one of the conditions of the peculiar kind of thought that comes with being human has been a snuffing out our instinctual capacities. We have lost what other species retain: an ability to intuit when storms come, where danger lay, etc. Of course, these capacities are not entirely lost, and may be more lost for some people than others, for some eras more than others, etc. Some would argue that the age of enlightenment that ushered in the modern era, with scientific developments and the prizing of reason over faith, has caused an estrangement with flesh. Some might say that the enlightenment has cost us our body: we are no longer so comfortable or familiar with the skin we are in. That is probably overstating the matter. It is, I suspect, a question of degree. Our bodies are not stupid, we just have forgotten how to listen to them, or don’t take the time needed to do so.

There are, I suspect, ways to learn anew from our bodies. Spending time with children, with animals, and with trees, for instance, might help, or perhaps rolling dirt between our fingers as we bring it to our nose and smell again the whence of our existence. Spending time in quiet most certainly sharpens our hearing. Exercise can’t be bad. But above all, we need to learn to love our bodies. So many voices command us to despise our bodies. The religions get a bad rap for this, but there are resources in religions for reclaiming the body. It is important to note, for example, that in Christianity one of the favoured metaphors for the church is the body of Christ. If bodies were bad, this would not be the case. Other religions have other ways to affirm the body even while all religions have problematic practices. But I suspect that most of us will find that religion is not our biggest problem in making peace with our bodies. We need to turn away from advertisements. We need to refuse narratives that standardize what a good body is, and so the try to sell us products purported to make us in the image of the model we aren’t. Clever marketers tell us that beauty and worth have to manufactured and purchased. But as we look at the natural world around us, complete with the marvel of birth and the mystery of death, we are reminded that worth and beauty are created, not manufactured, and the fingertips of the creator are imprinted on us, on our body. And so, we can come to accept the body we have so that we can be the body we are.

Limping toward You

And then You come to me
again, and again, and again,
slipping Your words into the silence
of my speech. You right and write
my wrongs in strophes of
reconciliation, allowing
my ears to be hallowed
by Your cries; my
eyes to be sanctified by
the sight of Your tears
now made mine.

You are not
content to see
me face to face
but embrace me
from the inside out:
Your presence now my joy,
Your absence now my hope,
my words now my tongue
limping toward
You.

Aching to be Earth

Falls ebbs away in
this turning season. The
leaves no longer sing, now
aching to be
earth.

This gathering at
forest floor of raw
dying is primal, the
smell is sui generis, an
olfactory echo of the
odor of earth and birth
both, replete with
whiffs of bird’s
song and
the aroma
of being green: shot
through with chlorophyll, racing to leaf’s skin

And now this once verdant
blush lies at the feet of this
sylvan source
of life
of death
and everything
in between.

To everything there is a season…

Contentment on a Fall Day

Saturday was leaf day at our house. It wasn’t really planned that way, although we did know that it was soon time to wrestle the trees’ labours to the curb, where the city will collect them in early November. We are fortunate in our neighbourhood to have this service, which occurs because we have an inordinate number of older trees that tower over our streets and homes. This time of year is so very gorgeous; as the leaves come down we find ourselves swimming in a sea of orange, and red, and yellow and a coral-like pink too.

My eldest and her boyfriend popped by Friday night, and in the morning Anelise exclaimed that she wanted to rake some leaves. I was quite glad for this intervention, and so the plan was that after brunch – we all had a handful of jobs to do – we would return to turn the yard from its fire-hued palette to green again. I went for a run, an especially lovely thing to do in autumn, and came back to find everyone hard at work. I gladly joined in, as we visited, and joked, and amassed the leaves at the curb, where they will be collected sometime in early November.

I do so much work that generates such little concrete results that I find a rich pleasure in things like raking leaves. A deep satisfaction attends my settling them curbside. I’m not sure if it is the rush of colour on the blue-black pavement, slick with rain from earlier in the day, or the return of the lawn to a contented fall green, but there is a kind of aesthetic pleasure in the process. Or perhaps it is the rhythm of moving a rake. I think at some deep level, it is because we were created to be moving and so many jobs these days are at desks, and the closest thing to activity that we manage is moving a mouse, or making our way to the coffee pot, and such.

Certainly, part of the attraction of this is the way it ritualizes our immersion in the cycles of the season. It seems many of us have lost our sense of identity with the earth. We live in a market driven world with an unrelenting concern with progress that drenches our days and drowns our souls. We are forever wondering about how our portfolios grow, how our careers advance, and how our communities compare with others. We feel like failure without progress. Nature doesn’t progress. It adapts. And deep down, I think, we know that we need to have this truth drench our very being, and bless us with contentment.

And so, we grinned today as we rallied our rakes in recollection of the cycle of life. Blood pushed around our body, and air cycled in and out of our lungs until we worked up an appetite for lunch. As we gathered around the board, and reminisced about this and that, it struck me that what goes around comes around: the “round” matters as much as most everything else.

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This Hope of Time

Pound out a poem
when your soul
feels empty, betrayed
by a loss, or
a distance, or
a failure.

Pound out a poem:
stretch your words
tight, like the
skin of deer
on ringed
wooden
rim.

Your voice… your stick
Your pain… your power
Your heartbeat… your hope.
Yes, hope, keeping
time because sometimes
this hope of time
is all we have.