Monday, April 12, 2021

first breath



As soon as she is born - she, 
he - the moment the newborn breathes
for the first time, taking, from the general
supply, some air, pulling it down
half her length, into the base of the
lobe which had first existed as a mattery
idea, and then had become the folded
lung, which lay in blue wait;
as soon as the sky
is drawn in, like a
petal expanding, in fast motion,
opening into the new being -
oxygen, where it had never been,
taking the neonate's bluish shade
back into the empyrean;
as soon as she's taken the good of one breath, 
and given back the rest - look,
she is dying. I mean she is living - for a time,
maybe ninety years - but she
is on her way, now, to that ending.
She had never died at all, until now,
never before been offered the human work.





Sharon Olds
Photo:  Peter Bowers
with thanks Love is a Place





Friday, March 12, 2021

the teachers




Owl in the black morning,
   mockingbird in the burning
      slants of the sunny afternoon
         declare so simply

to the world
   everything I have tried but still
      haven't been able
         to put into words,

so I do not go
   far from that school
      with its star-bright
         or blue ceiling,

and I listen to those teachers,
   and others too -
      the wind in the trees
         and the water waves -

for they are what lead me
   from the dryness of self
      where I labor
         with the mind-steps of language -

lonely, as we all are
   in the singular,
      I listen hard
         to the exuberances

of the mockingbird and the owl,
   the waves and the wind.
      And then, like peace after perfect speech,
         such stillness.





Mary Oliver
Photo:  Peter Bowers






Friday, February 12, 2021

practice

 

Once someone asked a well-known Thai meditation master, "In this world where everything changes, where nothing remains the same, where loss and grief are inherent in our very coming into existence, how can there be any happiness? How can we find security when we see that we can't count on anything being the way we want it to be?" The teacher, looking compassionately at this fellow, held up a drinking glass which had been given to him earlier in the morning and said, "You see this goblet? For me, this glass is already broken. I enjoy it, I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say,  'Of course.' But when I understand this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious. Every moment is just as it is and nothing need be otherwise."

When we recognize that, just as that glass, our body is already broken, that indeed we are already dead, then life becomes precious and we open to it just as it is, in the moment it is occurring. When we understand that all our loved ones are already dead - our children, our mates, our friends - how precious they become. How little fear can interpose, how little doubt can estrange us. When you live your life  as though you're already dead, life takes on new meaning. Each moment becomes a whole lifetime, a universe unto itself.  

When we realize we are already dead, our priorities change, our heart opens, our mind begins to clear of the fog of old holdings and pretendings. We watch all life in transit and what matters becomes instantly apparent: The transmission of love, the letting go of obstacles to understanding, the relinquishment of our grasping, our hiding from ourselves. Seeing the mercilessness of our self-strangulation, we begin to come gently into the light we share with all beings. Taking each teaching, each loss, each gain, each fear, each joy, as it arises and experiencing it fully, life becomes workable...

If our only spiritual practice were to live as though we were already dead, relating to all we meet, to all we do, as though it were our final moments in the world, what time would there be for old games or falsehoods or posturing? If we lived our life as though we were already dead, as though our children were already dead, how much time would there be for self-protection and the re-creation of ancient mirages? Only love would be appropriate, only the truth.





Stephen and Ondrea Levine
Excerpt: Who Dies?
Photo:  Peter Bowers



 



Friday, February 5, 2021

at the seven-mile ranch, comstock, texas


I live like I know what I'm doing.

When I hand the horses a square of hay,
when I walk the road of stones 
or chew on cactus pulp,
there's a drumming behind me,
the day opens up to let me pass through.

I know the truth,
how always I'm following each small sign that appears.

This sheep that materialized behind a clump of cenizo bushes
knows I didn't see him till he raised his head.

Out here it's impossible to be lonely.
The land walking beside you is your oldest friend,
pleasantly silent, like already you've told the best stories
and each of you knows how much the other made up.





Naomi Shihab Nye
Photo:  Peter Bowers
with thanks: A Year of Being Here







Thursday, January 28, 2021

attention


"Well... ...That's what you always forget, isn't it? I mean, you forget to pay attention to what's happening. And that's the same as not being here and now."

Aldous Huxley,  Island


If this were the last time we met in this world 
what would I wish I had said     or done?
I know death is always somewhere in the neighborhood
for someone as old as I,
just as I know, no matter how much I might beg,
God would never forbid you might die.

There is no perfect word to speak,
no perfect deed to perform.
When after today I have left or am left,
if I am never to see you again,
then I just want to be fully here    now,
to be fully awake while we may.

There will be time for sleep after today.





Ron Stone
Photo: Peter Bowers
with thanks: A Year of Being Here






Monday, December 14, 2020

a path in the woods


I don't trust the truth of memories
because what leaves us
departs forever
There's only one current of this sacred river
but I still want to remain faithful
to my first astonishments
to recognize as wisdom the child's wonder
and to carry in myself until the end a path
in the woods of my childhood
dappled with patches of sunlight
to search for it everywhere
in museums in the shade of churches
this path on which I ran unaware
a six-year old
toward my primary mysterious aloneness





Anna Kamienska
Photo:  Peter Bowers





Wednesday, December 9, 2020

something that happens right now

    

I haven't told this before. By our house on the plains before I was born my father planted a maple. At night after bedtime when others were asleep I would go out and stand beside it and know all the way north and all the way south. Air from the fields wandered in. Stars waited with me. All of us ached with a silence, needing the next thing, but quiet. We leaned into midnight and then leaned back. On the rise to the west the radio tower blinked - so many messages pouring by. 
    A great surge came rushing from everywhere and wrapped all the land and sky. Where were we going? How soon would our house break loose and become a little speck lost in the vast night? My father and mother would die. The maple tree would stand right there. With my hand on that smooth bark we would watch it all. Then my feet would come loose from Earth and rise by the power of longing. I wouldn't let the others know about this, but I would be everywhere, as I am right now, a thin tone like the wind, a sip of blue light - no source, no end, no horizon. 





William Stafford
The Way It Is
Photo:  Peter Bowers







Sunday, December 6, 2020

funny




What's it like to be human
asked the bird

I don't know really
It's to be prisoner in your own skin
but crave infinity
to be captive of a crumb of time
but reach for eternity
to be hopelessly uncertain
and a fool of hope
to be a crystal of frost
and a handful of heat
to breathe in air
to choke without words
to be on fire
and have a nest of ashes
to eat bread
but feast on hungers
to die without love
but love beyond death

That's funny said the bird
flying lightly up into the sky





Anna Kamienska
Astonishments
Photos:  Peter Bowers






Thursday, December 3, 2020

breath

 

    Breath, you invisible poem! 
    Pure, continuous exchange
    with all that is, flow and counterflow
    where rhythmically I come to be.
    
    Each time a wave that occurs just once
    in a sea I discover I am.
    You, innermost of oceans,
    you, infinitude of space.
    
    How many far places were once
    within me. Some winds
    are like my own child.
    
    When I breathe them now, do they know me again?
    Air, you silken surround,
    completion and seed of my words.
    
    
    
    
    
    Rainer Maria Rilke
    Sonnets to Orpheus
    Part Two I
    Trans. Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy
    Photo:  Peter Bowers






Tuesday, August 4, 2020

utopia


Island where all becomes clear.

Solid ground beneath your feet.

The only roads are those that offer access.

Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.

The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here
with branches disentangled since time immemorial.

The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple,
sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.

The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:
the Valley of Obviously.

If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.

Echoes stir unsummoned
and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.

On the right a cave where Meaning lies.

On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.
Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.

Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley.
Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.

For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.

As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.

Into unfathomable life.





Wislawa Szymborska
Photo:  Peter Bowers






Sunday, June 28, 2020

the place where you are right now


The place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you
wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move
Against the earth and the sky,
the beloved has bowed there-
The beloved has bowed there knowing
You were coming…





Hafiz
photo:  Peter Bowers






Friday, May 15, 2020

spring



Spring overall.
But inside us there is another unity.

Behind each eye here,
one glowing weather.

Every forest branch moves differently in the breeze,
but as they sway, they connect at the roots.





Rumi
tr. Coleman Barks
Photo:  Peter Bowers