Saturday, December 31, 2011

At The End Of The Year

The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline's longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.

As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.

Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.

The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.

The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn
Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.

John O'Donohue
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Friday, December 30, 2011


This dream the world is having about itself
Includes a trace on the plains of the Oregon trail,
a groove in the grass my father showed us all
one day while meadowlarks were trying to tell
something  better about to happen.

I dreamed the trace to the mountains, over the hills,
and there a girl who belonged wherever she was.
 But then my mother called us back to the car:
she was afraid; she always blamed the place,
the time, anything my father planned.

Now both of my parents, the long line through the plain,
the meadowlarks, the sky, the world's whole dream
remain, and I hear him say while I stand
between the two,
helpless,  both of them part of me:
Your job is to find what the world is trying to be.

William Stafford
Photo:  Peter Bowers


It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could, you know. That's why we wake
and look out -- no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

 William Stafford
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas morning

Christmas morning above the timberline -
where nature imitates awareness -
everything sparkles -
where the molecules of humidity freeze mid-air,
suspended in silence (they call it 'ice-crystals'),
scintillating space,
and every twig shimmers,
as pure consciousness illuminates things from within.
In pristine non-directional dawn,
the continuous revelation -
omnipenetration, - or simply This.

Joan Ruvinsky
Photo:  Peter Bowers

a Christmas poem

Kara Bowers

Monday, December 26, 2011


A poem written three thousand years ago

about a man who walks among horses
grazing on a hill under the small stars

comes to life on a page in a book

and the woman reading the poem
in her kitchen filled with a gold metallic light

finds the experience of living in that moment

so vividly described as to make her feel known
to another, until the woman and the poet share

not only their souls but the exact silence

between each word.  And every time the poem is read,
no matter her situation or her age,

this is more or less what happens.

Jason Shinder
Photo:  Joan Ruvinsky

Sunday, December 25, 2011

On Christmas Morning... little sister Sarah and I opened
 our presents.  When it looked
as if everything had been
unwrapped, Sara found one
last small box behind the tree.
It had my name on it.  Inside
was the silver bell !  There was
a note:  "Found this on the seat
of my sleigh.  Fix that hole in
your pocket."  Signed, "Mr. C."

I shook the bell.  It made the
most beautiful sound my sister
and I had ever heard.
But my mother said, "Oh,
that's too bad."

"Yes," said my father, "it's
When I'd shaken the bell,
my parents had not heard a

At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years
passed, it fell silent for all of them.  Even Sarah found one Christmas
that she could no longer hear its sweet sound.  Though I've grown
old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe.

Chris Van Allsburg
The Polar Express
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Saturday, December 24, 2011

For Light

Light cannot see inside things.
That is what the dark is for:
Minding the interior,
Nurturing the draw of growth
Through places where death
In its own way turns into life.

In the glare of neon times,
Let our eyes not be worn
By surfaces that shine
With hunger made attractive.

That our thoughts may be true light,
Finding their way into words
Which have the weight of shadow
To hold the layers of truth.

That we never place our trust
In minds claimed by empty light,
Where one-sided certainties
Are driven by false desire.

When we look into the heart,
May our eyes have the kindness
And reverence of candlelight.

That the searching of our minds
Be equal to the oblique
Crevices and corners where
The mystery continues to dwell,
glimmering in fugitive light.

When we are confined inside
The dark house of suffering
That moonlight might find a window

When we become false and lost
That the severe noon-light
Would cast our shadow clear.

When we love, that dawn-light
Would lighten our feet
Upon the waters.

As we grow old, that twilight
Would illuminate treasure
In the fields of memory.

And when we come to search for God,
Let us first be robed in night,
Put on the mind of morning
To feel the rush of light
Spread slowly inside
The colour and stillness
Of a found world.

John O'Donohue
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why I Am Happy

Now has come, an easy time.  I let it
roll.  There is a lake somewhere
so blue and far nobody owns it.
A wind comes by and a willow listens

I hear all this, every summer, I laugh
and cry for every turn of the world,
its terribly cold, innocent spin.
That lake stays  blue and free; it goes
on and on.

And I know where it is.

William Stafford
Photo:  Peter Bowers

gently down the stream

row row row your boat
gently down the stream
merrily merrily merrily
life is but a dream

Photo:  Peter Bowers

Travelling Through the Dark

Travelling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
the road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.
By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car

and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason -
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all - my only swerving -
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

William Stafford
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You Darkness

You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything-
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them!-
powers and people-

and it is possible a great presence is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Photo:  Peter Bowers


Imagine the confines of a long grey corridor
just before immigration at Washington Dulles
airport.  Imagine two Ethiopian women amid
a sea of familiar international plastic blandness,
entering America for the first time.  Think of
their undulating multi-coloured turbans raised
atop graceful heads, transforming us,
a grey line of travelers behind them, into followers
and mendicants, mere drab, impatient, moneyed
and perplexed attendants to their bright,
excited, chattering arrival.

Imagine a sharp plexi-glass turn left and suddenly
before them, in biblical astonishment, like a vertical
red sea churning, like the waters barring Moses from
The Promised Land, like Jacob standing before his ladder,
a moving escalator, a mode of rising, a form of ascension,
a way to go up they'd never seen before, its steel grey
interlocking invitation on and up to who knows what,
bringing them and everyone behind them, to a bemused,
complete, and utter standstill.

So that you saw it for the first time as they saw it
and for what it was, a grated river of lifting steel,
an involuntary, moving ascension into who knows what.
An incredible surprise.  And you knew, even through
your tiredness, why it made them raise their hands
to their mouths, why it made them give low breathy
screams of surprise and delighted terror.  You saw it
as they saw it, a staircase of invisible interlocking
beckoning hands asking them to rise up

independent of their history, their legs or their wills.
And we stopped as we knew we had to now
and watched the first delighted be-turbaned
woman put a sandaled foot on the flat grey
plain at the foot of the moving stair and sure
enough quickly withdraw it with a strangled scream,
leaving her sandal to ascend strangely without her
into heaven, into America, into her new life.

Then, holding her friend away, who tried to grab
her, to save her, to hold her back, who pointed
and shouted, telling her not to risk herself,
not to be foolish, she silently watched her shoe,
that willful child, running ahead, its sole intent
to enter the country oblivious to visas and immigration,
above the need for a job, uncaring of healthcare,
pointing toward some horizon she had never dreamt,
intent on leaving only its winged footprint
for her to follow, like a comet's tail, like an omen
of necessity, like a signaled courage, like an uncaring
invitation, to make her entrance with soul and style.

Because she looked up at this orphaned, onward
messenger with her eyes a-blaze, threw off the panicked
clamoring arms of her friend, raised her chin
in noble profile, and with all that other hurrying
clamor of the world behind her, with a busy,
unknowing, corporate crowd at her back and questions
beginning to be asked out loud, she lifted her arms,
clapped her hands, threw back her head and with
a queenly unbidden grace, strode on to the ascending
heaven bound steel like a newly struck film star,
singing the old, high pitched song her children
would hear when she told the story again. 

And as her friend below sang,
applauded, danced on the spot
and ululated her companion's arrival,
we stood there behind her,
transfixed, travel weary,
and crammed into the corridor
like extras from some
miraculous scene in the bible.

she ascended,
her arms straight out,
wide eyed and singing,
into America.

David Whyte


I'd Call That

Before I
fell asleep last night
I laid awake and wondered:

What did I achieve this day
just roaming around calling His name?

So I brought before my mind's eye all who I had been kind to,
and it turned out to be
all things that
I had seen.

I'd call that - one hell of a
day !

Photo:  Peter Bowers

Monday, December 19, 2011

When the Violin

The violin
Can forgive the past

It starts singing.

When the violin can stop worrying
About the future

You will become
Such a drunk laughing nuisance

That God
Will then lean down
And start combing you into 

When the violin can forgive
Every wound caused by

The heart starts

Photo:  Peter Bowers


In Buddhism, "aimlessness" is taught as a way to help the practitioner stop pursuing the future and return wholly to the present. 
To be able to stop pursuing the future allows us to realize that all the wonderful things we seek are present in us, in the present moment. 
Life is not a particular place or a destination.  
Life is a path.
To practice walking meditation is to go without needing to arrive. 
Every step can bring us peace, joy, and liberation.
That is why we walk in the spirit of aimlessness.
There is no way to liberation, peace, and joy; peace and joy are themselves the way.
Our appointment with the Buddha, with liberation, and with happiness is here and now. 
We should not miss this appointment.

Thich Nhat Hanh
Our Appointment with Life
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Sunday, December 18, 2011


You can
die for it -
an idea,
or the world.  People

have done so,
their small bodies be bound

to the stake,
an unforgettable
fury of light.  But

this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought

of China,
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun

for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises
under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us?  Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter

Mary Oliver
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Ripeness is
what falls away with ease.
Not only the heavy apple,
the pear,
but also the dried brown strands
of autumn iris from their core.

To let your body
love this world
that gave itself to your care
in all of its ripeness,
with ease,
and will take itself from you
in equal ripeness and ease,
is also harvest.

And however sharply
you are tested -
this sorrow, that great love -
it too will leave on that clean knife.

Jane Hirshfield
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Thursday, December 15, 2011


The sun has entered me.
The sun has entered me together with the cloud
and the river.
I myself have entered the river,
and I have entered the sun
with the cloud and the river.
There has not been a moment
when we do not interpenetrate.

But before the sun entered me,
the sun was in me -
also the cloud and the river.
Before I entered the river,
I was already in it. 

There has not been a moment
When we have not inter-been.

Therefore you know
that as long as you continue to breathe,
I continue to be in you.

Thich Nhat Hanh
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

little tree

 little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly  
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid
look the spangles 
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
 oh but you'll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
'Noel Noel'

e.e. cummings

You are the forest

You are the forest

you are all the great trees
in the forest

you are bird and beast
playing in and out
of all the trees

O lord white as jasmine
filling and filled by all

why don't you
show me your face?

Akka Mahadevi
(12th century)
Photo:  Peter Bowers


Heaven knows how many
trees I climbed when my body
was still in the climbing way, how

many afternoons, especially
windy ones, I sat
perched on a limb that

rose and fell with every invisible
blow, Each tree was
a green ship in the wind-waves, every

branch a mast, every leafy height
a happiness that came without
even trying.  I was that alive

and limber.  Now I walk under them -
cool, beloved:  the household
of such tall, kind sisters.

Mary Oliver

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Everything Poem

I am looking for a poem that says Everything
so I don't have to write

Photo:  Peter Bowers

A Fancy Event

was invited
to a fancy event and when
I got there one of the guests said,

"Tukaram, your shirt is on backwards and so are
your pants,

and it looks like your hair never heard the word comb,
and your shoes don't
I replied,

"Thanks, I noticed all that before leaving,
but why try to fool

Photo:  Peter Bowers

Saturday, December 10, 2011

being travelled

Whatever you may be, you are being "lived." You are not
travelling, as you think:  you are being "travelled."
Remember:  you are in a train.  Stop trying to carry your
baggage yourself!  It will come along with you anyhow.

Wei Wu Wei

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seductions of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto the new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear,
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

John O'Donohue
Photo:  Peter Bowers


Somewhere, out at the edges, the night
Is turning and the waves of darkness
Begin to brighten the shore of dawn

The heavy dark falls back to earth
And the freed air goes wild with light,
The heart fills with fresh, bright breath
And thoughts stir to give birth to colour.

I arise today

In the name of Silence
Womb of the Word,
In the name of Stillness
Home of Belonging,
In the name of the Solitude
Of the Soul and the Earth.

I arise today

Blessed by all things,
Wings of breath,
Delight of eyes,
Wonder of whisper,
Intimacy of touch,
Eternity of soul,
Urgency of thought,
Miracle of health,
Embrace of God.

May I live this day

Compassionate of heart,
Clear in word,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.

John O'Donohue
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Thursday, December 8, 2011

the secret beauty of their hearts

Then it was as if I suddenly saw
the secret beauty of their hearts,
the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire
nor self-knowledge can reach,
the core of their reality, the person that each one is
in God’s eyes.
If only they could see themselves as they really are.
If only we could see each other that way all the time,
there would be no more war,
no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…
I suppose the big problem would be
that we would fall down and worship each other.

Thomas Merton
Photo:  Peter Bowers

I Ask Percy How I Should Live My Life (Ten)

Love, love, love, says Percy.
And run as fast as you can
along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust.

Then, go to sleep.
Give up your body heat, your beating heart.
Then, trust.

Mary Oliver
Photos:  Peter Bowers

Both Worlds

Forever busy, it seems,
with words,
I put the pen down

and crumple
most of the sheets
and leave one or two,
sometimes a few,

for the next morning.
Day after day -
year after year -
it has gone on this way,

I rise from the chair,
I put on my jacket
and leave the house
for that other world -

the first one,
the holy one -
where the trees say
nothing the toad says

nothing the dirt
says nothing and yet
what has always happened
keeps happening:

the trees flourish,
the toad leaps,
and out of the silent dirt
the blood - red roses rise.

Mary Oliver
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Please call me by my true names

Don't say that I will depart tomorrow --
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his "debt of blood" to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh
Photo:  Peter Bowers