Sunday, January 29, 2012

There is a place you can go

There is a place you can go
where you are quiet,
a place of water and the light

on the water. Trees are there,
leaves, and the light
on leaves moved by air.

Birds, singing, move
among leaves, in leaf shadow.
After many years you have come

to no thought of these,
but they are themselves
your thoughts. There seems to be

little to say, less and less.
Here they are.  Here you are.
Here as though gone.

None of us stays, but in the hush
where each leaf in the speech
of leaves is sufficient syllable

the passing light finds out
surpassing freedom of its way.

Wendell Berry
photo:  Peter Bowers

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Spirit Likes to Dress Up Like This

The spirit
likes to dress up like this:
ten fingers,
ten toes,
shoulders, and all the rest
at night
in the black branches,
in the morning
in the blue branches
of the world.
It could float, of course,
but would rather
plumb rough matter.
Airy and shapeless thing,
it needs
the metaphor of the body,
lime and appetite,
the oceanic fluids;
it needs the body’s world,
and imagination
and the dark hug of time,
and tangibility,
to be understood,
to be more than pure light
that burns
where no one is —
so it enters us —
in the morning
shines from brute comfort
like a stitch of lightning;
and at night
lights up the deep and wondrous
drownings of the body
like a star.

Mary Oliver
Photo:  Peter Bowers

I know what love is

June 19, 1937

Dear Cedric,

A strange thing happened to me today.  I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it made me see many things that were drifting around 
inside of me; things that related to those who are loved and those who are real friends. 

For the first time I know what love is; what friends are; and what art should be.

Love is a seeking for a way of life; the way that cannot be followed alone; the resonance of all
spiritual and physical things.  Children are not only of flesh and blood - children may be ideas, 
thoughts, emotions.  The person of the one who is loved is a form composed of a myriad mirrors
reflecting and illuminating the powers and thoughts and the emotions that are within you, and 
flashing another kind of light from within.  No words or deeds may encompass it. 

Friendship is another form of love - more passive perhaps, but full of the transmitting and 
acceptance of things like thunderclouds and grass and the clean granite of reality.

Art is both love and friendship, and understanding; the desire to give.  It is not charity, which is
the giving of Things, it is more than kindness which is the giving of the self.  It is both the taking
and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit.  It is
the recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of
earth and men, and of all the inter-relations of these.

I wish the thundercloud had moved up over Tahoe and let loose on you; I could wish you nothing


Letter written by Ansel  Adams to his best friend, Cedric Wright 
Thanks to Letters of Note
Photo:  Peter Bowers 

Dithyramb of a Happy Woman

Song of excess,
strength, mighty tenderness,
pliant ecstasy.
lovingly dancing.

I quiver as a body in rapture, 
I quiver as a wing,
I am an explosion,
I overstep myself,
I am a fountain,
I have its resilience.
a thousand excesses,
song of gushing strength.

There are gifts in me,
flowerings of abundance,
curls of light are sobbing,
a flame is foaming, its lofty ripeness
is ripening.
Oceans of glare,
rosy as the palate
of a big mouth in ecstasy.  

I am astonished
up to my nostrils, I snort
a snorting universe of astonishment
inundates me.
I am gulping excess, I am choking with fullness,
I am impossible as reality.

Anna Swir
Translated by Czeslaw Milosz
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Friday, January 27, 2012

Just This!

Do you want to know what's in my heart?

From the beginning of time:

Just this!  Just This!

Photo:  Peter Bowers

I stood transfixed

I stood transfixed listening...
and knew what can never be expressed; 
that the natural is supernatural, and that I am the eye 
that hears and the ear that sees, that what is 
outside happens in me, that outside and inside 
are unseparated.

Frederick Franck
The Zen of Seeing 
Photo:  Peter Bowers


Seeing/drawing is, beyond words and beyond silence,
the artist's response to being alive.  Insofar as it has 
anything to transmit, it transmits a quality of awareness.


And yet I know artists whose medium
is life itself, and who express the inexpressible
without brush, pencil, chisel, or guitar.
They neither paint nor dance.
Their medium is Being.
Whatever their hand touches 
has increased Life.  
They SEE and don't have to draw.  
They are the artists of being alive. 

Frederick Franck
The Zen of Seeing :  Seeing/Drawing as Meditation 
Photo:  Peter Bowers 

Being the Song

Reminding others of the enormity of their own 
Great Nature is the highest service one can offer another.

Kyoto Zen Master

First we serve, then we become service.
It is alot like prayer; first you pray, 
but eventually your life becomes the prayer.
First you sing, then you become the song.
Gandhi said, 'My life is my message."

Stephen Levine
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Duino Elegies, The Tenth Elegy

Someday, emerging at last from the violent insight,
let me sing out jubilation and praise to assenting angels.
Let not even one of the clearly-struck hammers of my heart
fail to sound because of a slack, a doubtful,
or a broken string.  Let my joyfully streaming face
make me more radiant; let my hidden weeping arise
and blossom.  How dear you will be to me then, you nights 
of anguish.  Why didn't I kneel more deeply to accept you,
inconsolable sisters, and, surrendering, lose myself
in your loosened hair.  How we squander our hours of pain.
How we gaze beyond them into the bitter duration
to see if they have an end.  Though they are really
our winter-enduring foliage, our dark evergreen,
one season in our inner year -, not only a season
in time -, but are place and settlement, foundation and soil and home.

 Rainer Maria Rilke
photo:  Peter Bowers 

Stream of life

The same stream of life
that runs through my veins
runs through the world
and dances in rhythmic measure.

It is the same life
that shoots in joy
through the dust of the earth
into numberless blades of grass,
and breaks into tumultuous waves
of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked
in the ocean cradle
of birth and death,
in ebb and in flow.

My limbs are made glorious
by the touch of this world of life;
and my pride is from
the life throb of ages
dancing in my blood this moment.

Photo:  Peter Bowers

The Watchers

The horses graze the winter slope

and then go to the high ground

and stand, watching the traffic

along the road, the slow river,

the trees leaning and straightening

in the wind. The day's time

is their time. They do not move

toward it or away. Their minds

are at home in this world,

diminished by no question.


Wendell Berry
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When Seeking Ends

I can no longer read the Teachings
or visit those awakened on the path
who sit amidst flowers and incense
and eager seekers waiting for morsels
of Enlightenment food.

I can no longer sit on my black cushion 
waiting for the moment to appear
when the big bang will occur
and blow this world of work and life
into the heavens of bliss.

I can no longer search for what is missing
nor can I say that I have found it.
I listen to the furnace blowing at dawn
and watch a feather dance before its music.
I work and eat and sleep and simply live my life.

I no longer wonder if I should dye my hair
or give up eating meat
or lose ten pounds before summer.
If I do, I do, and if I don't, I don't,
and who is there to care?

The sound of the garbage truck
chewing up the remains of my week
offers just as much stimulation to my soul
as a church bell or the song bird's melody
lilting from the distant hill.

My candles of devotion sit unlit
upon the alter to the gods, 
the bell of mindfulness unrung
upon its hand-sewn cushion, 
the incense resting in a drawer.

What has become of the one
who searched and chanted and read and prayed
and hoped for enlightenment?
She still laughs with her family,
sips champagne with friends, and sings in the shower.

What is life when the seeking ends?
Just what it is, nothing more or less - 
an ordinary person doing ordinary things,
not wishing to be more or less,
content to simply be herself.

Dorothy Hunt
Photo:  Peter Bowers

No More Longing

Yesterday I sat beside
a pristine mountain lake
where sky and pines and water
lost their names in Seeing,
where Listening became
a single bird-song, wind song,
water-lapping song of joy.

Today, there's no more longing,
no more pain inside the heart;
the devotee has disappeared
into the scent of Now,
and space has blown desire
from its latest hiding place
into the peace of being where I am.

Dorothy Hunt
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Word Tumbling

Every word is wordless
in its Source;
and no word can ever
speak the Truth.
But the poet's words
keep tumbling out of Silence
like snowflakes falling
unbidden from the sky,
landing for one brief instant
before melting.

Dorothy Hunt 
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Three Times My Life Has Opened

Three times my life has opened.
Once, into darkness and rain.
Once, into what the body carries at all times within it and
starts to remember each time it enters the act of love.
Once, to the fire that holds all.
These three were not different.
You will recognize what I am saying or you will not.
But outside my window all day a maple has stepped
from her leaves like a woman in love with winter, dropping
the colored silks.
Neither are we different in what we know.
There is a door.  It opens.  Then it is closed.  But a slip of
light stays, like a scrap of unreadable paper left on the floor,
or the one red leaf the snow releases in March.

Jane Hirshfield
Photo:   Peter Bowers

Saturday, January 7, 2012


My father could hear a little animal step,
or a moth in the dark against the screen,
and every far sound called the listening out
into places where the rest of us had never been.

More spoke to him from the soft wild night
than came to our porch for us on the wind;
we would watch him look up and his face go
till the walls of the world flared, widened.

My father heard so much that we still stand
inviting the quiet by turning the face,
waiting for a time when something in the night
will touch us too from that other place.

William Stafford
Photo:  Peter Bowers

At Our House

Home late, one lamp turned low,
crumpled pillow on the couch,
wet dishes in the sink (late snack),
in every child's room the checked,
slow, sure breath -

Suddenly in this doorway where I stand
in this house I see this place again,
this time the night as quiet, the house
as well secured, all breath but mine borne
gently on the air -

And where I stand, no one.

William Stafford

The thing about all this

... is that there is no
puzzle, no problem, and really no "mystery."
All problems are resolved and everything is
clear; simply because what matters is clear
...everything is emptiness and everything is
compassion.  I don't know when in my life I  
have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiri-
tual validity running together in one aesthetic
illumination ... I know and have seen what
I was obscurely looking for.  I don't know
what else remains but I have now seen and
have pierced through the surface and have
got beyond the shadow and the disguise.

Thomas Merton
Asian Journal
Photo:  Thomas Merton

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Vast Wardrobe

Look how this nakedness shows its vast wardrobe!
Here it dresses as a rose;
there it dresses as a car;
here the suit is Mother;
there the suit is Daughter.
Spirit does not inhabit these things.
Nothingness does not climb in and out.
The rose grows thorns
and does not bloom in winter;
the mother will one day sleep without waking
and her daughter will weep.

Dorothy Hunt
Photo:  Peter Bowers

When I Met My Muse

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off -  they were still singing.  They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased.  Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent.  I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched.  "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said.  "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation."  And I took her hand. 

William Stafford
Photo:  Peter Bowers


Monday, January 2, 2012

Remember Death

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.
There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Steve Jobs
From 2005 Stanford University commencement address
Photo:  Peter Bowers 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

All Through Eternity

All through eternity
Beauty unveils His exquisite form
in the solitude of nothingness;
He holds a mirror to His Face
and beholds His own beauty.
he is the knower and the known,
the seer and the seen;
No eye but His own
has ever looked upon this Universe

His every quality finds an expression:
Eternity becomes the verdant field of Time and Space;
Love, the life-giving garden of this world.
Every branch and leaf and fruit
Reveals an aspect of His perfection-
The cypress give hint of His majesty,
The rose gives tidings of His beauty.
Whenever Beauty looks,
Love is also there;

Whenever beauty shows a rosy cheek
Love lights Her fire from that flame.
When beauty dwells in the dark folds of night
Love comes and finds a heart
entangled in tresses.
Beauty and Love are as body and soul.
Beauty is the mine, Love is the diamond.

They have together
since the beginning of time-
Side by side, step by step.

Photo:  Peter Bowers

A Blessing For The New Year

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 gray window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into 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 curragh 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
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Sunday poem

Any poem could be the best
Any day the best or worst
A few butterflies in the garden or
the screech of brakes.  Not a breath
returns, not a blink of the eye, no
reminiscent smell or bright pebble.

Life comes
And goes.
It's that short.

Stephen Levine
Photo:  Peter Bowers