Imagine you wake up
with a second chance:
The blue jay hawks his pretty wares
and the oak still stands,
spreading glorious shade.
If you don’t look back,
the future never happens.
How good to rise in sunlight,
in the prodigal smell of biscuits –
eggs and sausage on the grill.
The whole sky is yours
to write on, blown open to a blank page.
Come on, shake a leg!
You’ll never know who’s down there,
frying those eggs,
if you don’t get up and see.
Imagine you wake up
Until that moment of exchange…I had neglected to see the life that was all around me. I was a perfect candidate for the wisdom in those great lines of Middlemarch:
If we had a keen vision and feeling for all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar that lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.
Well wadded with stupidity.
~ Roger Housden, Saved by Beauty: Adventures of an American Romantic in Iran.
Credit: Photo – Mennyfox55
[…] Most people feel grateful some of the time — after someone saves you from a mistake or brings you food during an illness. But some people seem grateful dispositionally. They seem thankful practically all of the time. These people may have big ambitions, but they have preserved small anticipations. As most people get on in life and earn more status, they often get used to more respect and nicer treatment. But people with dispositional gratitude take nothing for granted. They take a beginner’s thrill at a word of praise, at another’s good performance or at each sunny day. These people are present-minded and hyper responsive. This kind of dispositional gratitude is worth dissecting because it induces a mentality that stands in counterbalance to the mainstream threads of our culture.[…]
Gratitude is also a form of social glue. In the capitalist economy, debt is to be repaid to the lender. But a debt of gratitude is repaid forward, to another person who also doesn’t deserve it. In this way each gift ripples outward and yokes circles of people in bonds of affection. It reminds us that a society isn’t just a contract based on mutual benefit, but an organic connection based on natural sympathy — connections that are nurtured not by self-interest but by loyalty and service.
We live in a capitalist meritocracy. This meritocracy encourages people to be self-sufficient — masters of their own fate. But people with dispositional gratitude are hyperaware of their continual dependence on others. They treasure the way they have been fashioned by parents, friends and ancestors who were in some ways their superiors. They’re glad the ideal of individual autonomy is an illusion because if they were relying on themselves they’d be much worse off. […]
If you think that human nature is good and powerful, then you go around frustrated because the perfect society has not yet been achieved. But if you go through life believing that our reason is not that great, our individual skills are not that impressive, and our goodness is severely mottled, then you’re sort of amazed life has managed to be as sweet as it is. […]
~ David Brooks, The Structure of Gratitude
Photo Source: mennyfox55
There’s a difference.
When your bones hurt,
And when they’re just tired.
When they are looking to heal,
and when they are looking to get set down.
These Bones are aching, to get set down.
The week’s reflections as I ride up I-95.
They light warm fires of gratitude.
Yes, Mary. It is the work.
Work that I’ve made for myself.
Work that I’ve chosen to claim my life.
My adult life.
And then, a final spark,
who has brought me Home,
and to my handsome life.
I don’t mean it’s easy or assured, there are the stubborn stumps of shame, grief that remains unsolvable after all the years, a bag of stones that goes with one wherever one goes and however the hour may call for dancing and for light feet. But there is, also, the summoning world, the admirable energies of the world, better than anger, better than bitterness and, because more interesting, more alleviating. And there is the thing that one does, the needle one plies, the work, and within that work a chance to take thoughts that are hot and formless and to place them slowly and with meticulous effort into some shapely heat-retaining form, even as the gods, or nature, or the soundless wheels of time have made forms all across the soft, curved universe – that is to say, having chosen to claim my life, I have made for myself, out of work and love, a handsome life.
– Mary Oliver, Wild Geese
Oliver Sacks: My Own Life. Learning of Terminal Cancer
…It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can…
…While I have enjoyed loving relationships and friendships and have no real enmities, I cannot say (nor would anyone who knows me say) that I am a man of mild dispositions. On the contrary, I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.
I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night…
I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.
…Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
Don’t miss reading the full essay by Oliver Sachs: My Own Life. Learning of Terminal Cancer
Only a beige slat of sun above the horizon,
like a shade pulled not quite down.
Sea rippled here and there.
Birds reluctant to fly.
The mind wants a shaft of sun
to stir the grey porridge of clouds,
an osprey to stitch sea to sky with its barred wings,
some dramatic music: a symphony,
perhaps a Chinese gong.
But the mind always wants more than it has –
one more bright day of sun,
one more clear night in bed with the moon;
one more hour to get the words right;
one more chance for the heart in hiding
to emerge from its thicket in dried grasses –
as if this quiet day
with its tentative light weren’t enough,
as if joy weren’t strewn all around.
– Holly Hughes, Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems
For the past eighty years I have started each day in the same manner,” wrote the cellist Pablo Casals in his memoir, Joys and Sorrows. “I go to the piano, and I play two preludes and fugues of Bach. It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, with a feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human being.
~ Glen Kurtz, Practicing: A Musician’s Return to Music
Pablo Casals (1876 – 1973), was a Spanish Catalan cellist and conductor. He is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cellists of all time.
Credits: Photo – glogster.com
Hang in there until the finish…
(and maybe warm socks and vanilla ice cream)
Source: Just Saying