Hang in there until the finish…
Hang in there until the finish…
Unfortunately, nature is very much a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t affair. A fish flashes, then dissolves in the water before my eyes like so much salt. Deer apparently ascend bodily into heaven; the brightest oriole fades into leaves. These disappearances stun me into stillness and concentration; they say of nature that it conceals with a grand nonchalance, and they say of vision that it is a deliberate gift, the revelation of a dancer who for my eyes only flings away her seven veils. For nature does reveal as well as conceal: now-you-don’t-see-it, now-you-do.
~ Annie Dillard, Seeing. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. (HarperCollins. 2009)
Q: “The use of music is to remind us how short a time we have a body.” What do you mean by that?
RP: You start the song, it has a pulse, three-quarter time, one hundred and twenty beats per minute, and you know, even as you round the corner of the first verse, that it’s only going to last for four and a half minutes. All you can do is keep moving to it. When the beat stops, you are aware of having had that beat moving through you, and moving you, and you are aware of the ephemerality of your own existence, the fragility of your own body, the fact that your body is already becoming something else.
~ Richard Powers, In an Interview in The Paris Review
And, this tune, for me, does exactly that…
↓ click for audio (Max Richter– “Luminous”)
Credit: Photograph – Daniel Lehenbauer
What are you waiting for?
The next promotion? The next holiday? The next satsang? The next Facebook update?
The next spiritual high? The next victory? The next relationship?
The next level of enlightenment? The next chance to prove how much you know?
The next life? The next… moment?
What if this ‘next’ never comes?
And even if it does, what if it won’t end your seeking?
What if life – and its fulfillment – is always Now?
Then, what’s next?
— Jeff Foster
“I (Dr. Bob Flaherty) was involved with starting the medical clinic about 15 years ago to provide health care for Bozeman’s low-income individuals and families. It keeps a lot of people out of the ER and the hospital. Angels work there…
It is already below zero outside the converted machinery-rental shop that serves as Bozeman’s Warming Center for the homeless. A local nonprofit…opened the center a few years ago after a homeless man froze to death in a U-Haul truck…
I come to the center Wednesday evenings after seeing my last office patient. It is the practice of medicine at a basic level: I’m here to clean ears, trim toenails, drain abscesses, listen to worries and give advice; to fix small but important problems that will allow the people here to survive on the edge of society for another day or week. I bring a large toolbox with basic medical instruments and several over-the-counter medications…
Jerry thinks he’s going deaf; my otoscope reveals both ears packed with wax. Tiffany and I irrigate his ears with my portable kit. Success and gratitude…
…I don’t ask, but with familiarity and trust bits of their history bubble up. Divorce, lost jobs, disappearing husbands or wives, alcohol, drugs, mental illness. These homeless are often different from the homeless you read about in the New Yorker or hear about on NPR. Certainly, many have hit hard times, but just as many prefer to live off the grid. They want most of all to be left alone. They are not poster children for political assumptions.
My assistant, Tiffany, will soon enter the world of 21st-century medicine: electronic health records, quality metrics, diagnostic and treatment codes, performance-based reimbursement, insurance exchanges. Medicine as process where the patient can easily get lost. But on this cold evening she has seen a doctor helping one patient at a time, doing small things that can make a big difference. In perhaps one of the few places left in America to practice simple care and simple caring.’
Read the entire opinion piece by Dr. Flaherty here: Diagnosing the Many Routes to Homelessness
Image Credit: Oakridgenow.com
(and maybe warm socks and vanilla ice cream)
Source: Just Saying
“Brussels-based photographer Jeffrey Vanhoutte created this stunning project featuring an acrobatic dancer displaying various expressive poses that seem to be frozen in time. The dancer throws clouds of powdered milk up in the air while fulfilling graceful and fluid movements. Jeffrey Vanhoutte captured them in film and photo though as he states it took even longer too clean up the mess than to actually create the images.”
Don’t miss more shots in this series here: Dancer Freezes Time in Jeffrey Vanhoutte’s Project
“We bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and light, the canary that sings on the skull. Unless all ages and races of men have been deluded by the same mass hypnotist (who?), there seems to be such a thing as beauty, a grace wholly gratuitous. About five years ago I saw a mockingbird make a straight vertical descent from the roof gutter of a four-story building. It was an act as careless and spontaneous as the curl of a stem or the kindling of a star. The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped. His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second per second, through empty air. Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant, white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass. I had just rounded a corner when his insouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight. The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest. The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there…
We don’t know what’s going on here. If these tremendous events are random combinations of matter run amok, the yield of millions of monkeys at millions of typewriters, then what is it in us, hammered out of those same typewriters, that they ignite? We don’t know. Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. [Read more…]
“While out hunting for the aurora borealis this December, astrophotographer Brett Abernethy captured this incredible meteor fireball streaking across the sky near Johnson Lake in Banff National Park, Canada.”
It’s 5:45 am.
It started tracking me yesterday morning.
I’m driving to work. Dark is lifting to dusk.
I’m returning to the office after an extended vacation.
My head is tumbling with To-Do’s.
I round the corner for the last 1/2 mile stretch and there it was.
Full. Bright. Beaming. Silent.
I stare, and enter a few second refuge before pulling into the garage.
It’s 6:40 pm.
I’m done with my first day back, of meetings back to back.
I’m in my re-entry. Decompression? Gone.
I accelerate down the exit ramp and there it is.
Full. Bright. Beaming. Silent.
It’s tracking me the entire ride home up I-95 N.
And gracefully nudging me from exhaustion, to fatigue and softly settling me into calm.
Yes, Mr. Kooser.
I have missed so many. The count is well into the thousands.
But, no Sir. No Sir.
I didn’t miss this one.
15 Phrases That Will Change Your Life In 2015, The Huffington Post, Lindsay Holmes:
“How we speak — to others and to ourselves — has a huge impact on our overall outlook. So isn’t it about time we started paying more attention to what we’re communicating? Below are 15 phrases that will transform the way you think, feel and act in the coming year. Using your words to change your life? Now that’s a resolution worth keeping.”
The entire list and the background explanation on each word/phrase: 15 Phrases That Will Change Your Life In 2015.
Photograph by Bruce Weber of River Phoenix from Live Journal
I hope that in the future they invent a small golden light that follows you everywhere and when something is about to end, it shines brightly so you know it’s about to end.
And if you’re never going to see someone again, it’ll shine brightly and both of you can be polite and say, “It was nice to have you in my life while I did, good luck with everything that happens after now.”
And maybe if you’re never going to eat at the same restaurant again, it’ll shine and you can order everything off the menu you’ve never tried. Maybe, if someone’s about to buy your car, the light will shine and you can take it for one last spin. Maybe, if you’re with a group of friends who’ll never be together again, all your lights will shine at the same time and you’ll know, and then you can hold each other and whisper, “This was so good. Oh my God, this was so good.”
A pane of glass is a kind of compression of distance, enabling us to get up close to what we want but not permitting us to take it into our hands. We want it all, this life before us: the miniature Christmas village lit by a steady joy; the doll that in our arms would never grow old; the tiny train that, tooting, speeds away and always returns. Yet our lives are not beyond this breath there on the chilly glass, but of that breath, and in this life the hands in our mittens are never really empty. It is all around us, free, this wonderful life: clear jingle of tire chains, the laughter of ice that breaks under our boots. Each hour’s a gift to those who take it up.
~ Ted Kooser, “December.” The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book
We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as a microscopic electrical swarm. The lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks later, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother’s birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us.
― Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
The holiday cocktail party begins at the door, where the trill of the doorbell flees from the vestibule and disappears into the crowd, leaving a vacuum of sound into which the small talk surges, foamy with greetings, a sea of hellos and how-are -you-doings that you can scarcely keep your head above, gulping for air as you paddle your way through the handshakes, showing your teeth. But ahead you can see, there in the kitchen, the raft of drinks, a-tinkle with glasses, and you grasp at its edge and with the others bark like a seal as the slow tide lifts you toward midnight, when with the deepest gratitude you know that somewhere upstairs your coat has just bobbed to the top of the pile on a bed and is drying its wings and waiting to lift you away.
~ Ted Kooser, December. The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book
Credits: Photograph – M. Klasan via Preciously Me
anemoia – n. nostalgia for a time you’ve never known
Imagine stepping through the frame into a sepia-tinted haze, where you could sit on the side of the road and watch the locals passing by. Who lived and died before any of us arrived here, who sleep in some of the same houses we do, who look up at the same moon, who breathe the same air, feel the same blood in their veins—and live in a completely different world.
Don’t miss full transcript below…
~ Daniel Klein, Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life
I pull Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics out of my shoulder bag. This is the tome that opens with the stupefier, “Why are there things that are rather than nothing?” Whatever could have possessed me to lug this baby across the Atlantic to this remote island village? It must have been the inevitable thoughts of mortality that hover over me. Heidegger’s question seems to go beyond the start and stop of an individual life—say, mine— to being itself. What is that all about? I have this nagging suspicion that for the past fifty-odd years I have been dismissing Heidegger’s question as total twaddle without ever really trying it on for size. […]
Perhaps it is impossible to get one’s head around immutable nothingness: the mind just keeps collapsing in on itself. I can only barely get the idea of subtracting everything from the universe. But an eternal nothingness to which nothing could possibly be added escapes me. Maybe the positivists were right, after all: the reason I cannot think about this stuff is because it is utter nonsense. But what’s this? For an instant, I feel something like relief or even gratitude that being is. I even experience tinges of something that feels a wee bit like awe— awe that miraculously being has somehow triumphed over nothing. And that, astonishingly, I have been a part of that triumph: I have had the privilege of participating in being and of being conscious of that fact. And that is it— my yes! moment. It is over in a minute, and it was not even a full yes— more like a shiver of assent.
Henry insists that he is not a spiritual man. He says religion is just hocus-pocus. And yet when we go to a symphony concert together— which is usually one with Mahler on the program —and I glance over at him, I often behold on his creased old face an expression of rapture. Henry is clearly elevated to a higher realm— his spirit soars. I have no doubt that in some meaningful sense Henry has left the building. I too listen to music more and more. Throughout my life, music has stirred me more than any other art form, and now, in old age, I find myself listening to it almost every evening, usually alone, for hours at a time. Lying on the couch in the dark, listening to, say, Mahler’s Ninth Symphony or the Fauré Requiem or Puccini’s “E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca, I too sometimes take off for a realm where self-consciousness and my separateness from everything in the universe fall away. I am lost in the stars. Like Henry, I am hesitant to name this a spiritual experience, but at times it feels awfully close to one. Eyes closed, breath stilled, listening to the exquisite melancholy of Cavaradossi’s romanza to Tosca under the stars as he awaits his execution crying out, “Never have I loved life more!” sometimes— just sometimes— I can feel my yearnings made sublime.
Happy Sequential Date. The last one this century. (That’s sobering)
Enjoy every moment!
Source: This Isn’t Happiness. Share inspired by Emil Cioran (The Trouble With Being Born): “This very second has vanished forever, lost in the anonymous mass of the irrevocable. It will never return. I suffer from this, and I do not. Everything is unique—and insignificant.”
What does the earth’s shadow look like flying through space? A jellyfish, perhaps, swimming at the speed of light with filaments streaming behind. At sunrise or sunset, if you stand on a hilltop, with your arms spread out and your fingers fluttering like feathers, your shadow can ride at the top of that enormous, flying darkness, racing forever into the stars.
~ Ted Kooser, “December.” The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book
Important to stick with this short film until the finish…
onism – n. the frustration of being stuck in just one body, that inhabits only one place at a time, which is like standing in front of the departures screen at an airport, flickering over with strange place names like other people’s passwords, each representing one more thing you’ll never get to see before you die-and all because, as the arrow on the map helpfully points out, you are here.
Full Transcript below…
I once read of a climber who, while clinging to the face of a climb thousands of feet above an alpine valley, said he could feel the earth turn under his hands. And I have read that a person with patience could move an aircraft carrier tied at a dock by leaning long enough against its side to get it started, knowing that once it began to move there’d be no bringing it back, and it came to me that the earth behaves like that, steadily moving out into time under the common pressure of billions of hands.
No stopping it now.
~ Ted Kooser, December. The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book
Credits: Photograph – boulderporn
I’ve always loved looking at clouds. Nothing in nature rivals their variety and drama; nothing matches their sublime, ephemeral beauty. If a glorious sunset of Altocumulus clouds were to spread across the heavens only once in a generation, it would surely be amongst the principal legends of our time. Yet most people barely seem to notice the clouds, or see them simply as impediments to the “perfect” summer’s day, an excuse to feel “under the weather.”
This has been clanking around upstairs for weeks. “Taken” is a story of an ex-CIA agent whose daughter is kidnapped by an Albanian gang engaged in human trafficking. They drug, prostitute and auction off young women. I dismiss the probabilities of the predicable storyline. I cheer him on through the mayhem and destruction right to the Disney finish. His daughter is saved!
I watched the movie in the attic. A dark room dripping with evil. I finished watching the movie and headed outside, I needed to get to the Sun.
I have a daughter.
It’s just a movie.
This evil actually exists.
It’s just entertainment.
Getting the bad guys felt so good.
Then why do you feel so dark now?
And why do you watch these things?
I came across this op-ed essay by Arthur C. Brooks titled The Trick to Being More Virtuous and asked myself:
Here’s a few excerpts from Brooks’ essay:
The email message arrived a few days ago. The sender and the location were all unidentifiable. Yet, the message was deeply personal. I read it in the silence of the early morning hours, both hands resting on top of the desk, my breath slowing as my eyes worked down the page.
“I’ve been following your blog since early 2013. After a series of your “life is a miracle” shares, I felt I needed to reach out. While our core beings are quite similar in that our hearts’ beat, our body temperatures hover in comparable ranges, and our bodies crave food and water, many of us depart from here in our day-to-day existences…
If I’m sitting and looking out from your perch, I would enjoy the view. Married, family, job. Fridge full of food. A warm house for shelter. Good health. A community of Followers and bloggers to banter with and share inspirations…
Kierkegaard would say that the yardstick for a human being is how long and to what degree he can bear to be alone. I continue to be tested by this yardstick. I’m quite alone. My effectiveness in bearing it? Let’s say it’s day-to-day, and I’m doing so without the benefit of your accoutrements. Yet, I find my peace, and I accept my position in this Life…swallowing hard on my down days.
Look around. I mean really look around and take stock of your life. All of this can change. It can change at any moment. And it can turn very badly. It did for me… Be grateful Now for your blessings as you have many.
[NO CLOSING SIGNATURE OR SALUATION]
Friend, if I can take the liberty of calling you that, you’ve left me Still and without many words, and I’m thankful for your message. Where ever you are and who ever you may be, on this Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., may you find nourishment, may you have shelter and warmth, and may you be surrounded by the love of family and friends.
Photograph Source: Murrskeez
We live on a blue planet
that circles around a ball of fire
next to a moon that moves the sea,
and you don’t believe in miracles?
The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends. They will ruin everything for you.
First of all, friends like this may not even think of themselves as dying, although they clearly are, according to recent scans and gentle doctors’ reports. But no, they see themselves as fully alive. They are living and doing as much as they can, as well as they can, for as long as they can.
They ruin your multitasking high, the bath of agitation, rumination, and judgment you wallow in, without the decency to come out and just say anything. They bust you by being grateful for the day, while you are obsessed with how thin your lashes have become and how wide your bottom.
~ Anne Lamott, “Prelude: Victory Lap“, Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace
avenoir – n. the desire that memory could flow backward
We take it for granted that life moves forward. But you move as a rower moves, facing backwards—you can see where you’ve been, but not where you’re going. And your boat is steered by a younger version of you. It’s hard not to wonder what life would be like facing the other way…
Source: Just Sayin’
Gate A-4 By Naomi Shihab Nye:
Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”
I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”
We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours. [Read more…]
All That Is Glorious Around Us
is not, for me, these grand vistas, sublime peaks, mist-filled
overlooks, towering clouds, but doing errands on a day
of driving rain, staying dry inside the silver skin of the car,
160,000 miles, still running just fine. Or later,
sitting in a café warmed by the steam
from white chicken chili, two cups of dark coffee,
watching the red and gold leaves race down the street,
confetti from autumn’s bright parade. And I think
of how my mother struggles to breathe, how few good days
she has now, how we never think about the glories
of breath, oxygen cascading down our throats to the lungs,
simple as the journey of water over a rock. It is the nature
of stone / to be satisfied / writes Mary Oliver, It is the nature
of water / to want to be somewhere else, rushing down
a rocky tor or high escarpment, the panoramic landscape
boundless behind it. But everything glorious is around
us already: black and blue graffiti shining in the rain’s
bright glaze, the small rainbows of oil on the pavement,
where the last car to park has left its mark on the glistening
street, this radiant world.
– Barbara Crooker, “All That Is Glorious Around Us” from Radiance
Good Day. Or Bad Day.
Rush. Hurry. Spin. Pause.
Self-flagellation. Empathy. Gratitude.
Image Source: YourEyesBlazeOut
No matter what your views on war, someone’s Father, Mother or child has put or is putting their life at risk for this country, for you, for me, for our families. Today, we honor those that serve and have served.
“For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.”
Lord, bid war’s trumpet cease;
Fold the whole earth in peace.
Image Credit: Your Grace Is Enough
70 is the new 60.
60 is the new 50.
50 is the new 40.
These two NY Times Op-Ed pieces are beautifully written where ever you land with your math. I’ve chosen 2 excerpts. Be sure to click through to the full stories.
Frank Bruni turns 50 and writes Gray Hair and Silver Linings:
[…] There’s a point at which you have to accept that certain hopes and dreams won’t be realized, and 50 sure feels like it. I mean the lost margin for error. When you’re in your 20s and even your 30s, you can waste months, squander love, say yes to all the wrong things and no to all the right ones. And you can still recover, because there are many more months and loves and crossroads to come. The mistakes of youth are an education. The mistakes later on are just a shame. And I mean the lost people most of all: the ones from whom you’re separated by unmovable circumstances; the ones who’ve died. By 50 you start to see the pace of these disappearances accelerating. It’s haunting, and even harrowing. But there’s something else that you start to notice, something that muffles all of that, a muscle that grows stronger, not weaker. More than before, you’re able to find the good in the bad. You start to master perspective, realizing that with a shift in it — an adjustment of attitude, a reorientation of expectations — what’s bothersome can evaporate and what only seems to be urgent really isn’t…
Emily Fox Gordon, 66, with The Meaning of Fulfillment:
AT 66, I find myself feeling fulfilled. I didn’t expect this, and don’t know quite what to make of it…Fulfillment is a dubious gift because you receive it only when you’re approaching the end. You can’t consider your life fulfilled until you’re fairly sure of its temporal shape, and you can’t get a view of that until you’re well past its midpoint […] At any rate, by now I’ve racked up enough achievements that I feel I can stop trying. Paradoxically, of course, I find I don’t want to stop. Now that not much is at stake, I’m more ambitious than ever, or at least more conscious of my ambition. Liberated from an anxiety I’ve struggled to suppress, I feel a new energy. What is fulfillment made of? Mostly relief…
Image Source: imgarcade
Take one minute…and watch. Full stop.
The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. And dreams come true. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe, which is exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a “little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules?…Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.
This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.
~ Paul Hawken, You Are Brilliant and The Earth is Hiring
This is an excerpt from Hawken’s Commencement Address at the University of Portland in 2009 found in Paul Loeb’s book: The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear. (Basic Books, 2014). Hawken worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma, Alabama; founded leading natural-foods wholesaler Erewhon and the Smith & Hawken garden supply company; and currently heads a thin-panel solar company . His books include The Ecology of Commerce (HarperCollins, 1993) and Blessed Unrest (Viking, 2007). Carbon, The Business of Life will be published in 2014. Hawken’s website can be found at paulhawken.com.
Credits: Photograph – Your Eyes Blaze Out
By the toe of my boot,
a pebble of quartz,
one drop of the earth’s milk,
dirty and cold.
I held it to the light
and could almost see through it
into the grand explanation.
Put it back, something told me,
put it back and keep walking.
~ Ted Kooser, “On the Road.” Delights & Shadows
I woke this morning thinking about a friend who died three years ago of cancer of the brain. She spent her last months reading books, packing her painfully swollen head with words that she would soon be taking into silence. From under her turban her blue eyes shone. I thought it peculiar that she would use up what little time she had left on learning, that she didn’t want to be outside in the last of her seasons, an autumn and a winter, the cheerful yellow leaves, the immaculate snow, but I had forgotten— how could I have forgotten?— how much pleasure there is in being lost to time, alone with a book.
~ Ted Kooser, November. The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book
Photograph Source: Danielle Nelson
It was three weeks ago, 6 p.m. and I’m on my evening commute home. I-95 is snarled in both directions. Heavy, slow-moving metal edging its way up, a car length at a time. I’m looking ahead to find a break. I see none. Waze flashes an update: “Your drive time is extended by 10 minutes. Accident ahead.”
But that’s not the story. No. That’s not what drifts in during my 7-mile run on Sunday. It’s not what emerges during a meeting late Monday afternoon. And it’s not what’s hanging around the edges, gently finding its place among the mental chatter of Work.
It’s a white speck 75 car lengths ahead, hovering a steady five feet above the sea of car tops. A white speck, moving against traffic. First the speck. Then Wings. Then the gull.
The bird’s line is a straight shot.
Seagulls that I know, float in wind tunnels, they surf, they lallygag on shorelines. Not this one. This Gull’s wings are flapping, beating fiercely and maintaining the rhythm of an Olympic rowing crew free of its coxswain: I need to get there. Quickly. I need to get there. Now.
It’s 15 car lengths now. The bird is keeping its line, passing under a bridge without interruption. Jet Gull – – at low altitude and maintaining flight speed. I’m locked in.
I bend my head to see him. He doesn’t look down, or around or even shift his glance. Focus. Hurry. Get there. Now.
Blink. He’s in my rear view mirror. Gull. Wings. A Speck. Gone.
My gaze turns back to the sea of cars in front of me. Gull, where are you going? Why the Rush?
Its 4am. Today, Hump Day. Weeks later. I’m flicking through my Reader and I come across This.
A seagull froze, motionless, in the sky – lost in thought. Then suddenly it remembered something important, perhaps that life is as short as a blink, and went dashing off a full pelt.
Synchronicity? Coincidence? Serendipity?
I’m on the first train. I’m with my commuters deep into the morning papers. The silence is broken for three short intervals – the conductor collecting tickets and two stops on the Express. Otherwise, a library. 55 minutes of heaven.
Yet, the silence is thundering.
EBOLA. Mid-term elections. School shootings. Shooting rampage in the Canadian Parliament. Ukraine. Work-budget-goals. Man attacks NYC cops with a hatchet. Markets tumbling. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Hong Kong protesters. Millions of air bag recalls. Stepfather Charged After 3-Year-Old Girl Beaten to Death at Brooklyn Shelter. OMG. Turn the page. Turn the page. Turn the page. Unable to find something Good, I put away the news, close my eyes, lean my head against the window and drift into Grand Central.
I twist in my ear buds, first right and then left. I exit the train to 42nd street with hundreds of early morning commuters.
Zibby introduces Jesse to classical music in Liberal Arts; DK had no such Muse. Yet, the impact is no less Divine. The biting winds of darkness and doubt whistling through the skull are placed on Pause. My 12-minute cross-town walk is filled with ethereal beauty, a peace, a calmness, a lightness. The delivery trucks. The yellow cabs, honey bees buzzing in and out. The shop owner opening the gate. A construction worker taking a long pull on his cigarette. A student sipping coffee in an empty Diner. The leaves on a lonely tree rustling from the gust of a passing bus. All of it, a symphony. [Read more…]
The pieces that I chose were based on one thing only
— a gasp of DELIGHT.
Isn’t that the only way to curate a life?
TO live among things that
make you gasp with delight?
~ Maira Kalman, My Favorite Things
My Favorite Things is a new book by Maira Kalman that was released on Amazon yesterday. “The book is a beautiful pictorial and narrative exploration of the significance of objects in our lives, drawn from her personal artifacts, recollections, and selections from the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. She is the author of the bestsellers The Principles of Uncertainty and The Elements of Style.”
Find her bio here: Maira Kalman
I jumped into a cab after de-planing in Fort Lauderdale late Sunday afternoon. An uneventful flight. Largely uneventful that is, with the exception of the couple sitting in the front of the aircraft in premium seating. They were wearing face masks and plastic gloves synched with rubber bands. (Ebola.) If you gotta fly and you’re freaked, put on the protective gear. (It would be a cold day in Hell before you’d see me absorbing the ‘looks’ on a three hour flight.) Face-Mask-Man catches my stare. His eyes lock on mine as if to say: We’ll see who’s the Fool.
“Do you take American Express?”
The cab driver’s response is undecipherable.
I’m guessing he’s in his 60’s, his accent places him from the Islands, and he’s wearing a day or two beard.
I ask again.
“Do you take credit cards?”
This ‘Sir” thing is de-stabilizing. When did I become a Sir?
I note that I have plenty of legroom in a Yellow Cab. I’m grateful for one of life’s rare and simple pleasures.
How was your flight?
Good, thank you.
Where you coming from?
Is it cold?
It’s getting there.
89°F. The air conditioning is either not working or he’s conserving fuel. I open the window to let the tropical air blow in.
Do you want me to turn on the air?
No, it’s fine, thank you.
Is the friendliness a ploy for a larger tip? I scold myself for the unprovoked cynicism. And then reverse course and conclude that a friendly driver would earn a larger tip and that my cynicism was rationally placed. And the wheels on the bus go round and round.
What is the address again?
I repeat the address.
Is that on A1A?
I have no idea. Sorry.
Anticipating a bad outcome, I grab my smartphone and turn on Google Maps. And wait. I don’t want to be pushy and start offering instructions. Not yet anyway.
The human heart beats
approximately 4,000 times per hour
and each pulse, each throb, each palpitation
is a trophy engraved with the words
“you are still alive.”
You are still alive.
Act like it.
~ Rudy Francisco
The sounds of engines leave the air.
The Sunday morning silence comes at last.
At last I know the presence
of the world made without hands,
the creatures that have come to be
out of their absence.
Calls of flicker and jay fill the clear air.
Titmice and chickadees feed
among the green and the dying leaves.
Gratitude for the gifts of all the living
and the unliving,
gratitude which is the greatest gift,
quietest of all,
passes to me through the trees.
~ Wendell Berry, Sabbaths, 2007 XI
Source: Jaimejustelaphoto. (Timestamp is directionally correct with our 7:05 am sunrise)
How one becomes undone by a smell, a word, a place, a photo of a mountain of shoes:
The shadow past is shaped by everything that never happened. Invisible, it melts the present like rain through karst. A biography of longing. It steers us like magnetism, a spirit torque. This is how one becomes undone by a smell, a word, a place, the photo of a mountain of shoes. By love that closes its mouth before calling a name.
An apple screaming its sweet juice:
There was no more simple meal, no thing was less than extraordinary: a fork, a mattress, a clean shirt, a book. Not to mention such things that can make one weep: an orange, meat and vegetables, hot water. There was no ordinariness to return to, no refuge from the blinding potency of things, an apple screaming its sweet juice.
The catastrophe of grace:
But sometimes the world disrobes, slips its dress off a shoulder, stops time for a beat. If we look up at that moment, it’s not due to any ability of ours to pierce the darkness, it’s the world’s brief bestowal. The catastrophe of grace.
Stones and silence:
Some stones are so heavy only silence helps you carry them!
As if to spare the birds at the feeder
any more competition than they already have
a snowflake drops right past the perches
crowded with finches, nuthatches, sparrows,
and without even thinking to open its wings
settles quietly onto the ground.
~ Ted Kooser. December 23, Cold. Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison
I’ve been searching for a passage that I read weeks ago. I can see the font size, the paragraph, the white space, the light above and below the words. Strings that dangle in my consciousness. Yet, despite my end of day Google searches, I’ve come up empty. It goes something like this:
People ask you: “How are you doing?” You turn on the auto-reflex-reflux. You pound the drums with your sticks and dust up dregs. You don’t want others to know, but Life is Good. Very good actually. So, why? Why lead with the dark?
She stands at the turn of Exit 10. The front end of the last mile of my morning commute. The entire elapsed time is less than five seconds, tops. I turn the corner, I look for her, and I’m gone. And she’s gone.
She’s standing with other early morning commuters waiting for the Bus.
Correction. [Read more…]