“How does that happen?” Matthiessen asked me rhetorically, posing the question of the novel. He referred back to the novel’s epigraph, a poem by Anna Akhmatova that wonders, when we are surrounded by so much death, “Why then do we not despair?” Matthiessen looked at me, eyes dancing, beating on his leg in time as he said, “Something, something, something,” unable to name the mysterious life force that allows us to rejoice…
~ Jeff Himmelman
Peter Matthiessen, 86, died last night. R.I.P.
The quote above is an excerpt from Himmelman’s April 3, 2014 NY Times Magazine article titled Peter Matthiessen’s Homegoing.
From today’s front page story in the NY Times Peter Matthiessen, Lyrical Writer and Naturalist, Is Dead at 86:
“Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake,” he told the British newspaper The Guardian in 2002. “We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past. Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past, and there is no reality apart from the here and now.”
Matthiessen was an American novelist, naturalist, and wilderness writer. He was a three-time National Book Award-winner for The Snow Leopard and Shadow Country. He was also a prominent environmental activist. According to critic Michael Dirda, “No one writes more lyrically [than Matthiessen] about animals or describes more movingly the spiritual experience of mountaintops, savannas, and the sea.”
Matthiessen’s new book, In Paradise, is scheduled for release on April 8, 2014.
Most people have the hardest time relaxing. We were taught at an early age to ‘do,’ and now we are so addicted to doing that even if we take a break we think about what to do next. Very few ever realize that the priceless treasure in life is ‘Being.’
- Photograph: Thank you Brian Ingram. Note that Brian also kindly permitted the use of his photograph for my blog header.
- Quote: Thank you Karen @ Karen’s Korner.
- Image Credit
- Notable NY Times: You Can’t Take It With You, But You Still Want More
“The world, whatever we might think about it, terrified by its vastness and by our helplessness in the face of it, embittered by its indifference to individual suffering – of people, animals, and perhaps also plants, for how can we be sure that plants are free of suffering; whatever we might think about its spaces pierced by the radiation of stars, stars around which we now have begun to discover planets, already dead? still dead? – we don’t know; whatever we might think about this immense theater, to which we may have a ticket, but it is valid for a ridiculously brief time, limited by two decisive dates; whatever else we might think about this world – it is amazing.”
~ Wisława Szymborska
Wisława Szymborska-Włodek (1923 – 2012) was a Polish poet, essayist and translator. She was described as a “Mozart of Poetry”. Szymborska was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”.
We want the spring to come
and the winter to pass.
We want whoever to call
or not call,
a kiss —
we want more and more and then more of it.
But there are moments,
when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store,
and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep
for my own blowing hair,
and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living …
~ Nancy Thayer
- Nancy Thayer Bio
- Image Source: Red Deer in UK by Peter Kralik via Darkface.
- Poem source: Stalwart Reader
I step out my steaming shower
and wipe mist from my shaving mirror.
Who’s that spectre slapping lather
on my cheeks with bony fingers?
He’s the Ghost of Present Tense,
although he haunts the past and future.
When he brandishes his razor,
I grin and offer him my throat.
- Richard Cecil
- Spectre. n. (1) A ghost; phantom; apparition, (2) a mental image of something unpleasant or menacing
- Richard Cecil, poet. He currently works at Indiana University as a teacher of creative writing.
- Poem: A Poet Reflects (closing lines to “Ubi Sunt?” from In Search of the Great Dead)
- Photograph: Tony Bordonaro, The Shave Shop
One minute of Nature inspirited meditation to start your day.
The Mourning Dove is one of the most abundant and widespread of all North American birds. It is also the leading game bird. Its ability to sustain its population under such pressure stems from its prolific breeding: in warm areas, one pair may raise up to six broods a year. Its plaintive woo-OO-oo-oo-oo call gives the bird its name. The wings can make an unusual whistling sound upon take-off and landing. The bird is a strong flier, capable of speeds up to 88 km/h (55 mph). Males and females are similar in appearance. The species is generally monogamous, with two squabs (young) per brood. Both parents incubate and care for the young. Mourning Doves eat almost exclusively seeds, but the young are fed crop milk by their parents.
Source: Thank you korraled
I think a lot about the contrast between banality and wonder. Between disengagement and radiant ecstacy. Between being unaffected by the hear and now and being absolutely ravished emotionally by it. And I think one of the problems for human beings is mental habits. One we create a comfort zone, we rarely step outside of that comfort zone. But the consequence of that is a phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation. Overstimulation to the same kind of thing, the same stimuli, again and again and again, renders said stimuli invisible. Your brain has already mapped it in its own head and you know longer literarily have to be engaged in it. We have eyes yet see not. Ears that hear not. And hearts that neither feel nor understand. There is a great book called “The Wondering Brain” that says that one of ways that we elicit wonder is by scrambling the self temporarily so that the world can seep in. Henry Miller says that even grass when given proper attention becomes an infinitely magnificent world in itself. Darwin said attention if sudden and close graduates into surprise, and this into astonishment, and this into stupefied amazement. That’s what rapture is. That’s what illumination is. That’s what infinite comprehending awe that human beings love so much. And so how do we do that? How do we mess with our perceptual apparatus in order to have the kind of emotional and aesthetic experience from life that we render most meaningful. Because we all know that those moments are there. Those are those moments that would make the final cut. Only in these moments we experience a fresh, the hardly bearable, ecstasy of direct energy exploding on our nerve endings. This is the rhapsodic, ecstatic, bursting forth of awe that expands our perceptual parameters beyond our previous limits. And we literally have to reconfigure our mental models of the world in order to assimilate the beauty of that download. That is what it means to be inspired. The Greek root of the term means to breathe in. To take it in. We fit the Universe through our brains and it comes out in the form of nothing less than poetry. We have a responsibilities to awe.
~ Jason Silva
“One of the saddest realities is most people never know when their lives have reached the summit. Only after it is over and we have some kind of perspective do we realize how good we had it a day, a month, five years ago. The walk together in the December snow, the phone call that changed everything, that lovely evening in the bar by the Aegean. Back then you thought “this is so nice”. Only later did you realize it was the rarest bliss.”
Most of you reading this post are WordPress followers. I’m sure that you, like me, often wonder who the human being is behind the curtain for certain members of your comment “community.” Sonia is one of those followers for me. Except she’s not a WordPress follower, but an email subscriber. I continue to shake my head in wonder at the wonderful network that is established in blogging. I reached out to Sonia following a comment interchange and I asked her to share a bit with me about her.
In April, 2012, ~ six months after this blog was launched, Sonia signed up to receive email posts. Sonia, 25, is a Muslim. She is from Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan and the third largest city in the world. (Pop: 23 million.) Sonia is pursuing an MBA in Human Resources and is two courses and a thesis away from graduation. She also works as a Corporate Coordinator at a major multinational Health Insurance Company.
I asked Sonia how she found my blog. She said that she “was searching the internet for articles and ended up in the world of Blogs. Now among the millions of bloggers, why did I subscribe to your Blog? A million dollar question! I used to have (write) conversations with life (in a childish diary that I have) and I was surprised to find you having a conversation with your Mind in one of your posts. I was awestruck because in last 5 years of my conversations, I never came across a person who did that. So I subscribed to follow your blog.“
(Note to self: Someone halfway across the world types “Bloggers Talking To Themselves” into the Google Search box and on Page 1 of the Google Search landing page they find me. Oh Boy.) [Read more...]
Same. Time up each day.
Same. I-95 route to work.
Same. Desk. Chair. Computer.
Same. Head down. Back to back. 12 hours.
Same. 1-95 Route home.
Same. Time to bed.
Try. Take a different route to work.
Try. Take a walk. Leave phone behind.
Try. Call a friend. Catch up.
Try. Find a space. A moment. A breath.
Image Credit: Telegraph.co.uk - Photo of Footprints are carved into the floorboards by monk who has prayed at the same spot for 20 years
Related Posts: Driving Series
We have this life. We live it day by day. It passes quickly. Sometimes not quickly enough- we get despondent, sullen, downcast. Those are good words. In those slow moments something might appear- a chance to fall through our blistering fast-paced lives to the other side, where we can turn around and view ourselves, take a curious interest. Underneath everything we long to know ourselves. We wouldn’t know it though by the way we act- chugging down another whiskey, not listening to our daughter at breakfast, going sixty in a twenty zone. Reaching to get away; longing to come home. In writing, in sitting, in slow walking, a flash, a moment appears when we fall through and what we are fighting, running from, struggling with becomes open, luminous- or, even better, not a problem, just what it is. Look for those small openings.
~ Natalie Goldberg
Natalie Goldberg, 65, is an American popular New Age author, speaker, teacher and painter. She is best known for a series of books which explore and practice writing as Zen practice. Her 1986 book Writing Down the Bones sold over a million copies and is considered an influential work on the craft of writing. Her 2013 book, The True Secret of Writing, is a follow-up to that work. Goldberg has studied Zen Buddhism for more than thirty years. She has been teaching seminars in writing as a practice for the last thirty years. People from around the world attend her life-changing workshops and she has earned a reputation as a great teacher. The Oprah Winfrey Show sent a film crew to spend the day with Natalie for a segment on Spirituality that covered her writing, teaching, painting, and walking meditation. (Sources: Wiki & NatalieGoldberg.com)
Stack ‘em up and rumble. Dawn till dusk. Conference calls. One on one calls. Meetings. Emails + Texts: 175 and counting (the day isn’t over). Swinging a gas powered weed wacker. The day: A half-high-five. Many routine ground balls. No major drops. Grade? Falling forward.
I’m on the 7:15 pm MetroNorth railroad heading home. The overhead air conditioning vent is heaven; a cool shower drying sweat from the sweltering cross-town walk. I close my eyes. And drift back to the day’s highlight. A working lunch. I’m 7 minutes late. I apologize and sit. The team waited for me before digging into lunch.
We’re 10 minutes in. The racing, charging, driving of the prior four hours burns off. My heart rate slows. I’m not tapping my foot. I’m not pushing the pace. Not glancing at my watch. Not thinking ahead to the next meeting. I’m watching. And listening. I’m actually present. [Read more...]
“How do we hold presence for others? How do we hold love for others, with no agenda? I can’t help but wonder what the world would be like if we all gave unconditionally and held presence for others, even strangers. Squeeze in beside someone so you are arm-to-arm. Stop moving away. Be fully present; listen to their story without being tempted to respond by recounting your own. be there, with words or not. Don’t check email, withdraw, or cook dinner as you listen. Recognize and own how your presence ‘changes the experiment,’ changes others. Show them that you truly care whether you see them or not. Lend them your strong, warm arm. Let them relax into you.”
~ Patti Digh
Patti Digh is a writer, a speaker, a teacher – - and she describes her most significant job being a mother to her two daughters. She was born in a small Southern town in North Carolina. She went to a small Quaker college (Guilford College) and then to graduate school in English and Art History at the University of Virginia. She landed a job in Washington, DC, as a receptionist for a nonprofit organization–and worked in nonprofit organizations for years. She’s written six books including her best seller “Life is a Verb.” She describes her work as opening space for people to say a big “YES” to their lives–before it’s too late. “I’m about living like you’re dying–because you are. Each moment is precious, and magic. It’s hard to remember that when the laundry piles up and the dishes need washing, I know. My job is to remind you that those “ordinary” things are your life–and to see what is extraordinary in them. To help you tell a story with your life that you’ll love and be proud of at the end of it.” She turned 50 and got a tattoo to mark that passage and to remind me always of three core questions from Buddha that guide her:
- How well did you love?
- How fully did you live?
- How deeply did you let go?
- Did you make a difference?
Source: Patti Digh Website: 37days.com
Zeke’s paws are scratching. He’s dreaming. His body twitching. I steal a glance at the clock. 1:15 am. I smile. You go from refusing a dog for 20 years, to the animal taking center stage on your bed. Every night. What a tough guy.
He knows. Dogs have a second sense. Even when he’s sleeping, he hears.
Car door shuts. It’s Rachel. Rolling in from her evening out.
I lumber down to her room. Bathroom door is closed. Water is running. I lie down on her bed. Stare at the ceiling. And wait.
Mind whirs back to a moment during the week. I’m driving into Manhattan. Rush hour. Traffic stalled. GPS flashes a 3-mile backup to the Triboro bridge. Beach Avenue and Bruckner. Young girl is holding her Dad’s hand. They are crossing the walkway over I-278. Her passion pink backpack sharply contrasting with the streaks of graffiti. The pair offering up a burst of illumination against the grey of the housing projects and the trash lining the freeway. Their hands and arms sway in unison. Dad smiling. She’s skipping to keep up.
That day, Mind was crocheting stitches of a majestic tapestry. One of family. Of warm spring days. Of light breezes. All storm clouds pushed way south. And the Moment hovered. All week.
Why this moment? This was not an impressionist by Monet. Not a intricate passage by Joyce or a dreamy segue by Murakami. No deep existential words here by Kierkegaard. Not a big win at Work. A Father. A daughter. A pink backpack. Walking over a dilapidated bridge in the Projects.
“…There are moments on the brink, when you can give yourself to a lover, or not; give in to self-doubt, uncertainty, and admonishment, or not; dive into a different culture, or not; set sail for the unknown, or not; walk out onto a stage, or not. A moment only a few seconds long, when your future hangs in the balance, poised above a chasm. It is a crossroads. Resist then, and there is no returning to the known world. If you turn back, there is only what might have been. Above that invisible crossroads are inscribed the words: Give up your will, all who travel here…”
Passage Excerpt from nytimes.com.
Eddie Catlin – Actor. Peter Batchelor - Narrator / Voice. Music Credits: “Preparing” by In The Nusery. “Hope Renewed – Instrumental” by Martin Sebastian Holm.
What a task
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun [Read more...]
“Like people or dogs, each day is unique and has its own personality quirks which can easily be seen if you look closely. But there are so few days as compared to people, not to mention dogs, that it would be surprising if a day were not a hundred times more interesting than most people. But usually they just pass, mostly unnoticed, unless they are wildly nice, like autumn ones full of red maple trees and hazy sunlight, or if they are grimly awful ones in a winter blizzard that kills the lost traveler and bunches of cattle. For some reason we like to see days pass, even though most of us claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a long time. We examine each day before us with barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t one I’ve been looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for the next, when, we are convinced, our lives will start for real. Meanwhile, this day is going by perfectly well-adjusted, as some days are, with the right amounts of sunlight and shade, and a light breeze scented with a perfume made from the mixture of fallen apples, corn stubble, dry oak leaves, and the faint odor of last night’s meandering skunk.”
~ Tom Hennen
Tom Hennen, author of six books of poetry, was born and raised in rural Minnesota. After abandoning college, he married and began work as a letterpress and offset printer. He helped found the Minnesota Writer’s Publishing House, then worked for the Department of Natural Resources wildlife section, and later at the Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota. Now retired, he lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Image Source: Andreas Wonisch
“Is happiness a lesser version of joy, or something totally different? I’d argue it’s different and not only because it’s more prevalent. Many more things can cause happiness than joy. Also, happiness is somewhat within our control. We can create it through our decisions. Joy happens to you. It’s unruly. You submit to it. It usually comes as a surprise, as it did every morning with our newborns
…Certain experiences lift you out of yourself. They enable you to exist fully in the moment. (A singular serving of French toast in my late teens on the corner of 62nd and Lex at Burger Heaven; Christmas 1963, when Skippy, our first dog, popped out of a box pocked with ventilation holes.)
…What distinguishes joy is that it doesn’t come around that often. Indeed, you’re rather aware of its perishability, its evanescence, even when you’re in the midst of it.
…But it may be the thing that unites French toast and lifting a newborn out of its crib in the morning and bringing the child into bed with you. I’m not necessarily talking about one-on-one love, but the universal, John Lennon “All you need is…” variety that connects us to something beyond ourselves, and seems to be floating out there…
…We spend the majority of our lives worrying, even when we’re happy. We’re worried about catching the bus or subway or whether there’s a cab that isn’t off duty; we’re worried about our work; we’re worried we offended somebody; we’re worried about money; we’re worried about sleep; we’re worried about being worried.
…If there’s any dread, it’s in the way we create barriers, denying ourselves access to it (joy) more frequently.”
~ Ralph Gardner, Joy Spills Over, Wall Street Journal (Excerpts)
Michael’s in my head again. Jabbing. Jabbing. Jabbing. Gracefully dancing and landing punches like Sugar Ray. With similar effectiveness. Each one leaving a mark. Punch line popping: You are RUDE.
If you want to pay someone a quiet compliment, give them some serious attention when they are speaking.
Six days back at work…after a two week vacation.
Tension. Decompression. Recharge. Ramp-up. Escalation. Full engagement. Tension.
Full loop restored.
And, cycle time is compressing year over year.
Meetings. Emails. 2013 Planning. Events. Phone calls. Problems. Opportunities. Running. Faster.
In a momentary gap in my schedule…a mental image of this photo flickers by…a photo tripped into during the recharging phase of vacation. Image darts in and out for days. Pulling me back to a time when life was simpler. When picking sweet, juicy Bing cherries and filling the bucket was the task of the day.
I am here on purpose... [Read more...]
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life -
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
- William Stafford (The Way It Is)
“The snowflake moment we idolize, that final and glorious crystalline state which Bentley captured on black velvet time and time again, does provide justification for everything else. It is the end, and so must mean something, must make a bold statement about the substance and quality of our existence. But the snowflake moment is just one of a countless million moments, an isolated still shot of an existence that is predominantly defined by its very motion. We are what we do every day. Nothing more.
~ Scott Schwertly, The Snowflake Moment
Image Credit: Thank you headlikeanorange