A temple – or a green field – a place to enter, and in which to feel.


Whitman kept me from the swamps of a worse uncertainty, and I lived many hours within the lit circle of his certainty, and his bravado. Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs! And there was the passion which he invested in the poems. The metaphysical curiosity! The oracular tenderness with which he viewed the world— its roughness, its differences, the stars, the spider— nothing was outside the range of his interest. I reveled in the specificity of his words. And his faith— that kept my spirit buoyant surely, though his faith was without a name that I ever heard of. Do you guess I have some intricate purpose? Well I have . . . for the April rain has, and the mica on the side of a rock has.

But first and foremost, I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple— or a green field— a place to enter, and in which to feel. Only in a secondary way is it an intellectual thing— an artifact, a moment of seemly and robust wordiness— wonderful as that part of it is. I learned that the poem was made not just to exist, but to speak— to be company. It was everything that was needed, when everything was needed. I remember the delicate, rumpled way into the woods, and the weight of the books in my pack. I remember the rambling, and the loafing— the wonderful days when, with Whitman, I tucked my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good time.

~ Mary Oliver, from “My Friend Walt Whitman” in Upstream, Selected Essays


If you live to be very old, you may see twelve hundred full moons

One world trade center

If you live to be very old, you may see twelve hundred full moons. Some come in winter and you trudge out into the deep snow to stand beneath their glow. Others come to you in the city and you take an elevator up to the roof of the highest building and set out a couple of folding chairs to watch it glide across the sky. Or the moon finds you along a foreign shore and you paddle out in some dingy and scoop its reflection from the waters and drink it down. The moons of your old age are the most potent but seem few and far between. They make their way into your marrow and teach it how to hum. When your final moon arrives, it’s as if youth has come back to you. Though instead of flaunting its yellow hat, now it’s dressed in black.

~ David Shumate, “An Inventory of Moons” from Kimonos in the Closet


Doesn’t anybody in the world anymore want to get up in the middle of the night and sing?


One tree is like another tree, but not too much. One tulip is like the next tulip, but not altogether. More or less like people – a general outline, then the stunning individual strokes. Hello Tom, hello Andy. Hello Archibald Violet, and Clarissa Bluebell. Hello Lillian Willow, and Noah, the oak tree I have hugged and kissed every first day of spring for the last thirty years. And in reply its thousands of leaves tremble! What a life is ours! Doesn’t anybody in the world anymore want to get up in the

middle of the night and

~ Mary Oliver, from “Upstream” in Upstream, Selected Essays


Walking Cross-Town. With Lightning Strikes.


5:40 am.
2nd morning train: Metro North to Grand Central.
Dark Sky reports: Clear, 45° F and Rising.

Wardrobe check:
Black Belt.
Black Suit.
Black Socks.
Black Tie.
Black Shoes.
Black TopCoat.
Black Underwear.

Train rolls into Grand Central 2 minutes late, red ants swarm, clamoring and jostling to get to the exits.

The pace accelerates, foot traffic is flowing. I bear down on a doodler staring down at her smartphone, and need to slow, way down.

There’s heavy foot traffic on all sides, I veer right to pass, glare at her, but it misses wide as Ms. Oblivious’ is clueless as to the traffic backup.

As I straighten up, I ram into a Suit, who teeters, wobbles and regains his footing.

[Read more…]

Sunday Morning: Such Silence


As deep as I ever went into the forest
I came upon an old stone bench, very, very old,
and around it a clearing, and beyond that
trees taller and older than I had ever seen.

Such silence!
It really wasn’t so far from a town, but it seemed
all the clocks in the world had stopped counting.
So it was hard to suppose the usual rules applied.

Sometimes there’s only a hint, a possibility.
What’s magical, sometimes, has deeper roots
than reason.
I hope everyone knows that.

I sat on the bench, waiting for something.
An angel, perhaps.
Or dancers with the legs of goats.

No, I didn’t see either. But only, I think, because
I didn’t stay long enough.

– Mary Oliver, Such Silence,” from Blue Horses


Sources: Poem – Thank you Whiskey River. Photo – Delta Breezes

Cancer, you’re not invited


For most of my adult life I have answered the question “Occupation?” with one word: journalist. I still do, but now I am tempted to add a phrase.

Cancer patient…

Even in remission, cancer alters a patient’s perception of what’s normal. Morning, noon and night, asleep and awake, malignant cells are determined to alter or end your life…

Age alone puts me in my twilight years; and cancer only heightens that objective reality. Yet I am not consumed by the prospect of death. When it intermittently enters my consciousness it has an abstract quality. I can’t quite get a grip on how this life might end…

Whenever I engage in this kind of reflection I fault myself for not shifting into a lower gear. What happened to the sailing lessons, the calligraphy course, that short story I had hoped to publish? […]

Cancer fund-raising events? Yes, if the distance and demands are not onerous. But is it possible that NBC News coverage of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, two very long plane rides away, would not be at all affected by my absence? I think it is.

Maybe it would be better if I just gathered our five grandchildren and we watched the occasion on television as I answered their questions. Then we would all go for Chinese food and plan our next get together.

Cancer, you’re not invited.

Don’t miss full essay by Tom Brokaw @ Tom Brokaw: Learning to Live With Cancer


Driving I-95 N. With 45s Spinning.


Picture the old 45 spinning on the RCA, with its slight wobble.

It hits a notch and repeats, and repeats and repeats.

Karen, a blogger friend, from “Healing Grief” had all of the Nacre she could stand.  She gently lifted the arm and suggested a new groove:

Love what Milner suggests practising bead memories. I have a challenge for you Mr K. In your next bead experience, tell us what You feel and see just “being.” No driving, no running, no working, just here, now.”

Healing Grief. Advice from a Woman who has felt Grief. Incomprehensible loss.

Would I be standing as she is, if I was hit? [Read more…]

Oh taste how sweet and tart


Bad things are going to happen…
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory…
Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

~ Ellen Bass, excerpt from Relax


So fresh, so fleeting


Dew evaporates
And all our world is dew…so dear,
So fresh, so fleeting.

~ Issa, 1763 – 1828, on the death of his child



Sunday Morning


Once we get the human part down, “stop slamming doors” and start loving rocks…

Get the ordinary human thing down, and you will have all the spirituality that you can handle.

Richard Rohr, Adapted from Contemplation in Action


Notes: Quote – Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: “Isaac” by Natalya Karavay

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