The Moment

Listen . . . Listen . . .


Tune to the frequency of the wood and
you’ll hear the deer, breathing; a muscle, tensing;
the sigh of a field mouse under an owl.
Now listen to yourself —
that friction — the push-and-drag,
the double pulse, the drum.
You can hear it, clearly.
You can hear the sound of your body, breaking down.
If you’re very quiet, you might pick up loss:
or rather the thin noise that losing makes — perdition.
If you’re absolutely silent and still,
you can hear nothing but the sound of nothing:
this voice and its wasting, the soul’s tinsel.
Listen . . .
Listen . . .

~ Robin Robertson, Tinsel from Sailing the Forest: Selected Poems  (Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2014 )


Saturday Morning


It is an attitude Thoreau would have applauded. As he notes in his journals, “Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumacs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.”

From sunrise to noon is a considerable stretch of time, especially at the height of summer. One cannot imagine a contemporary writer squandering even a fraction of those hours. But Thoreau had a tremendous capacity for patience, as his friend Emerson understood. “He knew how to sit immovable, a part of the rock he rested on, until the bird, the reptile, the fish, which retired from him, should come back and resume its habits, nay, moved by curiosity, should come to him and watch him.”

~ Christian McEwen, “Searching & Dreaming” in World Enough & Time


I’m listening.


There are many such assignments one can give. When Janet Fout’s daughter was a little girl, the two of them used to spend time together out of doors, playing and inventing nature games. My own favorite was listening for the sounds they could not hear, which Fout called “The Sounds of a Creature Not Stirring.” Examples might include: sap rising, snowflakes forming and falling, sunrise, moonrise, feathers, dew on the grass, a seed germinating, an earthworm moving through the soil, an apple ripening, wood petrifying, a spider weaving its web, a leaf changing colors, a salmon spawning.

~ Christian McEwen, World Enough & Time


Saturday Morning: Close your eyes and ears.


Have a seat. Stretch out your legs. Close your eyes and ears. I shall say nothing for five minutes so you can think about Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. See, and this will be more perfect still, if you manage not to think in words, but rather create a state of feeling. See if you can halt the whole whirlwind and clear a space for the Fifth Symphony. It is so beautiful. Only thus will you have it, through silence. Understand! If I perform it for you, it will fade away, note by note. As soon as the first one is sounded, it will no longer exist. And after the second, the harmony will no longer echo. And the beginning will be the prelude to the end, as in all things. If I perform it you will hear music and that alone. Whereas there is a way to keep it paused and eternal, each note like a statue inside you.

~ Clarice Lispector, “Letters to Hermengardo” from The Complete Stories.


Saturday Morning


I come into this small room and take a seat on the floor.
I don’t expect miracles.
But I have given myself a sacred space,
and now I simply offer myself the even greater gift of time to use it.
Someday, perhaps, something will happen here.
For now, I love this room,
this emptiness, the fading light, my own quiet company.
I am learning, by sitting, to become,
in the words of Terry Tempest Williams,
“a caretaker of silence, a connoisseur of stillness, a listener of wind.”

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment 


Be silent. Listen. Let it overflow.



It started from the inside out. (Word!)


Poetry approached me in that chaos of raw inverted power and leaned over and tapped me on the shoulder, said, “You need to learn how to listen, you need grace, you need to learn how to speak. You’re coming with me.” I did not walk off into the sunset with poetry, or hit the town with a blaze of gunfire with poetry guarding my back. Rather, the journey toward poetry worked exactly as the process of writing a poem. It started from the inside out, then turned back in to complete a movement. And then on and on in the manner of a ripple in water, a song in the air.

~ Joy Harjo, Introduction to How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002


Turn it.


There is a tendency in the West to be convinced of the badness of human nature… It is essential that we be convinced of the goodness of human nature, and we must act as though people are good. We have no reason to think that they are bad. […]

I noticed in New York, where the traffic is so bad and the air is so bad … you get into a taxi and very frequently the poor taxi driver is just beside himself with irritation. And one day I got into one and the driver began talking a blue streak, accusing absolutely everyone of being wrong. You know he was full of irritation about everything, and I simply remained quiet. I did not answer his questions, I did not enter into a conversation, and very shortly the driver began changing his ideas and simply through my being silent he began, before I got out of the car, saying rather nice things about the world around him.

~ John Cage, in Richard Kostelanetz’s Conversing with Cage


“So I decided to start bowing to everyone who crossed my path.  Just a little teeny bow of my head.  Just enough to remind myself not to be a jerk, since no matter who I’m talking to, whether it’s a child, or a principal, or a gas station attendant, or a frenemy, or Craig, it’s GOD I’m talking to. And as I bow, I say Namaste, God in me recognizes and honors God in you. I just think Namaste in my head, like the way Orthodox Jews wear a yarmulke to remind themselves that they are living under the hand of God.  Or how Muslims pray five times a day to remind themselves of whom they serve.  The world and the people in it are so beautiful when you are awake.  And so the bowing and the silent Nameste is just a little practice to remind myself what’s real.  What an amazing life I’m leading and what a gift the people I meet are to me. I know all of this might sound a little nuts, but I have decided that I am just over worrying about that.  Robin P. Williams said, “You’re only given a spark of madness.  You mustn’t lose it.”  And maybe the world needs some crazy love.  So I am embracing my spark of madness.  Fanning it, even.  And I’m bowing.  And something’s happening because of it.  It’s working.  I’m starting to see God everywhere.

~ Glennon Doyle Melton,  Carry On, Warrior:  The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life

Lightly child, lightly


But most hearts say,
I want, I want, I want, I want.
My heart is more duplicitous,
though no twin as I once thought.
It says, I want, I don’t want, I want,
and then a pause.
It forces me to listen…

— Margaret Atwood, from Selected Poems II: 1976 – 1986 


  • Image Source: Jenna McElroy (via Journal of a Nobody)
  • Quote Source: Paper Ghosts
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
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