On what grounds did I fast from the daily bread of birdsong and starlight?

barbara-brown-taylor

Sixty-hour weeks were normal, hovering closer to eighty during the holidays. Since my job involved visiting parishioners in hospitals and nursing homes on top of a heavy administrative load, the to-do list was never done. More often, I simply abandoned it when I felt my mind begin to coast like a car out of gas. Walking outside of whatever building I had been in, I was often surprised by how warm the night was, or how cold.

I was so immersed in indoor human dramas that I regularly lost track of the seasons. When a fresh breeze lifted the hairs on my neck, I had to stop and think, Does that wind signal the end of spring or the beginning of autumn? What month is this? What year, for that matter? In the ICU, nurses wrote details like these on blackboards to help their dazed patients hang on to reality. Most days I could name the president of the United States, but my daily contact with creation had shrunk to the distance between my front door and the driveway. The rest of my life took place inside: inside the car, inside the church, inside my own head.

On the nights when Ed and I walked, I sometimes talked with my eyes fixed on the moving pavement for more than a mile before an owl’s cry or a chorus of cicadas brought me, literally, to my senses. Only then did I smell the honeysuckle that had been there all along or notice the ghostly blossoms on the magnolia trees that deepened the shadows on more than one front lawn. The effect was immediate, like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. All these earthly goods were medicine for what ailed me, evidence that the same God who had breathed the world into being was still breathing. There was so much life springing up all around me that the runoff alone was enough to revive me. When it did, I could not imagine why I had stayed away so long. Why did I seal myself off from all this freshness? On what grounds did I fast from the daily bread of birdsong and starlight?

~ Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church. A Memoir of Faith.


Image Source: RNS

They live closer to the bone

humpback-whale

In common parlance, the word ‘soul’ pops up everywhere…Soul music gets us swaying. We want our lover, body and soul. In each case, ‘soul’ connotes deep feeling and core values…Today, studies increasingly show that many non-human beings feel. Elephants appear to feel grief, while dolphins and whales express joy, or something much like it. Parrots can become cranky, pigs and cows terrified, chickens saddened, monkeys seemingly embarrassed. Experiments have shown that rats become agitated when seeing surgery performed on other rats and that, when presented with a trapped lab-mate and a piece of chocolate, they will free their caged brethren before eating. […]

One might even argue that other creatures are more cognisant of feelings than humans are, because they possess a primary form of consciousness: they are aware of themselves and their environment but are less burdened by complexities such as reflection and rumination that typify human consciousness. They live closer to the bone, so to speak. Jeffrey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep (1995), has remarked that animals possess feelings of ‘undiluted purity and clarity’ compared to the ‘seeming opacity and inaccessibility of human feelings.’[…]

Extraordinary examples of ensoulment among non-human animals abound. Ethologist Adriaan Kortlandt once observed a wild chimp in the Congo ‘gaze at a particularly beautiful sunset for a full 15 minutes, watching the changing colors’, forsaking his evening meal in the process. Elsewhere, African elephants belonging to the same family or group will greet one another after a separation with a loud chorus of rumbles and roars as they rush together, flapping their ears and spinning in circles. […]

A particularly striking case of animal gratitude occurred in 2005 off the California coast, where a female humpback whale was found entangled in nylon ropes used by fishermen. As recounted by Frans de Waal in The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society (2009): ‘The ropes were digging into the blubber, leaving cuts. The only way to free the whale was to dive under the surface to cut away the ropes.’ The divers spent an hour at the task, an especially risky one given the sheer strength of the animal’s tail. ‘The most remarkable part came when the whale realised it was free. Instead of leaving the scene, she hung around. The huge animal swam in a large circle, carefully approaching every diver separately. She nuzzled one, then moved on to the next, until she had touched them all.’ […]

In the end, soul may be a profound matter of fellow feeling. The stronger the capability of a given species for fellow feeling, the more that species can be said to exhibit soulfulness. To view things in this way offers another important step in humanity’s progression towards understanding its place in creation – and to appreciate the inheritance we hold in common with other sentient beings on this increasingly small, restive, and fragile planet.

~ Michael Jawer, Do only humans have souls, or do animals possess them too? | Aeon Ideas


Photo: Humpback whale bubbles by Scott Portelli (via lovely seas)

Saturday Morning

roberto-gioli-boots-reflection

The way I’d like to go on living in this world
wouldn’t hurt anything, I’d just go on
walking uphill and downhill, looking around,
and so what if half the time I don’t know
what for —

~ Mary Oliver, excerpt from 1945-1985: Poem for the Anniversary from Dream Work

 


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

bird-stare-funny


Source: Pelican titled Grumpy by Bogdan Boev (from Bulgaria) (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Sunday Morning

rock-reach

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

the air finding every leaf and feather over forest and water

__by_apalkin-d79rztk-light-portrait-woman

Next time what I’d do is look at
the earth before saying anything. I’d stop
just before going into a house
and be an emperor for a minute
and listen better to the wind
or to the air being still.

When anyone talked to me, whether
blame or praise or just passing time,
I’d watch the face, how the mouth
has to work, and see any strain, any
sign of what lifted the voice.

And for all, I’d know more – the earth
bracing itself and soaring, the air
finding every leaf and feather over
forest and water, and for every person
the body glowing inside the clothes
like a light.

– Mary Oliver, Next Time


Notes: Poem  – Thank you Whiskey River. Photo – Apal’kin (Ukraine) at Paul Apal’kin Photography.

Pirr, a light breath of wind, a cat’s paw on water

Robert-McFarlane

This is a book about the power of language – strong style, single words – to shape our sense of place. […]

The ten following chapters explore writing so fierce in its focus that it can change the vision of its readers for good in both senses. […] A book that brilliantly shows how such seeing might occur in language, written as it is in prose that has ‘the quivering intensity of an arrow thudding into a tree’. And for over a decade I have been collecting place words as I have found them gleaned singly from conversations, correspondences or books, and jotted down in journals or on slips of paper. […]

Many of these terms have mingled oddness and familiarity in the manner that Freud calls uncanny: peculiar in their particularity, but recognizable in that they name something conceivable, if not instantly locatable. Ammil is a Devon term for the fine film of silver ice that coats leaves, twigs and grass when freeze follows thaw, a beautifully exact word for a fugitive phenomenon I have several times seen but never before been able to name. Shetlandic has a word, af’ rug, for the ‘reflex of a wave after it has struck the shore’; another, pirr, meaning ‘a light breath of wind, such as will make a cat’s paw on the water’; and another, klett, for a ‘a low-lying earth-fast rock on the seashore’. On Exmoor, zwer is the onomatopoeic term for the sound made by a covey of partridges taking flight. […]

There are experiences of landscape that will always resist articulation, and of which words offer only a remote echo – or to which silence is by far the best response. Nature does not name itself. Granite does not self-identify as igneous. Light has no grammar. Language is always late for its subject. Sometimes on the top of a mountain I just say, ‘Wow.’

~ Robert Macfarlane, from Chapter 1: “The Word-Hoard” in Landmarks


Note: Portrait –  Wharfedaleobserver

Monday Morning: Let’s Go!

stone-curlew-bird-gif


Source: Biomorphosis.  Stone Curlew incubating eggs. Keeping a low profile is what the stone curlew does best. When confronted with danger these birds either scurry away to cover, or freeze on the spot hoping to blend into the background.

 

It’s been a long day

hair-pony-tails-bird

Once I witnessed a windstorm so severe two 100-year-old trees were uprooted on the spot. The next day, walking among the wreckage, I found the friable nests of birds, completely intact and unharmed on the ground. That the featherweight survive the massive, that this reversal of fortune takes place among us — that is what haunts me. I don’t know what it means.

~ Mary Ruefle, Remarks on Letters from Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures


Notes:

Running. And, slow sailing to a quiet dance.

drum-drumline
It’s a coincidence. (Again?)
It’s synchronicity. (Do you believe that?)
You made it up, you’re delusional. (Not yet, don’t think so, not just yet.)
It’s a sign, a message. It’s G – – . (Oh, boy.)

5:45 am. I round the corner to Cove Island – low tide.  The sulfur released from the exposed mud fills the lungs – gas, pungent smelling salts.

I inhale.

Geese float silently in the shadows.

I run.

I’m around the loop and back, 1/4 mile from the entrance.  GPS flashes 4.1 miles in. I don’t glance at the time, that’s been a year now, I’ve conceded. “Matured.”  Over 25 years of daily tracking of body weight and notating work-outs, first in a log book, then Excel spreadsheets and now Google Sheets.  And also, now, on a parallel path on a digital step tracker which automatically feeds volumes of data into machines and is charted and graphed and spliced into pieces – all of which I never look at.  The logging, the tracking, the effort, I mean Really! WHO CARES?

Yet, the tension pulls at both ends, a medieval body rack tearing the limbs from the torso. Wired to Do, whipped by a Mind that makes you Do and strapped to a Body that can no longer Do. And, the Head swims in rip currents.

[Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: