Tuesday Morning Meditation


My first attempt @ video. Far from awesome, but that won’t distract from the beauty of these Atlantic Brants. I’m smitten.  Cove Island Park @ Daybreak on Sunday.

Walking. Sunday Morning. DK Saves.

Let’s just get to the punch line of this story. (Oh, btw, it’s 724 consecutive (almost) days on my Daybreak walk at Cove Island Park. Like in a Row.)

There it lay.  At the end of my walk. An Atlantic Horseshoe Crab. Flat on its back. Nothing delicate or beautiful about this alien-looking thing. I’m sure its Mother loved it.

Its Telson was slapping back and forth. (Telson = Tail.  And of course I didn’t know that it was called a Telson. Googled it.) Creature was caught way up on the beach, tide shot out, and here we are. In Deep Shit. And you thought you were having a bad day?

I’m staring at the Telson (and yes, I’m going to keep repeating Telson like some career Marine Biologist)…and I’m wondering if its Telson carries electrical current. Or like a skunk, backs up its ass and spews sulfuric sh*t all over my camera gear.  Or like a Cephalopod, shoots ink all over me, seeping into my skin, and poisons me.

Stamford Daily reports: “Idiot found dead on Cove Island Beach trying to save Horseshoe Crab. Good News though, his death wasn’t for naught. It was notable that he was found flat on his back, like the Horseshoe Crab he was trying to save – – his mouth wide open, teeth blackened with Cephalopod ink, with his arms straight up in the air, because no matter what, the camera gear needed to remain undamaged.

Per NatGeo, Horseshoe Crabs have been around for 450 million years. And here I am, Human, around an eye twitch of that time, trying to assess the probability of being electrocuted or poisoned.  I could have pulled out my smartphone and Googled it to be sure…but this gives you a full measure of this man…not a lot of depth, prefers to let the mystery of life and its currents drag him along to the finish. And ‘hopefully’ that Finish isn’t this morning.

So, there I am. Staring down on Horsey.  His limbs and Telson desperately seeking salvation. [Read more…]

Crisis? Go Watch the Rain for 10 minutes.

It rained one morning this week. I moved back to Texas last year, in part for the rainstorms. Here, it rains decisively, gloriously, like it really means it. It explodes, pounds, roars, thunders and then, suddenly, moves on. I stepped on my back porch, not wanting to miss the show.

I sat, silent, smelling that indescribable rain scent and stretching out my hands, palms open in supplication, the same position I use in church to receive communion. The physicality of the experience, the sensual joy of sounds, smells, touch and sight, was profoundly humanizing. In a very real way, I am made for that. I am made to notice the rain. I’m made to love it.

But digitization is changing our relationship with materiality — both the world of nature and of human relationships. We are trained through technology (and technology corporations) to spend more time on screens and less time noticing and interacting with this touchable, smellable, feelable world. Social media in particular trains us to notice that which is large, loud, urgent, trending and distant, and to therefore miss the small, quiet importance of our proximate and limited, embodied lives…

Both Richtel’s article and another article released the same week by The Times highlight the emerging trend of people having romantic relationships with fictional characters, rather than human beings. There is evidence that teenagers are consuming more pornography, even as fewer are having sex. In a piece for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson highlights the growing concern that screen habits are displacing beneficial experiences for kids, noting that compared with the early 2000s, teenagers are less likely to “go out with their friends, get their driver’s license or play youth sports.” They are also less likely to get enough sleep.

“Children today spend less time outdoors than any other generation,” the National Recreation and Park Association reports, “devoting only four to seven minutes to unstructured outdoor play per day while spending an average of seven and a half hours in front of electronic media.” I realized recently that I can identify more apps by sight than species of trees.

We are made to enjoy the physical presence of other human beings. We are made to enjoy rainstorms or sunshine or walks in the woods. We are made to enjoy touchable things. We cannot escape or overcome this need through technology. Our attempts to do so go against the grain of our deepest human needs and longings…

In the same way, I think we are finding that there is something essential and mysterious — dare I say, holy — about human beings interacting in person and with the natural world that simply cannot be replicated in virtual reality.

So what do we do? In his book “Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing,” Andy Crouch writes, “Perhaps the two best beginning moves, for those of us swaddled in affluence and intoxicated by our technology, are into the natural world — the world of stars, snow and rain, trees and deserts — and into the relational world — the world of real bodies and heartbeats, hands and faces.”

Just as people have worked to revive slow, unprocessed and traditional food, we need to fight for the tangible world, for enduring ways of interacting with others, for holism. We need to reconnect with material things: nature, soil, our bodies and other people in real life. This doesn’t necessarily have to be big and dramatic. We don’t have to hurl our computers into the sea en masse.

But we do have to intentionally resist the siren song of digitization, which by and large promises far more than it can deliver. We have to be cautious and wise about introducing devices into our lives that fundamentally change how humans have interacted since time immemorial. We have to plunge ourselves primarily into the natural world and embodied human relationships, with all the complexity, challenges, inconvenience and pain that entails.

Go watch the rain for 10 minutes. Go on a walk with a friend. Get off social media and meet one neighbor. Keep your kids offline. Put your hands in the dirt. Play an instrument instead of a video game. Turn off your smartphone and have dinner with people around a table. Search for beauty and goodness in the material world, and there, find joy. The way back to ourselves, as individuals and a society, runs through old, earthy things.

Tish Harrison Warren, from “We’re in a Loneliness Crisis: Another Reason to Get Off Our Phones” (NY Times, May 1, 2022). Warren is an Anglican priest reflects on matters of faith in private life and public discourse.


Photo: Ahmed Nishaath of Manipal Lake, Udpi, India via Unsplash.

Gazing at the ‘Black Sun’


Gazing at the ‘Black Sun’: The Transfixing Beauty of Starling Murmurations (NY Times, April 4, 2022)

Each spring and autumn, the skies in southern Denmark come to life with the swirling displays of hundreds of thousands of starlings, an event known locally as “sort sol.”

Don’t miss photos and article here.


Thank you Susan.

Unselfing

Beauty, (Iris) Murdoch argues, gave us an opportunity for an “unselfing.” She writes:

I am looking out my window in an anxious and resentful state of mind, oblivious of my surroundings, brooding perhaps on some damage done to my prestige. Then suddenly I observe a hovering kestrel. In a moment everything is altered. The brooding self with its hurt vanity has disappeared. There is nothing now but kestrel. And when I return to thinking of the other matter it seems less important.

Chloé Cooper Jones, Easy Beauty: A Memoir (Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster, April 5, 2022)


Notes:

  • Kestrel. Cardinal. Same. Shot taken of Red Cardinal overhead this morning @ 8 am in backyard.
  • Photos from Daybreak walk this morning here.

Walking. With a sound we do not hear that lifts the birds off the water.

I know it’s them. It has to be them. They’re back. The geese that I followed last year.  The Female that nested on the dock. The Male the hovered nearby offering ongoing protection.

I scan through old posts to find that it’s been almost one year to the day, April 11, 2021: “Nest. Where you make it.”

I pull into the park, my eyes hungrily seek them again. It’s been a week now since I’ve spotted them. There’s no nest on the platform. But they swim, quietly, alone, together.  Waiting, I would guess, for the Moment.

Their Moment. Bigger than the madness in Ukraine. Or the toxicity of Washington. Or the gang shootings in Sacramento.

And it’s Ilya Kaminsky from “That Map of Bone and Opened Valves” that seemed to capture how I felt as I stared down at them:

It’s the air.
Something in the air wants us too much.
The earth is still…
On the fourth day I touch the walls,
feel the pulse of the house and I
stare up wordless and do not know why I am alive…
a sound we do not hear
lifts the birds off the water.


Notes:

Walking. And licking the wounds.

697 days, almost consecutive. Like in a row. This daybreak walk at Cove Island Park.

38° F, feels like 30° F, flashes Dark Sky app. Sorry, but that’s crap. Winds gusting up to 35 mph.

Just look at those clouds overhead in the photo. Even they’re huddled together trying to stay warm.

I’m standing in the exact same spot as my last post. That pure and clean moment. That soul lifting moment, lifting me, elevating me up and over my pesky, 1st world problems.

And here we are, a week later, and I’m feeling nothing. Nothing spiritual. Nothing soul lifting.

Jill Horton’s words are pumping into my earbuds on Audible from her title “We are All Perfectly Fine.” No, we’re not perfectly fine Jill. “What’s that like? It’s like bullshit…it’s like violence to my soul.

So the picture must be crystalizing for you this morning. We’re cold, we’re in a pissy mood, and not really sure why. Why not turn this bus around, suspend this walk, go back home, roll under the covers and sleep it off? Whatever the hell ‘this’ is. But I know that I excel at wallowing in it.

I keep walking.

I pull the hoody (‘hoody’ Dale, not ‘hoodie’, or some other French Canadian separatist derivation) over my head to cut some of this wind. And I pick up the pace to warm these bones.

I walk the breakwall, taking care to avoid the slime, to avoid a headlong tumble, to add to the morning woes.

I hear a scurrying in the stones.

I hit pause on Audible, yank my ear buds out and stop.

[Read more…]

do not walk by without pausing to attend to this rather ridiculous performance

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

—  Mary Oliver, “Invitation” in  A Thousand Mornings (New York: Penguin Books, 2013).


Photo by Joshua J. Cotten of male goldfinch, Backyard, Cordova, TN, USA in October 2021 via unsplash

Cue the World

Cue the waking insects stirring in the leaf litter. Cue the flashing bluebirds swooping from the bare maple branches to glean the insects stirring in the leaf litter. Cue the fox in his magnificent coat shining in the moonlight, his ears pricked, his tail curled perfectly around his beautiful fox feet. Cue the hard brown buds, waiting, waiting, all through winter but just beginning to quiver. Any day now — any day! — they will warm into blossom…

The world is burning, and there is no time to put down the water buckets. For just an hour, put down the water buckets anyway. Take your cue from the bluebirds, who have no faith in the future but who build the future nevertheless, leaf by leaf and straw by straw, shaping them and turning them into a sheltering roundness perfectly fitted to the contours of the future they are making.

Turn your face up to the sky. Listen. The world is shivering into possibility. The world is reminding us that this is what the world does best. New life. Rebirth. The greenness that rises out of ashes.

— Margaret Renkl, from “What to Do With Spring’s Wild Joy in a Burning World” (NY Times, March 12, 2022)


22° F, feels like 7° F.  Cue your World anytime up here Margaret. (Photo: DK @ Cove Island Park, May 4, 2021.)

Sunday Morning

Each babbling brook delivers the Buddha’s sermons. Countless thousands of poems flow, one after an­ other, day and night, Without a single word being spoken.

Open up to hear to each of Nature’s sounds. Reflect on Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi’s sage advice about how to sharpen your sense of hearing while you’re on an ocean beach: “There, if you’re alert, you can hear the tide turn.”

Remain alert to hear bird songs. Don’t think, Self-consciously, “I’m listening to that bird.” There’s no need for you to insert your Self back into that explicit role. You don’t need to be some person inside who remains actually conscious of striving to do the listening. Instead, allow your ears just to hear its notes directly. Just Hearing.

Consider all the other delightful surprises of be­ coming a bird watcher. Gaze up to follow distant birds in flight. Notice how raptors soar effortlessly, aided by the wind. In contrast, flocks of shorebirds, like the golden plover, wheel, twist, and dive in unison. Bird sightings tap into our most primitive instincts and sentiments.

James H. Austin, from “Meditating Selflessly: Practical Neural Zen


Gull @ Daybreak. 6:25 am, Feb 21, 2022. 30° F, feels like 22° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. More pictures from this morning here.

 

Miracle. All of it. (Take 103)

The first shot of her was taken yesterday. Mid-morning. The others, from this morning.

I went back out yesterday after my daybreak walk, the winds were howling. Like I hadn’t had enough of this?

She was 50 yards out.  She spotted me, and there was no doubt of her intentions. Human, Food.  She tried to crawl up onto the ice and get to the shoreline. Unsuccessful.  I walked further down, she was in full pursuit, like she was panicked that I would leave. Come on Man, I’m hungry.  I kept walking. She followed. I had nothing on me. Nothing.

I turned, got into the car, didn’t look back. Couldn’t look back.  You do know that feeding them is wrong, right?

It was colder this morning when I went out. Much colder.

A large part of the cove was frozen over.

She was on my mind.  She hangs with a flock of Canada Geese. I haven’t seen her mate in months, likely basking in the Gulf of California.

And there she was.  Sleeping soundly. Ice solidly formed around her.

And I stand, watching.

She responds to a whistle, but I couldn’t disturb her.  Both hands in my pockets, the right scooping half a cup of itty bitty Nyjer seedlings, which I sift through my fingers.

Another day Girl. Another Day.


Notes:

  • Photos: DK @ Daybreak. 6:24 to 7:19 am, January 30, 2022. 9° F, feels like -2° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT Other photos from this morning here. Related Swan posts: Swan1
  • Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.

Walking. Quiet with Highsmith.

6:00 a.m. Forget the preamble. Take my word for it. It’s cold.

I twist in my ear buds and cue up Patricia Highsmith’s 1000 page diary on Audible. I’m 900 pages in, the home stretch.  It’s late August, she’s living in France: “My French house is like my life and body. The garden represents work, very hard work, never perfect, never finished, and I find there is hardly one day a year when I can say, ‘It all looks nice.’

I think about this for a moment, nodding, in full agreement with the metaphor, and work.

I sit in the car, building up the energy to step out in the cold. And she continues, and has me twisting on a follow-on post: “Work is the only thing of importance or joy in life. Trouble begins when one pauses to consider what one has done.”  I noodle on both ends of this sandwich and get out of the car.  Too deep, too early in the morning.

I walk. Shuffling in my Sorel boots, counterclockwise around the park. The Connecticut-Chinook at my back.

The curtain is preparing to rise at 7:10.

It’s Quiet.

This has to have been a transforming practice – almost two years of quietness,” a friend on FB posits.

I stand looking out over the horizon. The blues. The oranges. The yellows. And all of it blending and shimmering on the water. A Rothko-looking exhibit.

And then I’m back to Highsmith in the 1970’s: “With greater universal education, there is paradoxically greater stupidity. One gets further from the land and nature, instead of being in harmony with it, as were our less educated forebears. We now read about pills and take them—and are afraid to give an honest belch.”

Transformation & Quiet & Harmony.

Hmmmm. 

You know DK, you may have gotten this Thing right.

 


Note: (1) DK @ Daybreak. 6:36 to 6:50 am, January 27, 2022. 12° F, feels like 9° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. More of this morning photos here. (2) Rothko was described by Sawsan!

Walking. Who but an imbecile?

5:00 a.m.  Glance at weather app. 10° F, feels like Hell frozen over. Wind gusts up to 30 mph.  Every ligament and nerve ending in the body is screaming, No! Stay under the covers.

But Duty calls. That magnetic pull. To what, for what, God only knows. But it pulls.

I’m sitting in the car at Cove Island Park, and, yes, the heater blows on my feet.

I twist in my ear buds and cue up Patricia Highsmith’s 1000 page diary on Audible. I’m 800 pages in and she grumbles: “Who but an imbecile would have chosen such a hard way?

I step out.  A wind gust greets my start. Both eye balls gush water in defense. And they keep draining. Must be another one of these old age blessings, sh*t leaking oil from all orifices.

Bela called it. “It can be below zero, and I can go out in crocs if it’s dry…But if there’s moisture in the air, you can never warm up below 30F.” Yep, Bela. Here we stand.  Frigid wind (Chinook the Albertan’s call it, except wet) blowing off Long Island Sound, and it’s ripping right through my North Face gear. I’m coated with 3 layers from head to toe, except for the face which is exposed. Face-lift, no charge, God-Styling.

I walk.

I take the loop with the wind at my back. (I’m not a total imbecile.) [Read more…]

Wait…


Imgur: Falcon, by Dave Mcarthy

Walking. With Agnes.

“You can walk. This is a gift. You can breathe and you can think and you can navigate a long room and sit with an old woman and ask questions about what life and art really mean. This is what they really mean: They are happening right now. They are happening to you and those in this world right now. And life and the arts and the people to whom they are happening are gifts to you, family for you. Embrace them. Listen to them. Navigate the long room to get to them and ask questions and listen and argue and create.

“There is so much beauty to see and to feel. Right now.

“Walk! Move your arms! Breathe!

“Get out and get to the life that is happening.”

Agnes de Mille, from an Interview with James Grissom in 1989 titled: “Agnes de Mille: Get to the Life”. She was 85 at the time of the interview.


Notes:

No religion except…

…No religion except whatever Mary Oliver had going on.


Notes:

  • Quote: Monkcore.
  • T-Shirt: Online Ceramics
  • Inspired by: “Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these— the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made out of grass?” —  Mary Oliver, from “Mindful” in “Why I Wake Early” (via Alive on All Channels)

Trees and water. Simple and beautiful. Beautiful and simple.

The water had been so cold. Its coldness seemed to spread not only from my throat and into my thorax, but also from the cavity of my mouth and into my head. But it was a different coldness than was in the air. This one was pleasant, as if smoothing and enfolding. And what was inside me became clearer to me, too. My heart beating with such simple beauty. The blood streaming to every part of my body. Yes, the blood streaming, the heart beating, and the emotions too, likewise of such simple beauty, diffusing in a different way from the blood, moving more like shadows on the ground when the sun passed behind a cloud, suddenly to re-emerge, flooding everything, first in one way, which was joy, then in another, which was sadness. And all as the heart beat and beat. And the trees grew, the water ran, the moon shone, the sun burned. The heart and the blood. Joy and sadness. Trees and water. Simple and beautiful. Beautiful and simple.

Karl Ove Knausgaard, The Morning Star: A Novel. (Martin Aitken, Translator.) (Penguin Press, September 28, 2021)


Notes:

Miracle. All of It.

For the purposes of the book, Robin, who desperately believes in the sanctity of life beyond himself, begs his father for these nighttime, bedtime stories, and Theo gives him easy travel to other planets. Father and son going to a new planet based on the kinds of planets that Theo’s science is turning up and asking this question, what would life look like if it was able to get started here? And what would that change in our sense of who we are and where we’ve been dropped down?

And they make this journey across the universe through all kinds of incubators, all kinds of petri dishes for life and the possibilities of life. And rather than answer the question — so where is everybody? — it keeps deferring the question, it keeps making that question more subtle and stranger. And I wasn’t sure where I would go with this ultimately in the book. And one thing I kept thinking about that didn’t make it into the final book but exists as a kind of parallel story in my own head is the father and son on some very distant planet in some very distant star, many light years from here, playing that same game. And the father saying, OK, now imagine a world that’s just the right size, and it has plate tectonics, and it has water, and it has a nearby moon to stabilize its rotation, and it has incredible security and safety from asteroids because of other large planets in the solar system.

Imagine that everything happens just right so that every square inch of this place is colonized by new forms of experiments, new kinds of life. And the father trying to entertain his son with the story of this remarkable place in the sun just stopping him and saying, Dad, come on, that’s asking too much. Get real, that’s science fiction. That’s the vision that I had when I finished the book, an absolutely limitless sense of just how lucky we’ve had it here.

— Richard Powers, from Ezra Klein’s Podcast Interview titled “This Conversation With Richard Powers Is a Gift.” (September, 28, 2021, The New York Times)


Notes: (1) The podcast and/or transcript is long but worthy.  (2) Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. (3) Photo Credit

Sunday Morning

I love the natural world and I never ceased to see it. The beauty of trees and fields, of hills and streams, of the changing colours, of the small creatures so busy and occupied. My long hours walking or sitting in the field with my back against the wall, watching the clouds and the weather, allowed me some steadiness. It was because I knew all this would be there when I was not that I thought I could go. The world was beautiful. I was a speck in it.

Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Grove Press, March 6, 2012)


DK @ Daybreak. 6:00 to 7:05 am. September 19, 2021. 68° F & Breezy. Nantucket, MA.

It is a one-way trip

It is a one-way trip.

Each moment of life is a an irreplaceable jewel. If we could carry death on our left shoulder the way Carlos Castaneda suggests and treat every moment as the treasure it is, we would never waste our lives being angry, or petty. We would treat each encounter with a person or a place as the last one. Life continues to change, and with that change we evolve into something new. It doesn’t make what was before wrong but it is gone forever…

I think living here has for me been an opportunity to see this cyclic nature of seasons and yet every season is different. Certainly, I am different with each season.

At the end of my long life what I have discovered is that there are no ordinary days.

—  Jean Aspen, Arctic Daughter: A Lifetime of Wilderness (2018)


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