Song Lines

Listen. A voice inside you is singing. You are following your song lines, you are singing the world and the land into being as you walk upon it.

We are surrounded by teachers: the path we take, the wind, the people on the street, the people in our lives, the one who makes us crazy, the one we admire, the one we envy, the one we pity, our peaceful feeling, our desperation, the goldenrod, the baby’s breath.

There are times when the sky is so blue and the clouds so soft at their frayed edges, that it all hardly seems real. Sometimes the magic of the sun shining on water makes us wonder how we’ll ever leave this place. Sometimes it’s “how will I do this, how will this work, this can’t be happening, I can’t do this anymore, I’m so tired, this is my life”. Meanwhile the sun rises, incredibly, and moves across the sky. The wind blows, incredibly. A bird sings, incredibly.

If your eyes shift to the rearview mirror for too long, you risk crashing into what’s in front of you. Time to go on walkabout again. Time to return to the song lines. Time to just be, time to remember every step is taken on a frail sheet of glass. Everything we do, we do while standing on a falling snowflake. Every time we give up is a new beginning.

So you arrive, from your long and arduous climb, at the platform where your voice has been waiting for you, and you know the sound of it. You know the lines of the song you are following. You are an instrument, the music of the land moving through you as you sing it into being. Alone as you are, you shall be with all the world.

 

Induction

Yesterday morning I got up and went to work.  By 6:30 I had ten pounds of orzo rolling at a gentle boil in two large pots of salted water with a bit of olive oil, stirring often with a huge wooden spoon, rubbing its head against the bottom of the pots every two minutes.  Left untended, orzo has a tendency to settle and stick.  Once it sticks, it begins to scorch, infusing the entire batch of pasta with a burnt odor and flavor.

Once the orzo had been drained, shocked in ice water, drained again, lightly oiled and put away to be mixed with other ingredients later, I got a rondeau of risotto going.  You know the deal: arborio, onions, butter, wine, vegetable stock, beat out the starch, yaddah-yaddah.  While I hunched over the wide shallow French-style pot and stirred the Italian-style rice porridge, the world kept turning, exploding in my imagination with its ten-thousand things.

That was yesterday.  This is today.  So this morning I ask myself, is there a way?  Is there a way I can be here, in this place, a little easier?  And still wanting to know everything without needing to know anything?  I pray those who need rest will get it.  I pray those who need food will have it.  I hope those who struggle to lift their heads might find that quiet strength.  I hope those who crackle with electric energy may continue to burn long into their nights and days, wrapped in the cloak of their own naked fire.

Am I half asleep?  How does this come to me?  It comes to me as I pass stacked boxes of bananas at dawn, as I pass young women running with braided hair, heaps of black garbage bags, tired men collecting cans, dogs, hipsters, strollers being pushed, buses, bicycles, a Dominican barbershop.  It comes to me as if I have plucked at the edge of a web, and the creature at its heart is New York, and the creature has woken while I move along one of its sticky strands.

 

Raise Your Spirit

Autumn comes quickly to the north, casting its line without effort into the deepest parts of the land, making ripples where the summer was, coaxing the world to the threshold of intimacy. The golden glow that suffused so many skins will fade away like a promise made in June, a fling had in July, a perfect peach eaten in August.

Those who turned their faces faithfully toward the sun, flower-like, must now consider the surface of the earth and step in frosty dew. Those who slept naked among the stars and woke in pools of celestial haze must now return to the world and – sadly – cover themselves.

It’s as if the cycle of seasons has me living two lives. One is soft, warm, easy on the flesh, taking a little sting out of gravity. The other is rough, unyielding, ages me faster. I tremble before each change comes, shudder with expectancy of heat and light and what it gives me, or in dread of cold and dark and what it takes.

The border dividing seasons is easy to miss, coming, as it does, in a moment specific to each of us. My summer does not end with yours. Your autumn begins on a different day than mine. So raise your eyes from your screen, your book, your thighs, the floor. Raise your head from the pillow, the noise, the smoke of your days burning.

Raise your spirit up and witness how it feels to be forever in the moment – the moment containing all things, the moment empty of all things, the unmeasured moment of all eternity, the one passing moment of your whole life.

Going Sane

Forgive me for being so plain, but all things aside – including the alchemy of eternity being the steady stream of each moment pouring into the next – my purpose for being here today is to plunge into the water, as far as I can tell.

This lake, viewed from the sky, takes the shape of a long crooked finger. Or you can go higher, to where the atmosphere brushes its backbone up against space, to see that finger as a fleshless bone. But from here, submerged in the warm and cool pockets of earth’s embryonic fluid, the lake is smooth, polished, for the moment undisturbed, except for the fading ripples made by me. It exists in a moment of perfect silence sought by many, found by few. If you listen closely enough, you can hear it whispering:

“May my breath be your breath. My heat, yours. My fluid strength, my supple resilience, yours. May you give up your crowded loneliness to me, press me to your forehead as a cool cloth easing a fever. Nothing but the chest can contain the heart, nothing can protect it but the rib cage.”

The lake’s words ring true. Sometimes the walls of alone-ness press in on us, even as we long for solitude. Sometimes we long for something we think we don’t have. Sometimes we forget that we too are part of nature – that we, too, are included in this thing that so often astounds us.

 

On This Umbilical Earth

Gratitude and I had an argument, then went walking together, that morning when I felt a kinship with those turtles sunning themselves on a log.

The wisdom of not being industrious truly belongs to them, but I picked up a strand of it as if by osmosis or magnetism.

To cast aside all that seems necessary at a given time – a choice not to be confused with squandering.

Given, as is all our time.  Every scrap of it a shining gift, a new blessing, another last chance to take up a little space, to take up some room

on this umbilical earth.

 

Above Taughannock Falls

Viewed from the sky, the circle in which you expedite your daily life is a speck on the surface of the planet. But that doesn’t mean you’re any less the center of the universe than anything else. We are all whiling away the What Has Been, the What Is, and the What Is To Be, hurtling forward through our small lives with all their small details.

Maybe that’s why I was so relieved when, the other day, you coaxed me out of the car to walk through a tropical downpour, the defibrillator of thunder charging my arrhythmia back to life. How does apprehension unfold into exhilaration so seamlessly?

If given the chance, it can, and it will.

I followed you to the rain-ripened creek and we sank in, the seam of the water rising to meet our throats. You sang a lullaby, siren-like, and I – half drunk sailor – was caught by it. We held each other beneath the soft water and the rain left us. The sun returned, its dazzle commanding our attention as steam rose from stones. A billowing thunderhead shifted against the blue, reminding you of New Mexico’s big sky.

Emerging, we drip-dried below whispering treetops. A rustling wind made friends with us then, a wind whose kind voice suggested I view all things with sleepy eyes. Standing there with you, I thought I might be riding some sort of stationary current, aware of external motion from the vantage point of perfect stillness.

Standing there with you, I leapt from the fire of doing into the cradle of not-doing, the two places rubbing together and making sparks.

 

Listless

Every day I make a list of things that need to be done, things that might slip through the fine mesh net of short-term memory.

Today, the list contained more items than I could possibly accomplish.  So I did what you might expect – I pushed it down into the folds of my left-hand pocket, tightened up my shoes and went walking instead, to space out and observe a planet that happens to be a perfect distance from this particular sun in order for life to exist and thrive.  I took along a pen and paper, because when you’re panning for gold, you never know what you might find.

Later, when I empty my pockets for the day, I’ll look over the list again, to see what must be transferred to tomorrow’s list.  Some items might no longer ring with such importance, and will simply be discarded.  And of course I’ll need to consider what standing I’m in with the relatives I failed to call, friends I didn’t message, professional contacts I never emailed, bills I didn’t pay, appointments I missed.

Then I’ll go outside and watch the last strands of milky light recede beyond the treetops, revealing steadfast Jupiter like a celestial anchor.  And a little ways over in the sky, the ember of Mars rocking in a luminous cradle.

And then, as if that isn’t enough, the fireflies will come out with their earthbound constellation of flashing lamps, and I’ll hear the neighbor cooking dinner through her open kitchen window.