No Rush

You don’t have to rush.  You don’t have to be in such a hurry all the time.  You don’t have to feel pulled in a hundred different directions.  It’s only the energy of the society around you, and has nothing to do with the conversation your life makes with the world.

When you give up the habit of rushing and the need to be in control, it creates space in you for peace.

Notice how any system has rules and limitations, and must operate within its own boundaries in order to control effectively.  Notice how weak – or how strong – any single aspect of a system becomes when approached in a non-systematic way, or when it is removed from the system to which it belongs, revealing just how limiting a system can be.

Fear, desire, and the need to be in control are like obstructions in a river, blocking the full potential of the water’s flow.  You can always be less rigid and more fluid, less like stone and more like water.

To live less systematically – and let go of the rush – is to allow the space and flexibility for peace to flow more abundantly into your life.

 

“May I be the tiniest nail

in the house of the universe.

Tiny, but useful.”

Mary Oliver

 

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Reception

Friends, I toss myself aside for you.  I become available for you.  I eat, drink, mumble, run hands through hair for you, scramble down the gulch for you, carry wood, fold socks, scrub pots, ever-fearless, requiring nothing.

These are not the days of time’s inhalation pulling way up under the world’s collarbones, stitching together the fibers of dream and memory.  These are days of emptying the mind, distilling the essence.

Friends, what does it matter if the world hears your voice?  We all belong to each other. Your voice is here, mine is here: as wild, small, and equal in worth as any other.

The voice is in your heart and so the world’s heart knows it, as surely as you know the heart of the world and hear its voice also, as surely as there is perfect stillness in the eye of the storm.

We listen for the voice with all the power of our deepest listening,  as if our line is cast before the coming of a great fish, a sudden tug is felt through our hands, and our withered husks give rise to some new possibility, somewhere between dusk and our return journey.

 

Binoculars

Look too long at faraway things and you lose sight of where you are right now.  Desire and fear are pulling you in ten-thousand directions.

There are other forces.

You can turn more inside, see yourself more closely, as if through binoculars.  Just pause, listen, and feel.

 

 

Many Brothers

Connection erases age, weakens constraints, strengthens the bond of brotherhood.

I have crossed many valleys. I have loved many brothers.

Treetops creak and bang the way the screen door did in my own lost boyhood.

A wind has risen.  Dying leaves pray for us all as they descend, knowing how to honor their own wisdom.

A final stretch of weather will come, driving me into the finger-shaped lake, but today is bitter enough to invite stillness.  Today is northern tundra, Canadian coastline.

I puff and snort the way my grandfather once did, hiding an empty wine bottle among indifferent stones.

Backbone

This poem first appeared in Red River Review in 2013.

Backbone

A favorite thing of mine, he said,

is a hot drink in early morning,

taken to cut through phlegm

and shake rust out of the brain,

usually around six o’clock.

 

And then to have a walk, he said,

in the company of my brothers and sisters-

the river, forest, sky and stone,

all that is natural upon the earth.

 

And then to have a swim, he said,

whenever and wherever possible,

to awaken the pores,

refresh the mind,

and again make the brave attempt

to view the world without judgment.

 

And then to have a nap, he said,

to gain the healing daytime rest

that helps prevent diseases of the body,

to dream of sex and other wildness,

to dream of perfect silence.

 

And then to do some work, he said,

a few hours of honest work,

whittling away at whatever the project might be,

all the while grateful

for eyes, ears, lungs, hands and heart.

 

And then to die, he said,

to die a little bit each day

because that is what we owe to life,

what those who came before us had to do.

And though we may not live as they did,

it does not change it.

 

Cooperation

The waterfall,

with all its power

and noise,

took none of the majesty

from the small stones

downstream.

And the stones,

in turn,

borrowed no wisdom

from the waterfall.

The two only

respected each other.

 

Circles

If I didn’t have to go to work today, I’d write a clever turn-of-phrase or a cryptic suggestion only you would understand the meaning of. I’d spend my time among the dead, paying my respects with a few well-put-together lines destined to become a classic. I’d write a poem for you because you’ve been on my mind lately, maybe even work on the novel that’s been sitting in a shoebox on the floor in the corner behind the desk for half as long as it takes children to grow up and finish school.

I’d write about the sideways snow going on and on, the unexpected cruelty of someone who was once a dear friend, the weaving and un-weaving of music leaving an indentation where it makes contact. I’d consider how writing, women, and weather can all be fickle and tough to predict. I’d consider how, of all the woodpiles I’ve seen, the German beehive requires the most patience and is a thing of beauty.

I’d mull over all my fears and desires, go for a walk, stare out a window, hope I might be of use to someone by the time my head meets a pillow, contemplate my dream about Paul Simon where I attended the opening night of a play he wrote, and afterward we sat and quietly drank pint-glasses of beer, me telling him how much his music meant to me that time I rode the bus in the rain. He understood and – of course – will be coming for Christmas.

Whether I have to go to work today or not, I’ll remember nothing has ever been mine to claim – all is given, even my name. I’ll not forget I’m blessed, palms pressing together in front of my heart. I’ll take a look at all the circles in which I’ve lived, gain some perspective, as if seeing them from the tiny window of a passenger plane with my forehead pressed against the glass. And, pulling the sword of my life from the stone of the world, my heart might recall how to make the much larger circle of a thank-you spoken in the wordless language of peace.