Sunday, April 30, 2017

We Will End The Month With The Poem That Ends Mary Oliver's Book, Thirst

It is also called Thirst.

Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the
hour and the bell; grant me, in your
mercy, a little more time. Love for the
earth and love for you are having such a
long conversation in my heart. Who
knows what will finally happen or
where I will be sent, yet already I have
given a great many things away, expect-
ing to be told to pack nothing, except the
prayers which, with this thirst, I am
slowly learning.

I hope you have enjoyed this journey through April with poetry. On Wednesday, back to prose!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

 (This weekend quenched my thirst for spring on a formation retreat in Villa Maria, PA.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Beginners

Beginners
Denise Levertov

(Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla)

"From too much love of living, 
Hope and desire set free, 
Even the weariest river 
Winds somewhere to the sea—"

But we have only begun
To love the earth.

We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
— so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?
— we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision

how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.

Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet—
there is too much broken
that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Right Use of Power

We will begin with a haiku:
New buds of springtime
Prophets and mystics abound
Tell of future time



And then a poem -- by Robert Walser:
Presumably no one minds
that the woods are greening again,
that meadows are full of grass,
that birds are singing in the trees,
that violets are blooming from the dirt.
Hundreds and thousands of green leaves!
Spring is a field marshal
who conquers the world,
and no one holds a grudge.


Let us walk in the holy presence.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Old Escapes Into The New"

A Purification
Wendell Berry

At the start of spring I open a trench
in the ground. I put into it
the winter's accumulation of paper,
pages I do not want to read
again, useless words, fragments,
errors. And I put into it
the contents of the outhouse:
light of the sun, growth of the ground,
finished with one of their journeys.
To the sky, to the wind, then,
and to the faithful trees, I confess
my sins: that I have not been happy
enough, considering my good luck;
have listened to too much noise;
have been inattentive to wonders;
have lusted after praise.
And then upon the gathered refuse
of mind and body, I close the trench,
folding shut again the dark,
the deathless earth. Beneath that seal
the old escapes into the new.

I love seeing the old and the new mingle. I caught a glimpse of this on the hydrangea bushes that lead into the side door of the monastery. You can see the old flowers living together with the green buds, all living deeply into the transformation process.

May we be willing to do the same. Amen. Alleluia.


Let us walk into the holy presence.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Exultet

Shake out your qualms. 
Shake up your dreams. 
Deepen your roots. 
Extend your branches. 
Trust deep water 
and head for the open, 
even if your vision 
shipwrecks you. 
Quit your addiction 
to sneer and complain. 
Open a lookout. 
Dance on a brink. 
Run with your wildfire. 
You are closer to glory 
leaping an abyss 
than upholstering a rut. 
Not dawdling. 
Not doubting. 
Intrepid all the way 
Walk toward clarity. 
At every crossroad 
Be prepared 
to bump into wonder. 
Only love prevails. 
En route to disaster 
insist on canticles. 
Lift your ineffable 
out of the mundane. 
Nothing perishes; 
nothing survives; 
everything transforms! 
Honeymoon with Big Joy!

-James Broughton-

Nature proclaimed its own Exultet when I went for a morning walk yesterday. Alleluia!





Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Two Poems

Walk Slowly
Danna Faulds

It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still and just like that,
something in me settles, softens,
makes space for imperfection. The harsh
voice of judgment drops to a whisper
and I remember again that life isn’t a relay race;
that we will all cross the finish line;
that waking up to life is what we were born for.
As many times as I forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I am going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, to be and walk
slowly into the mystery.


Here The Water's Music
Tere Sievers

There is only one way, aging beauties,
to go down this river,
to hear the water's music over the rocks,
to find a loving I, Thou, Who.
I say, spring out of the boat,
jump in naked, tender,
with your ferocious heart torn open.


This past week we reached Chapter 72 in my study of the Rule of Benedict. Although there are seventy-three chapters, Chapter 72, The Good Zeal of Monastics, is very much a grand send-off from Benedict:

Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life. This, then, is the good zeal which members must foster with fervent love: "They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Romans 12:10)," supporting with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No one is to pursue what she judges better for herself, but instead, what she judges better for someone else. Among themselves they show the pure love of sisters; to God, reverent love; to their prioress, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us all together to everlasting life.

As I read these two poems, both of which I love for different reasons, something in each resonated with good zeal. In the first poem:

and I remember again that life isn’t a relay race;
that we will all cross the finish line;
that waking up to life is what we were born for.

And in the second poem:

I say, spring out of the boat,
jump in naked, tender,
with your ferocious heart torn open.

We experience and share good zeal in many forms. Benedict writes about obedience, respect, patience, and love. As I find examples of good zeal in multiple spaces, I am reminded to wake up to all life, to keep my whole heart torn open, to always ready my eyes and my ears -- to remember to seek and spread good zeal, especially in the unexpected.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Poem: Gratitude by Mary Oliver

What did you notice?

The dew-snail;
the low-flying sparrow;
the bat, on the wind, in the dark;
big-chested geese, in the V of sleekest performance;
the soft toad, patient in the hot sand;
the sweet-hungry ants;
the uproar of mice in the empty house;
the tin music of the cricket’s body;
the blouse of the goldenrod.

What did you hear?

The thrush greeting the morning;
the little bluebirds in their hot box;
the salty talk of the wren,
then the deep cup of the hour of silence.

When did you admire?

The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit;
the carrot, rising in its elongated waist;
the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the pale green wand;
at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid beauty of the flowers;
then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost.

What astonished you?

The swallows making their dip and turn over the water.

What would you like to see again?

My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness,
her language beyond all nimbleness of tongue,
her recklessness, her loyalty, her sweetness,
her strong legs, her curled black lip, her snap.

What was most tender?


Queen Anne’s lace, with its parsnip root;
the everlasting in its bonnets of wool;
the kinks and turns of the tupelo’s body;
the tall, blank banks of sand;
the clam, clamped down.

What was most wonderful?


The sea, and its wide shoulders;
the sea and its triangles;
the sea lying back on its long athlete’s spine.

What did you think was happening?

The green beast of the hummingbird;
the eye of the pond;
the wet face of the lily;
the bright, puckered knee of the broken oak;
the red tulip of the fox’s mouth;
the up-swing, the down-pour, the frayed sleeve of the first snow—

so the gods shake us from our sleep.


And Val responds:

What did you notice?
The daffodils bowing to one another in a most unlikely place.


What did you hear?
A hauntingly beautiful version of Stabat Mater calling us into Holy Week during liturgy.

When did you admire?
The forsythia's strength through winter's last stand on Friday.


What astonished you?
The unexpected Magnolia blooms.


What would you like to see again?
The blue, blue lake.

What was most tender?
Watching the children sleep.

What was most wonderful?
A long Sabbath bike ride.

What did you think was happening?
God was taking care of everything.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Poem: Messenger

Messenger
by Mary Oliver


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
     equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
     keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
     astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
     and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
     to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
     that we live forever.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

See how many Dark-eyed Juncos you can spot in the budding shrub out my window!
Thanks to a sister for the bird identification poster -- very helpful!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I think I have already declared other times of the year the most wonderful here on the blog, but April must be held in high consideration. Why? Well, it is National Poetry Month, of course! As I did last year, I will post a poem in each entry for the month. Here is one that is quite a reality check for me. This is a poem titled Understory. The poet is Mark Nepo.

I’ve been watching stars
rely on the darkness they
resist. And fish struggle with
and against the current. And
hawks glide faster when their
wings don’t move.

Still I keep retelling what
happens till it comes out
the way I want.

We try so hard to be the
main character when it is
our point of view that
keeps us from the truth.

The sun has its story
that no curtain can stop.

It’s true. The only way beyond
the self is through it. The only
way to listen to what can never
be said is to quiet our need
to steer the plot.

When jarred by life, we might
unravel the story we tell ourselves
and discover the story we are in,
the one that keeps telling us.

Perhaps Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot goes nicely with this...

"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.


It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

Let us walk in the holy presence.

(c/o palebluedotltd.com)