Encounter by Czeslaw Milosz

 

We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.

A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.

One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,

Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going

The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.

I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.

 

1936

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way: A Poem by Mary Oliver

Enjoy the simplicity and beauty of the splendid Mary Oliver….

If you’re John Muir you want trees to live among.

If you’re Emily, a garden

will do.

Try to find the right place for yourself.

If you can’t find it, at least dream of it.

When one is alone and lonely, the body

gladly lingers in the wind or the rain,

or splashes into the cold river, or

pushes through the ice-crusted snow.

Anything that touches.

God, or the gods are invisible, quite

understandable. But holiness is visible,

entirely.

Some words will never leave God’s mouth,

no matter how hard you listen.

In all the works of Beethoven, you will

not find a single lie.

All important ideas must include the trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

To understand many things you must reach out

of your own condition.

For how many years did I wander slowly

through the forest. What wonder and

glory I would have missed had I ever been

in a hurry!

Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still

it explains nothing.

The point is, you’re you, and that’s for keeps.

1601077_947092301970593_489434899420269090_n

Shark Toilet, Shark Totem

SharkToilet

This shark toilet is so grotesque that I feel obligated to balance the horror with a little spirituality.

If you’re obsessed with sharks like I am, you might have wondered why they manifest in your dreams, plague your waking thoughts and perhaps even haunt your toilet.

Check out this fascinating discussion about shark symbolism.

It may inspire you to start a new religion.

The Path of Playing Cards (Or the Gospel of Salty Junk)

On Tuesday afternoon, walking to the parking garage after work I passed a perpetually trash-strewn patch of plants and stopped to free a Macy’s bag impaled on a  thorny branch. Grumbling with fatigue, heat and misanthropy, I snatched the bag and tossed it in a trash can, not feeling quite self-righteous enough to recycle. 

In the trash barrel, I noticed a tiny card from a children’s game. Delighted, I snatched this vintage treasure from the bland refuse that surrounded it. The illustration showed a fisherman hauling a net of blurry colored trash from the edge of an unseen sea. I found the title vaguely obscene: Salty Junk. I couldn’t imagine where the hell this old sod had come from. All I thought of was a haunting story I’d read in the New York Times about the debris field left by the Malaysian plane that crashed in the Ukriane, how the writer reconstructed passenger stories through objects: Bali guidebooks, passports and a scattered deck of children’s playing cards. 

I tried to engineer a reverse synchronicity in my mind to make the discovery feel inevitable. Hadn’t I just been thinking of how I’d make all of these entries into a book?  Hadn’t I just been thinking, how much I’d actually enjoyed cleaning the little piles of dead balloons and tar balls off the beach, especially when my friends came with me? Could the universe, my throbbing narcissism insisted, maybe be acknowledging me for my own modest harvests of salty junk? 

My love for piles of free and abandoned things aside, I don’t know why this little card had the force of revelation to me. I dug through the can, but found no other tiny red cards among the Subway wrappers and coffee cups.

The Wednesday walk to my car was similarly uneventful. But today, past the trash can where the concrete sidewalk curves up the hill, I found another tiny red card  face down on the ground. I turned it over as if awaiting a revelation from the Tarot. There she was: Wacky Witch like some emissary from childhood classrooms dressed up for the New England fall, the green faced dime-store hag with cat, owl and cauldron, her leering face somewhere between a comic strip and a tribal mask.  I scanned the brush for more cards, but found nothing. To what scattered and abandoned game these old icons belong I will never know. But I sensed their odd, intermittent path was something I was meant to follow. 

saltyjunkWackyWitch

My Very First Shark Breach

Okay, first off thanks again to Peter Eisenhauer for shooting, editing and sharing these great videos of a truly magical time in South Africa.

Please excuse my orgiastic screams. This was the first shark breach I ever saw so I got a little carried away. After a few more breaches, I was able to tame my insanity into manageable sighs of awe.  

South Africa: Part Deux

I am trying to write and remember more about South Africa, before the memories take on the feelings of dreams, before mundane realities of day-to-day life in L.A. eclipse my beautiful visions.

Here are a few things I can’t stop thinking about:

1. The time I felt most sacred: when a stray piece of bait floated in through the viewing window of the cage. No shark in sight, but I instantly flung the fish head back out into the water just the same.

2. My first full day in South Africa it rained. Apex kindly arranged a wine-tasting tour for us. It felt funny getting slightly drunk on very fragrant wines so early in the day, but I managed to get through it. At one winery near Stellenbosch(?) I stood next to a roaring fire, petting a fat, contented calico cat. A group of school kids on a field trip tramped into the room and collapsed on chairs around the fireplace.  They were probably only about 15, but holding their glasses (each one with a swallow of gold in the bottom), scarves wrapped about their necks, they looked impossibly sophisticated. As one lovely dark-haired girl approached me, I had that incredibly rare and warm feeling that I was acting in a scene from a movie. I told her that “my fellow Americans” and I had come to South Africa to see the sharks. She looked wistful. “Once I went diving with ragged tooths. One shark was pregnant and as the sun slanted on the water, I could see her babies inside.” She looked so happy remembering this, her cheeks flush with the fire. A dashing schoolboy approached us, gently breaking her reverie. Maybe it was the wine, but everything felt effortless and scripted at the same time. “Do you mind if we take a photo with you and your friends?” he asked. “It’s not every day that we meet Americans.”

3. On my last day at sea, the swells were high and dark. We weren’t sure if the sharks would come. But they did. Standing on the deck of the boat, as the dark water rose around us, and a near 15-foot shark surfaced near the side,  I felt empty in the most beautiful sense of the word: empty of everything except the moment of witnessing: the fin, and tall, sharp tail, then the shark itself, turning on its side, white belly flashing in the sun, jaws opening, closing, then sinking beneath the waves again.

4. Looking at the eye of the shark as it swam close to the cage and feeling recognition, but not knowing if this meant that the shark saw me, or I saw myself in it.

5. All the terrific people I met: Chris and Monique Fallows the most gracious hosts and enthusiastic naturalists in the world, Renee and all the great people at Apex Predators, Carrie from New Hampshire with her bright enthusiasm for South Africa and her saint-like patience with annoying peopleSimons-town, Sam who worked at a farm animal sanctuary in Wisconsin and had an uncanny eye for spotting seal predations and her husband Brad who told great stories, Janet with her quick wit and impressive collection of shark swag who gave us all shark neckties, lovely Christine from the U.K, a fourth time visitor to South Africa who knew all the sharks on a first name basis, our kind, funny and amazing guide Alistair, our patient and helpful B&B host Jonathan, generous Peter from Buffalo and his wife Andrea who didn’t even swim yet plucked up the courage to climb in the shark cage anyway. Thanks to everyone who laughed at my jokes and everyone else I’ve forgotten and thanks especially to the sharks for showing up and changing my life.

Day 355 6/25/14: The Power of Hopelessness

images-3This excerpt is from Pema Chodron’s book “When Things Fall Apart.” It’s a longish read, but worth it. 

If we are willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be terminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation…Begin the journey without hope of getting ground under your feet. Begin with hopelessness.

….We are raised in a culture that fears death and hides  it from us. Nevertheless, we experience it all the time. We experience it in the form of disappointment, in the form of things not working out. We experience it in the form of things always being in the process of change. When the day ends, when the second ends, when we breathe out, that’s death in everyday life.

Death in everyday life could also be defined as experiencing all the things that we don’t want. Our marriage isn’t working; our job isn’t coming together. Having a relationship with death in everyday life means that we begin to be able to wait, to relax with insecurity, with panic, with embarrassment, with things not working out. As the years go on, we don’t call the babysitter quite so fast.

Death and hopelessness provide proper motivation for living an insightful, compassionate life. But most of the time warding off death is our biggest motivation. We habitually ward off any sense of problem. We’re always trying to deny that it’s a natural occurrence that things change….

….Can’t we just return to bare bones? Relaxing with the present moment, relaxing with hopelessness, relaxing with death, not resisting the fact that things end, that things have no lasting substance, that everything is changing all the time -—that is the basic message.

….Giving up hope is encouragement to stick with yourself, to make friends with yourself, to not run away from yourself, to return to the bare bones, no matter what’s going on. Fear of death is the background of the whole thing. It’s why we feel restless, why we panic, why there’s anxiety. But if we totally experience hopelessness, giving up all hope of alternatives to the present moment, we can have a joyful relationship with our lives, an honest, direct relationship, one that no longer ignores the reality of impermanence and death.

 

 

 

Day 298 4/20/14: Enduring Fragments from Abandoned Poems

When the subconscious offers so much free material, it seems a shame to waste it. But not all dreams make the creative cut and become poems….

***

My mother asked where would you be if you could be anywhere?

 

I felt foolish. I couldn’t conjure a specific place.

 

I could only think: Water.

 

***

My brother was Frankenstein.

 ***

The victim had been found floating, his body contorted into some sort of obscene, folded position like a yogi.

 

The man and the woman claimed to be actors. They visited me at my bedside, in a room with a peaked roof and a large window.

 

“We’re playing Jason and Medea,” the woman explained.

 

“But what attracted you to the Greeks?” I asked.

 

“Well, they’re just so weird,” she said, and began to talk about historic personages and gods as they were interchangeable.

 

“The Gods weren’t always so weird,” she said.

 

Each time I stopped to think about what she’d said, I’d look out the window where water was always rising.  No lawn, no grassy border, no bank separated my house from the water that filled the windowpanes. The water looked wild, full of lines and patterns that formed and disappeared into one another. Instead of feeling scared, I felt comforted as if somehow I was rising and dissolving too. 502px-Medea-Sandys