And This is Pure Truth, Pure Beauty

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The Art of Blessing The Day

by Marge Piercy

This is the blessing for rain after drought:
Come down, wash the air so it shimmers,
a perfumed shawl of lavender chiffon.
Let the parched leaves suckle and swell.
Enter my skin, wash me for the little
chrysalis of sleep rocked in your splashing.
In the morning the world is peeled to shining.

This is the blessing for sun after long rain:
Now everything shakes itself free and rises.
The trees are bright as pushcart ices.
Every last lily opens its satin thighs.
The bees dance and roll in pollen
and the cardinal at the top of the pine
sings at full throttle, fountaining.

This is the blessing for a ripe peach:
This is luck made round. Frost can nip
the blossom, kill the bee. It can drop,
a hard green useless nut. Brown fungus,
the burrowing worm that coils in rot can
blemish it and wind crush it on the ground.
Yet this peach fills my mouth with juicy sun.

This is the blessing for the first garden tomato:
Those green boxes of tasteless acid the store
sells in January, those red things with the savor
of wet chalk, they mock your fragrant name.
How fat and sweet you are weighing down my palm,
warm as the flank of a cow in the sun.
You are the savor of summer in a thin red skin.

This is the blessing for a political victory:
Although I shall not forget that things
work in increments and epicycles and sometime
leaps that half the time fall back down,
let’s not relinquish dancing while the music
fits into our hips and bounces our heels.
We must never forget, pleasure is real as pain.

The blessing for the return of a favorite cat,
the blessing for love returned, for friends’
return, for money received unexpected,
the blessing for the rising of the bread,
the sun, the oppressed. I am not sentimental
about old men mumbling the Hebrew by rote
with no more feeling than one says gesundheit.

But the discipline of blessings is to taste
each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet
and the salty, and be glad for what does not
hurt. The art is in compressing attention
to each little and big blossom of the tree
of life, to let the tongue sing each fruit,
its savor, its aroma and its use.

Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.

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Living in the Sea of “What Is”

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photo by Gina Marie Mammano

Today followed a yesterday of tears. A difficult diagnosis for someone very close. So, the slow, but sacred morning dictated a hearty bowl of oatmeal laced with blueberries and then a daylong fast to seek out clarity. And focus. Breath. “I do not want to live the drama of panic, fear, anxiety and life projected out months into the future; I do not want to live in the melancholy of wistfulness, regret, and sentimentality of the past. What does it mean to live in the gentle sorrow of today, and today only?”

I chose to begin my journey by hiking down a forested path that opens up to a beach at the bottom. I lay down on a large, toppled tree, and let the sun bleach the sand out of me, bleach the pearls out of me, bleach me raw. It felt good. Simple. To be in the body, and the heart, with nature as soul companion, a wise choice. I lay there, noticing the free flowing streams of tears moving down my face, the integrity of this, as well as the commitment to myself to not project into the future the worries and fears that might loom there. I realized that this is living in the sea of “what is”. I don’t know tomorrow. All I know is that I am here. And I am o.k. Sad, yes. Concerned. Yes. Warmed by the sun. Yes. But o.k. for today.

I ended the day finding some sweet peas. Smelling their aroma and admiring their colors. Taking a breath. Each day is filled with so many things.

Breath-ful

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A friend of mine said to me, “breath is everything”. I couldn’t help but be narrow-eyed and jaded. “Everything?” I asked. That’s a big word.

“It’s the beginning of everything. Everything starts from the breath,” she continued.

Still muddled, though less jaded, I started to let that thought work its marinade at the back of my mental refrigeration storage unit. It sat there for awhile.

And then, a few days later, events entered my life that created anxiety. An emergency here. A major worry there, my mind and soul whirring off of their mountings. Breathe. Just breathe, I remembered. It’s the simplest thing I can do. It’s the one thing I can do successfully right now if I take the time to do it thoughtfully, intentionally. In this time of spinning outward into the stratosphere, I can center on the very thing that gives me life: breathing. I can give myself this gift of life within the twirling chaos.

Breathing. It isn’t everything, but it is the beginning of everything. Sometimes paring life down to bare bones beginnings can open up worlds in us that may lead to other places. Better places.I’m banking on it; I’m breathing on it.

“I Am”

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I have a friend who asked me, “are relationships places of surrender?” I held one gentle fist over the other in front of me in the shape of a small spine and said, “I am.” I encouraged her to do the same. Once we both established our “I ams”, our individualities, our proclamations of being in the world, I got up, and linked arms with her. We walked around the room a bit, as if taking a stroll into the world together and I once again made the same gesture, fist over fist in my own personal soul-spine and said “I am” while arms still linked. “Are you still I am, too?” I asked her? “Yes,” she replied, “I am.” I noticed tears of relief and understanding as she felt the possibilities of partnering relationship with individuality.

This little exercise was revolutionary and revelationary, though so so simple. We can be the being we are in all of our strength and still be linked to another without giving up our identity, our authenticity, our integrity. It seems so simple- almost too simple, but powerful. “I am.”

How are you “i am” today, alone, and linked with the “I am” of others?

Walking the Coyote Rim of Love

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“Spirited Coyote” courtesy of the artist: Gretchen Grunt. gretchengrunt.com

The other night, miming the glass-box in the middle of my own vortex, trying to find my way out, I was drawn to Coyote. A few years back, on a lonely, ship-wrecked night, his solitary howl mirrored my own sorrow so well, that I have never forgotten it, and have always been grateful to that mysterious trickster-prowler who paces under a curtain of stars ever since.

I find sometimes the centrifugal force of my own life pulls me into itself roundly and voraciously. It can even be benevolent things that cause this: deeply wanting to help someone I love who is in need, listening intently, attentively, and graciously to another, engaging myself in the life of someone who could use a companion, but somehow I find myself at the center, the vortex, nonetheless.

And then, I remember my friend, Coyote. Dear Coyote. Coyote who walks and wanders at the edges of things. Coyote, who laughs wholeheartedly from the outside rim. Coyote who howls with blood curdling empathy from the hills beyond. Coyote, who knows how to stay out of the center, but at the heart.

This is a good lesson for me. My contribution to life and to people can be meaningful, empathetic, and soul-felt, but also more from a place of holding, arms surrounding and circling, gently observing, edge-walking, rather than swirling inside the center, finding it hard to breathe. I don’t have to place myself in the middle of the drama. I can actually contribute more by being in that inside-outside space. That Coyote space, roaming the hills, looking for ways to help, empathize, assist, but also carving out space for myself, a place to hear the stars breathe, and know the pulse of my own heartbeat.

The Soft Animal of Your Body Loves What It Loves

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photo by Ginny Schneider

The other night, deep in the darkness of my nylon tent, deep in the depths of a summer night, camping along the Hood Canal, I felt afraid. There were many things that night that felt like sudden spinning stars plunging into the cold depths of a frigid sky that I had no control over- you know the ones: the health issues of a loved one, financial stress, the slow dying of a friend, and, as I lay trembling in my interiors,I felt the dark night of the soul slowly eclipsing the dark night of the sky in a thick molasses. As these thoughts crawled up and over my body, I remembered a quote by Mary Oliver from her poem, “Wild Geese”: “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Those words sank in deeper and deeper.  I noticed that soon, very soon, I became soft and supple inside. I  know what that looks like- what that feels like. “The soft animal of my body”- the simple, tender rhythm of being alive, just alive. Not working out the solutions to all of the conundrums in my world. Not even pondering, problem-solving, or even praying in this case. But letting the tender, tethered parts of me that belong to this world, have their place here. To be coddled by the earth. Caressed by the cool-scented night wind. To find comfort in the simplicity of my own skin, my own being, “the soft animal of my body.” And to let it “love what it loves”. Which now is sleep. Simplicity. Gentle rest.

What does “the soft animal of your body” need today? How can you let it “love what it loves”?