Sunday, April 24, 2016

Stars, Barns, and Wendell Berry


Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.

I like simple in my profound. And profound in my simple. My mind gravitates toward the deep end, can get bored in the shallow for too long. But some things I prefer not to think about, but just to imbibe. Take in. And smile.

Sunrises. Sunsets. Hammocks. Barns. Stars. Barns and stars. Put those two things together and I can go on bliss autopilot. And with a shout out to @SpaceAttraction for pulling these few, I appreciate the soul candy.


... And we pray, not for new
earth or heaven, but to be quiet
in heart, and in eye clear.
What we need is here.

I have said before that barns are like churches for me, they frequently stop me in my tracks and make me stare. And I can't count how many times I have walked home at night, or gone out into a field and just stared up. I don't know constellations, I can't calculate light years, the science is lost on me. Happily.

So this morning, let's combine barns and stars with a writer who gets both, and whose writing I would put in the same category: simply profound and profoundly simple. Wendell Berry. His words are in italics.


Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Life is a Song; Turn it up, man!


Life is a song the Universe is constantly playing. The notes, the structure, the chords, can be heard and felt whenever we listen. Our lives, when they are in sync, contribute a part to the larger Song. A part that no one else's life can. The Song was going on before we arrived and will continue after we are gone, but what we contribute is our part.

We didn't write the Song/the Universe. Let's give God/Creator (or you can insert your answer here) credit as the composer. That being the case, if we just bust out a drum solo with our lives, that doesn't contribute to the greater Song, we can feel out of tune. Isolated. But I think most of us have been lucky enough, even if for a little while, to feel what it feels like when we are a part of the larger Song.

I have no idea what the Song is, where it's going, what it sounds like ultimately. I get snippets when I sit still at the sunrise. When I run. When I read or write or pray or meditate. When I love. I get snippets when I stand in the snow and rain on a lacrosse sideline, drenched and cold, and see my daughters make an incredible defensive play and lead a fast break, or score a goal. I hear the Song having coffee rocking in a blue-hued swing, watching blackbirds, grackles, rabbits and squirrels unfold their morning.

Our lives are a continuous song. We don't change what we've played, what is behind us, but we can be conscious of what we are playing now. Jim Harrison has been speaking (singing?) to me of late:

The song stays.
No new one carries us, bears
us so high, more swiftly.
And it has no place,
it changes as we change

Our song, our past, is a part of us, it is what gets the song/our lives to where we are. And there are times when it feels familiar, like it's our jam maybe, we can headbang, waltz, slow dance, kitchen dance, what have you, and we feel comfortable in knowing the tune. And there are times, speaking for myself, where the tune seems new, novel, unknown. I don't know where it's going. And that can be thrilling, exhilarating and downright terrifying at some points.

But maybe it's like Zeppelin always said, "the song remains the same." It keeps playing. And we can hear it and join in. Trust the song, trust the Universe, trust the Composer.

River at spring crest,
sky clear blue,
forest at June greenness,
delight of eye in brain fully flowering,
delight of air and light and breath.


What do you do with all that? When we can feel it; when we can hear it; we know we can be a part of it, with our lives?

"Hey man, is that Freedom Rock?"

"Yeah, man!"

"Well turn it up, man!"

Friday, April 1, 2016

I want to do what he/she does


I want to do what he does. Or she does. We start that from an early age. Firefighter. Baseball player. Skateboarder. Sometimes those models stick with us and we stay after them. Sometimes they change. Sometimes the reality sets in: I just don't have the sideburns or hair to be Eddie Murray.

As I got older, who those folks were shifted a bit. I remember reading Carl Sandburg when I was 15 and thinking, I want to be able to make someone feel/think like he just made me feel. That would be cool. In my 20s and beyond, that became Rilke, Tom Robbins, Gary Snyder. Jim Harrison.

The stillness of this earth
which we pass through
with the precise speed of our own dreams.

Harrison died this past week. He was 78. He died at his desk, writing. From the way he lived his life, it sounds like a blessing that it wasn't drawn out, to quote those who knew him, "he wasn't cut out for assisted living."

Strictly speaking, the writer's life is not for me. I have no interest spending my days behind a keyboard, indoors, deep in abstract thought or trying to inhabit the minds of characters that live in my head. No thank you. I would rather be outside, living life, and trying to communicate that in some way. And that is part of what Jim Harrison represents for me: living an interesting life.

He spent his life doing things he loved, outside. He did things that you read out, dream about, in some cases forget about. He lived a rich life. With his dogs:

Barring love I'll take my life in large doses alone--rivers, forests, fish, grouse, mountains. Dogs.

Harrison, Gary Snyder, Peter Matthiessen, Edward Abbey. Those guys are the last men standing when I look for my tribe of guys who did, or are doing, what I want to do.

Life and language. I can't get enough of either, though there are plenty of times when language fails, or I don't want it. Harrison got that too:

My heart must be open to the cosmos with no language unless we invent it moment by moment in order to breathe.


Being open to the Universe as a source for language. And as a guide for life. I have been digging the remembrances of Harrison the man, and Harrison the writer. Obviously those two aspects are one and the same. He was a part of his Michigan landscape, the region. He knew it, lived it, and could write about it like no one else. I have the Eastern Shore in my bones that way, I sometimes feel.

I like when you can use the term "rugged individualism," and not have it be hyperbole or false praise. Harrison is the poster child. And that's part of how he inspires me. He doesn't make me want to go to Michigan and do what he did. He makes me want to get out and find, strike up, live my own life. To get outside. To chase dreams.

My advice is, do not try to inhabit another's soul. You have your own.