swallowing the sun

“Sunset at Sea” by Thomas Moran
“Sunset at Sea” by Thomas Moran

Like the prodigal son
I return to you, the sea.
You who scare the idylls off
into tame inner fjords, bays and inlets
because you are much too majestic for weekend yachtsmen,
outboard motors and hobby anglers.
Without so much as a blink you swallow the sun
like a raw egg-yolk for supper
and at daybreak you lift heavy banks of cloud
dense with rain and squalls, a wet cloth
on sleep-heavy eyes and throbbing temples.
With the horizon like a diadem about your brows
you write your salt letters to the shore.
Land changes,
men and beasts come and go.
Only you
live your solitary life, the world’s
blue eyes fixed on the stars and eternity.

If the Earth has a soul,
it swims in you.

~ Kolbein Falkeid
(Homecoming to the Sea)

harvest moon

"The Harvest Moon" by George Hemming Mason
“The Harvest Moon” by George Hemming Mason

Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.

Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions.

~ Carl Sandburg
(Under the Harvest Moon)

think and read

“Grow Dark” by Mykola Pymonenko
“Grow Dark” by Mykola Pymonenko

Gain knowledge, brothers! Think and read,
And to your neighbors’ gifts pay heed,
Yet do not thus neglect your own.

Sadly I weep when I recall
The unforgotten deeds of all
Our ancestors: their toilsome deeds!
Could I forget their pangs and needs,
I, as my price, would then suppress
Half of my own life’s happiness…

~ Taras Shevchenko
(My Friendly Epistle)

soft memories drifting

USFWS – cotton-grass on wetlands, Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Softer than cotton-grass swaying in the wind
deep in the mountain clearing,
are the memories that drift through a man’s own mind
a pale, wind-swept evening.
~ Olav Aukrust
(The Northern Light)

a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam

My next post was supposed to be about furniture arrangements and home decorating, but I’ve stalled big time. I’m hoping this week will be more productive as many things are sliding here on the home-front. Had a very annoyingly busy week and then when the time finally came to get back to finish moving the furniture I became glued to the TV, trying to comprehend all that was and still is happening in Japan. Sometimes the mundane things in life start to feel pointless. But then I guess that’s the horror of it, so many people with their lives interrupted or cut short – it’s overwhelming to try to take in… I don’t know anyone there, but I know that each life lost was the most important person in the world to somebody, and for them my heart breaks.

“Japan’s recent massive earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded, appears to have moved the island by about eight feet (2.4 meters), the US Geological Survey said.”

“The quake probably shifted the position of Earth’s axis about 6.5 inches, said Richard Gross, a geophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge.”

These numbers boggle my mind. In one sense we’re safely spinning through space on our relatively little blue spaceship, but when the planet starts readjusting itself it abruptly reminds us of how precious this life is, and how precarious in the grand scheme of things, whatever that scheme ultimately proves to be.

I feel something like a Who on the speck of dust in Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who! “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” We feel so very small in the face of this. Such a pale little blue dot, our earth. But such a cataclysmic upheaval of our big beautiful and often frightening planet.

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.
~ Carl Sagan
(Pale Blue Dot)

As I’m writing this some of the lyrics of Pig, one of Dave Matthews’ older songs, one of my favorites, come back to me with added poignancy:

Isn’t it strange
How we move our lives for another day
Like skipping a beat
What if a great wave should
Wash us all away
Just thinking out loud
Don’t mean to dwell on this dying thing
But looking at blood
It’s alive right now
Deep and sweet within
Pouring through our veins
Intoxicate moving wine to tears
Drinking it deep
Then an evening spent dancing
It’s you and me
This love will open our world
From the dark side we can see a glow of something bright
There’s much more than we see here
Don’t burn the day away
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Pig) ♫

All we have is this moment.  Let us not burn our days away…

a guiding light

“Moon Evening. Lighthouse” by Anna Ancher

So there will be no guiding light for you and me
We are not sailors lost out on the sea
We were always headed toward eternity
Hoping for a glimpse of Galilee
~ Emmylou Harris
♫ (The Pearl) ♫

And I can tell by the way you’re searching
For something you can’t even name
That you haven’t been able to come to the table
Simply glad that you came
And when you feel like this try to imagine
That we’re all like frail boats on the sea
Just scanning the night for that great guiding light
Announcing the Jubilee
~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Jubilee) ♫

wars laid away in books

“Sailboats in Pourville”
by Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz

Adrift! A little boat adrift!
And night is coming down!
Will no one guide a little boat
Unto the nearest town?

So sailors say — on yesterday —
Just as the dusk was brown
One little boat gave up its strife
And gurgled down and down

So angels say — on yesterday —
Just as the dawn was red
One little boat — o’erspent with gales —
Retrimmed its masts — redecked its sails —
And shot — exultant on!

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #6)


Now that I have a Kindle and can read for hours on end without bothering my eyes, I have delved into a huge comprehensive biography of the life of Emily Dickinson, My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson. The above poem struck a chord with me.

What I’ve been learning is that Emily grappled with an exhausting spiritual struggle during her childhood and young adulthood. One by one more and more of her family members and friends experienced evangelical conversions each time a revival made its way to her mother’s church in Amherst, Massachusetts. Emily was never moved to convert, winding up a solitary holdout, and I suspect it was the hypocrisy and inconsistencies in the dogma as presented by her teachers and ministers that never sat well with her.

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —
I keep it, staying at Home —
With a Bobolink for a Chorister —
And an Orchard, for a Dome —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #236)

Emily found spiritual fulfillment and ecstasy in nature. I think it can be found in the creative arts, too, and in healing. I will read on, as I just got to the “Adrift!” poem yesterday, but my feeling is that once she made peace with this realization, she was able re-trim her masts, re-deck her sails, and get on with her true vocation, her poetry, her spiritual expression, her own way of worshiping.

As a child my intuition rebelled against my father’s atheism. The first chance I got I latched on to a religion with just as much oppressive dogmatism as the scientific atheism from which I was trying to escape. But while ‘gurgling down’ in my spiritual struggle, it slowly dawned on me that religion and science are simply different ways of trying to make sense of and explain the world and the universe. The assumptions of both can be terribly flawed and misguided. Organized religion and organized science can both be dogmatic and self-righteous. People who worship science, in my opinion, give up their own experience of the divine to the men in lab coats, our modern-day priests. Ideally there is a balance between Logic and Wonder, however.

When I started reading Emerson and Dickinson I found myself home at last with the ideas of transcendentalists:

The transcendentalists felt the presence of God in their intuition, but they advised that intuition should be guided by reason, and not follow its own course unaided. They discerned that God speaks directly to the self within us. They stressed the value and importance of personal mystical experience over beliefs, doctrines, rituals, and institutions. All their insights derived from their inner life. Their movement was a reaffirmation of the inner way of introversion or interiority.
~ Wayne Teasdale
(The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions)

How I admire Emily for holding on to her inner life!