I sometimes feel like I’m in a befuddling maze, which is why, perhaps, I often feel a-mazed by everything around me – including this wonderful trail in the Peace Sanctuary, where we did our morning walk today.
Like many of us, I enjoy pretending that my life is laid out in well-marked trails (like this one), and that I know exactly where I’m going and how to get there, but the truth is that I’ve been in an almost daily maze since November of 1941. Honestly, I still have little or no idea who I am or why things happen or where I should be going, and it is in this sense that I feel almost constantly amazed, as though I’ve been endlessly wandering in a maze for 72 years. Perhaps, though, I should say ‘labyrinth’ instead of maze, for in a labyrinth there is no worry of being lost, since all paths in due course lead to the center and back out. A labyrinth is a light-hearted place to be, since all choices are somehow the right ones, and seeming mistakes end up showing you the way. I guess life, for me, has been like a puzzling but relaxing and inspiring labyrinth. It’s like a mystery made for my pleasure and instruction, a place where patience and attentiveness can turn mistakes into miracles.
IF WE LOOK CAREFULLY
If we look carefully,
we'll see there's a fresh path
to travel each day, and something that amazes us
wherever we are, and time enough to feel
the flow of life. There are always inner mountains
to ascend, with surprising views, and brand new,
out-of-the-blue friends to widen the roads
we have to travel. We'll notice improvements
in the universe -- a bird's wings that seem startling,
water that works smoothly with our hands
to wash them, clouds that sway as they drift
on their untroubled trips --
if we look carefully.
“Watch your step” would be a useful slogan for me these days. I especially like the word “watch” because it suggests the kind of completely committed awareness I want to foster in myself – an awareness that sometimes, sadly, seems absent in me for hours and days at a time. I want to be constantly on the alert, attentive as much as possible to the nuances of this oddly beguiling life I’m living. I want to watch what’s happening as carefully as a sharp-eyed sailor watches from the deck. This is a demanding mission for me, since a youthful heedlessness still seems more prevalent in me than awareness. I still sometimes see in myself the rash madness of my teenage years. At 78, I still sometimes come panting into a new day, dash through it, and then rush into sleep at the end, hoping that a few hours rest will help me race even faster tomorrow. We seem to live in a swift and hassled world these days, hardly the kind of setting to support “watching your step”, but I do want to give it a good try. Instead of simply glancing at the gifts August is giving us along the roads and trails these days, I want to occasionally stop and study them. Instead of quick looks, I want long looks. Instead of just speeding past the songs of birds on my bicycle, I want to truly listen, to sometimes let the bike come to a silent stop among their beautiful songs.
I thought a lot about ‘watching my step’ this morning as we walked the stony and steep trails in the Oswegatchie Hills Preserve. Sometimes the twisted roots of old trees served as useful steps up steep inclines, and we both kept a close watch as we climbed.
WATCHING FOR WISDOM
Sharon Z., 82, Blessings, CT
She constantly watches for wisdom,
for she knows it always knows
where she is
and loves to visit her.
She knows it waits for her
in the way trees stand so stately,
which is like special words
and in the stillness of mist
that makes her understand things.
She stays silent in sorrow,
for the flow of wisdom
is always inside it,
and happiness makes her silent
so she more easily understands
to let it go when it goes.
She scans the hours
for the thousand signs of wisdom
Below is one of the many pretty scenes from our walk …
and the sunrise sky from our sun-baked backyard this morning …
and the bunny who is our little enemy/friend, hunting for goodies in Delycia’s garden …
I was sitting in the shade of some trees at the far end of our yard yesterday, when I saw this dear friend in the distance – my beloved Delycia, watering her beloved flowers.
No garden gets a greater gift than having a gardener like her, one who constantly cares for them – weeding, trimming, moving, clipping – and spraying with much needed water in these very dry times. Lucky blossoms, lucky me.
This morning we took an almost 3-mile walk in the Canonchet Preserve (Hopkinton, RI), and were greeted with countless magnificent scenes, such as boulders perfectly balanced …
… and a stunning spiderweb …
And here are the very happy walkers, with another balanced boulder behind them …
And here’s a poem I wrote many years ago, using a simple pencil and a piece of scrap paper …
And another old poem, written for my son Jaimie when he was 11 or 12 …
Delycia and I welcome people into our home every so often, and I only wish I could be more welcoming to the thoughts that move through the home of my mind. A steady line of thoughts constantly passes through my life, and I want to learn to welcome them all, even those filled with fear or dismay or discouragement. What I am slowly understanding is that my thoughts are not me, but fairly frail and short-lived whispers that will slip smoothly away if I just stand aside, observe them in a welcoming way, and then let them quietly leave. I could welcome thoughts of fear, for instance – politely listen to them, let them take their time passing through, and then see them to the door and down the road. I’m learning that thoughts are as harmless as I allow them to be – simply evanescent voices that will soon disappear if I stand by with something like a smile.
a poem about Bernice D., 61, Blessings, CT
When cancer came to her for a visit,
she greeted it with civility, saying,
"Cancer, you are welcomeas my guest,both because you are here, and becausesomething good will come from your visit,just as the sky is more striking after a storm.My personal illness is not especially important,dear cancer, because what are you,my small, irresolute visitor,compared to the waters of sorrowthat swamp so many people today,so many children adrift in fear,so many elderly losing their way in loneliness?You, my cancer, are a mere ripple of discomfortin a vast sea of sorrow,a sea of scared kids and helpless homeless peopleand millions utterly lost in sadness.Please be my guest.Show me what serious illness and pain and panicare like, so I'll be a better brotherfor my brother and sister sufferersaround the world. My proud cancer,you can never truly hurt me, since my lovefor my wounded worldwide familyis far stronger than my fearof any boisterous, noisy disease,one that has never seenthe gutsy power of unselfishness,or the way light is always brighter after darkness."