WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Friday, November 12, 2021

PUT ON

            This morning, I put on clothes to start the new day, and, amazingly, all through this day, I will be ‘putting on’ a brand-new life, moment after moment. Actually, I myself won’t be doing the ‘putting on’, because life – or Life – will be doing it for me. I have no choice in the matter. Each moment, I will be freshly dressed in newness, and so will everything else – every autumn leaf lying on the grass, every stream of sunlight among the trees, every sound of water as I wash my hands.  Even when I’m daydreaming about this or that, the daydreaming itself will put on freshness. My fantasizing will be clothed like never before. Even when I’m lost in mindlessness, the mindlessness will be magnificently dressed.

It will be fun, today, to simply observe this process of ‘putting on’ – the way Life will, moment after moment, clothe itself in inventive – even breathtaking – ways.

Here’s a poem from several years ago, on a similar topic …

IN CLOTHE

In Clothe, CA, the whole town
wears the apparel of peacefulness.
Trees seem wrapped in repose,
even in storms, and homes look like
they’re cloaked in contentment.
When sorrow comes to Clothe,
it brings with it
soothing capes of compassion to wear,
and pain and distress
are usually blanketed with wisdom.
In this town, one’s days
are dressed up in simplicity,
and each moment sports serenity
in a lively way.




… and Autumn put on these lovely colors for our walk yesterday morning …

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

PASSION AND COMPOSURE

I am slowly becoming more skilled at working and resting at the same time, something I often see in nature. Trees, for instance, seem to be busily working when they sway in strong winds, tossing their limbs in a spirited manner, but they also seem absolutely stress-free. Perhaps their secret is that they don’t resist, but simply settle back and let the wind do most of the work, allowing them to sway tirelessly for hours. I see a similar situation now, in these days of autumn, when leaves are offhandedly floating to the ground in effortless ways, which enables them, in just a few days, to completely cover square miles of land with their colors.  This is an astonishing achievement, one that would take we humans a supreme effort, and yet the loose and untroubled leaves do it in a seemingly leisurely way. And of course there are the coming snowfalls, perhaps the most restful of nature’s activities, when whole crews of snowflakes float in perfect peacefulness across the landscape. Within a few hours, a sovereign state of snow can set itself up across a landscape, and it does it in the quietest possible way. A snowstorm has a way of combining effort and restfulness, something I greatly admire. Perhaps my goal in life should be to live like autumn leaves and snowflakes, with both passion and composure.

IN PATIENCE

In Patience, South Carolina, 
people show tolerance even for raving storms. 
Sometimes their self-restraint
when facing problems seems similar 
to trees kindly caring for high winds 
by waving to them. 
People in this uncomplaining town 
are almost imperturbable,
particularly when trouble blows through.
Somehow, they effortlessly find a way 
to welcome the trouble 
as an affable consultant 
able to advise on a new trail to take. 
You can't believe the calmness 
that almost constantly comes over 
people in Patience, 
as if calmness is a gift 
that keeps on giving in this town, 
as if serenity always streams through them 
like light breezes in trees. 
Doggedness doesn't come any tougher 
than in Patience, 
where even death is endured 
with indefatigable kindness.   
If you visit Patience, 
perseverance and composure 
will walk around town with you. 






Here are some scenes from our sunrise walk this morning on Napatree Point …

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

CENTER

         It’s amazing to realize that I am always at the precise center of the universe – and everything else is, too! The present moment is actually the only moment that exists, which means it has no beginning, no ending, no boundaries whatsoever, which means that everything – including me – is always at the exact center of all that exists. If there’s no beginning or ending, then the center is always everywhere – including wherever I am!

So … when I’m sitting at my desk at 5:16 a.m., as I am now, or walking across the carpet in the living room, or driving to church at 9:45 a.m., I will be at the center – the heart – of the universe, of everything -and so will everything else! Small sticks in the yard, squirrels scampering among trees, loose papers beside the road, and me – all of us are continuously at the clear-cut center of the universe. 

         What an honor that is – and a privilege! My face should shine in thankfulness each moment, knowing that I – and my neighbors and the local grocery store and ospreys on treetops – are at the very center of a boundless and beautiful universe. 

Whoopie! 

THE CENTER

Yesterday he found the center of his life. 
It was a small piece of scrap paper 
resting in the grass in the park.
 The instant he saw it, 
he knew it was exactly where it must be. 
Perhaps that's why it was shining 
like a small star 
on that overcast afternoon. 
Someone had tossed it aside, 
not realizing its value, 
its loveliness when sitting in the hand 
of a man who happened to be passing. 
He held this piece of paper 
like you might hold something holy, 
like the universe holds him 
precisely where he should be.

And here are some scenes from our recent early morning walks …

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

SILENCE

            During my 45 years as a classroom teacher of teens, I occasionally remembered to use silence to bring some intensity to the atmosphere in my classroom. I’ve always felt that, in teaching, as in life, silence has at least as much power as sound, and sometimes considerably more. Since my students heard teachers and each other talking almost nonstop throughout the day, any moment of silence could be a refreshing, almost shocking, break in the routine. In the students’ noisy world, a little silence could have been like sunshine after hours of rain. Sometimes, I would read a poem aloud to a 9th grade class, and when I came to the end I simply stood in silence at the front of the room. I remained silent for only about twenty seconds, but I suspect it had a surprising effect on the kids. In their often raucous lives, twenty seconds of silence could seem like time without end. As they were sitting silently and listening to the ticking of my classroom clock, they might have been thinking, “This is really strange”, and I was okay with that. After all, ‘strange’ can also mean surprising, extraordinary, even astonishing—three adjectives any teacher would be proud to be associated with.

And here are some photos from our recent walks …

And here’s a poem about a beloved pet of long ago …

A GIFT OF SILENCE

The old cat purring beside me 
is a miracle this season, 
this year, 
this century. 
He's a black shadow of greatness, 
a gift of silence, 
a friend who found me years ago, 
and finds me every morning once again. 
He's the happiness of darkness 
beside me on the sofa. 
He's full of things of night, 
of stars and songs 
and morning always coming. 
Brutus the Best he is, 
and Brutus the Quietest, 
his soft paws resting 
in prayer 
beside me.

A Letter to Myself on My 20th Birthday (1961)

November 2, 2021

Dear young Ham, 

            On your 20th birthday, I’ve come back to 1961 to offer some advice. 

            I have heard that angels can fly because they take themselves lightly, and that would be my recommendation for you. You may not be interested in actually flying, but I’ll bet you would like to shed some of the seriousness that weighs you down. I know for a fact that you sometimes walk around like you have loads of responsibilities on your shoulders – like you’re some special super-guy who has serious tasks to perform, tasks that simply must be done by you alone. On those days, young dude – believe me – you take yourself way too seriously. Unlike angels, you are weighed down by a dreamed-up sense of your own importance. On those days – and I remember this clearly – flying is out and self-absorbed slogging is in. 

            My advice to you, from my bald and wrinkled 79-year-old vantage point, is to get loose from this seriousness and see yourself for what you are – an infinitesimal but beautiful swirl in the everlasting dance of a generous universe. Your silly self-importance would then disappear like a small star in the precious vastness of dawn. You would definitely feel light on those days – light and free and ready to loosen up with life instead of wrestle with it. 

            And here’s a poem I wrote just for you:

ADVICE
(for Ham, age 20)

Notice the way stars 
seem to rustle 
when you see them
from a field. 
Find the place 
where sunsets disappear,
and visit it 
when you're sad. 
Listen to the breezes 
when they organize themselves 
and sing together. 
And keep your eyes 
on other faces. 
Notice the kindness 
that sometimes blossoms  
like crowds of flowers 
in these faces.

With lighthearted love,

Old Ham