(also whimsey) noun (plural whimsies or whimseys) playfully quaint or fanciful behavior or humor: the film is an awkward blend of whimsy and moralizing. • a whim. • a thing that is fanciful or odd: the stone carvings and whimsies.
In reading Melville’s Moby Dick this morning, I came across this phrase – ‘wild whimsiness’ – and I instantly thought it sounded like a fine way to live. Being playful with life is what life wants me to do – to frolic and romp more than fear and hide. I need to live more with caprice than with caution, more like an eccentric than a conformist.
I see some of this ‘wild whimsiness’ in this photo of Delycia with my daughter Annie and grandson Louie.
Annie and Louie are staring, perhaps in disbelief, as Delycia, in a moment of wild whimsy, hurls a stone high in the air over the Mystic River. She is usually a person of calm and quietness, but yesterday beside the river, her secret and wonderful whimsiness worked a miracle and sent a small stone soaring.
STEPS TOWARD INNER PEACE
A closed book on your bed
could be the first step
toward inner peace.
There could be quiet whimsies
and truths restfully pacing along.
It could be like a saucepot
of feelings and thoughts
that stir you up in a romancing way
to take further steps
toward an adored panacea,
toward the solace that’s always dancing,
and always waits.
It’s so easy for me to wonder, especially since I’m 78 and have seen at least 78,000 wonders in my life, and have learned to love them wherever they show up, which is always everywhere. Life, even the saddest and scariest parts, is filled up full with wonders, and I usually wander around my days in a daze of wonder.
Here’s a wonder we saw on our morning hike at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Preserve…
And some more full-of-wonder scenes …
Once upon a time,
there was a woman who always wondered.
She wondered who she was,
why the sun shined,
where her thoughts came from.
Wondering was her way of life.
She was always smiling
because she was always wondering,
and she was always wondering
because she was a wonder herself,
and what wonders do
is called wondering.
All things were wonders to her,
even small holes in a road
the paws of her cat
a scrap of paper on the carpet.
The world was a wondering place for her,
and she and the world
cheerfully went wondering together.
The people in my life flow past, and with, and through me like mysterious and beautiful rivers, and what I enjoy most is trying to simply appreciate their ‘flow’. After all, these friends and family members and my wife Delycia are all irreplaceable human beings, matchless creations of the universe, and just as a river changes constantly and sometimes astonishingly, so do these special people in my life. My job is not to judge them – not ever – but to simply appreciate the remarkable flow of the rivers of their lives. And of course, at the ripe age of 78, I need to do the same, more and more, with my still steadily flowing and surprising life.
This morning, we paddled kayaks on one of the loveliest rivers anywhere, I am sure – the Wood River in Hopkinton, RI. The flow of our boats was soft and easy, as was the drowsy and serene river. Paradise can literally be anywhere, and this morning it was on a silver stream in Rhode Island. Here are some scenes from this paradise …
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."
Over the years, it has occasionally seemed that I simply couldn’t handle any more difficulties, almost as though my life was a somewhat small room that could contain only so many troubles. I’m not sure where that thought came from – that belief that my inner spirit is a compact and cramped place – but as the years have passed, I have come to see it as far from the truth. My inner spirit, my “heart and soul”, like all of ours, is vast beyond measure. There are no walls to someone’s inner being, no boundaries to a person’s thoughts and feelings and vivacity and passion. The inner spirit that all of us have can spread itself out across infinite distances inside us. There’s endless room in all of us for compassion and patience and love and lightheartedness that can last forever. There’s boundless space in our hearts and souls, both for all the blessings of life and for all its countless disappointments. As difficulties arise in my life, I simply need to say, as I do when success shows up, “Come on in. There’s plenty of room.”
This morning, on our bike ride in the early coolness, we passed this mist-covered field, and I wanted to call out, “Come on in, mist! There’s plenty of room!”
Instead of impatiently complaining about things like mist and storms and dry spells, I’m slowly learning that this universe – and me – has room for infinite situations, and, if I patiently wait, ‘this too shall pass’ – mist will in due course become sunshine and frowns will become smiles. In our immeasurably spacious universe, that’s simply the way it works.
Every single day – in fact, every single moment – I receive countless gifts, simply because I somehow came into this astonishing universe 78 years ago. Through no reason that I can comprehend, major gifts are constantly bestowed upon me, gifts like a new breath to breathe, a new sight to see, a new sound to hear, a new thought to think. I guess I should be smiling like a birthday-boy every single second!
Today, I received the gifts shown below – luxurious flowers from Delycia’s garden, a graceful spider on my pants, and the silent and serene Mystic River. And this kind of lush and lavish gift-giving happens nonstop, without a break, night and day. Am I a lucky old guy, or what?
a certain man was ready to give gifts.
First, he gave the fountain of his love
to a lonely-looking person
shopping among melons at a market.
Next, he gave some thoughts
that sounded like a song
to a little part of the sky
that seemed to shine in a thorough and thoughtful way,
the way he liked to live,
though his life often fell off cliffs of mindlessness,
which is mostly why
he decided to do some giving on this day,
just donating what he always has,
which is endless and bountiful,
as gifts to be found by the universe
as it floats and falls, with him, forever.
I often – perhaps usually – see life as cramped and confined, as though I am a minuscule speck of matter trapped in a universe of countless other minuscule – and possibly dangerous – specks. I was reminded of this when we were walking alongside a field of clover this morning. I stopped for a moment to look closely at some of the separate clover plants,
and for a moment, they did seem small and separate and even – in a way – confined. I pictured them each trying their best to bravely keep their distance from other plants so they, by themselves, could grow as carefully and thoroughly as possible. I almost felt sorry for them as they struggled to maintain their safety and strength as separate clover plants. But then – I stood up and saw this scene, this very ‘big picture’ –
– the whole vast clover field under the endlessly expansive sky – and I immediately felt a feeling of reassurance and peacefulness. I realized that all the clover and the building and the sign and all the trees and all the clouds and all of the spreading sky was all together – not separate in any way, but whole, full, and undivided. The little clover plants were imbedded in an unbroken family of infinite proportions – and so am I, and so are all of us. I, and all clover plants and clouds and skies, are inseparable members of a universe that’s been flowing, as a family, forever. The universe changes, yes, but it cannot ever be hurt, and neither can its clover or its Hamilton Salsich.