TOUCH

WORDS LIKE LIGHT

Monday, September 5, 2022

         I am constantly being touched, and I hope today I can be truly aware of it. For instance, air is continuously pressing lightly upon me, almost as though it’s encouraging me to wake up and stay alert to the beauties of my life. It has a light, brushing touch, which could be comforting to think of as I move through the day. Also, the small and large sounds of everyday life are always reaching out to touch me in a friendly way. As I’m writing, the dishwasher is making its soft, swishing music, sort of caressing the kitchen and the living room and me at my desk. The ticking of our pendulum clock is quietly tapping me to say hello, and even the tinnitus in my ears is just a gentle nudging, as though its sound is putting its hand out to stay in touch. And then – maybe best of all – there are thoughts inside me that are always stroking and tickling me with their various messages. But no – the very best of all is the touch of my wife’s hand as she passes me in the hall, helping me appreciate how two old people can come together – and touch – so beautifully. 

	
TOUCH
(about Bobby L., 37, Blessings, CT) 

One day he noticed the softest meetings 
between things - the way water from the 
faucet embraced the bowls and plates 
he was washing, the way the cream seemed 
to cuddle his coffee.  It was like all 
parts of life were soothingly stroking 
each other, staying in touch to be of 
assistance. Winds grazed across homes 
with sensitivity, sunshine swept 
understandingly through trees, and 
his thoughts kissed his life as they 
followed each other in friendship. 












A MINUET OF THOUGHTS

WORDS LIKE LIGHT

Saturday, September 3, 2022

“… a state of mind liable to melt into a minuet with other states of mind, and to find itself bowing, smiling, and giving place with polite facility.” — George Eliot, in Middlemarch

         These words of George Eliot exactly describe the dance my own ideas seem to do. My mind is like an old English ballroom where ideas warmly move among each other in a strange kind of sociability and easiness. Thoughts of delight glide beside thoughts of fear, and beliefs that bad times are looming hold hands with beliefs that a bright sky is always overhead if I would only look up. What’s especially interesting about this is that my thoughts can be so cordial to each other, like English lords and ladies letting their friendliness guide the flow of the dance. Perhaps if I would simply stand back and watch them, the thoughts that move through my mind might seem as graceful as the movements of eminent manor house guests. If I stopped trying to always rule and regulate them, and gave up getting in fights with them, I might be able to enjoy the pleasant movements of my thoughts, their stylish steps and swings.    

DANCING WORDS 
(said by Byron S., age 82)

"I don't know how to dance, but my words 
seem to dance effortlessly whenever I speak. 
They're instinctive dancers, these 
undomesticated words of mine 
that twirl and whirl, thousands 
each day, dancing around on their own 
inside me and then outside when I 
set them loose by speaking. And isn't it 
interesting that words live by their own laws,
though we like to think we command them? 
The store where I work is a wonderland 
of waltzing words when customers are there. 
They release their words and the words 
start frisking and frolicking around
and finding their own style of life, 
and I sometimes stand and listen and stare."

a scene from our walk at Bluff Point State Park (Groton, CT) this morning

LOSING and FINDING

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

         After losing my keys yesterday and then finding them fairly quickly, I started thinking about how frequently I find things – sometimes surprising things in surprising places. I once found a dozen silver dollars on an old blanket on the beach. There they sat, bright and unblemished in the sunlight, with scarcely a person to be seen anywhere, as if the sand was doing sentry duty for someone. I stared at them for a moment and then moved on, feeling lucky to have found them and then left them there. Likewise, I feel lucky, when I’m writing, to almost always find useful and sometimes startling words awaiting me in my computer’s thesaurus. It’s as though thousands upon thousands of words are standing by to bring stylishness to my writing, poised to present themselves inside my sentences with their glow and gracefulness. I’ve sometimes found a word that, by itself, instantly added finesse to an otherwise plain paragraph. It’s true for thoughts, too, for they can be found in unforeseen ways and places, as though they are hidden riches that ascend to the surface occasionally. For no reason that I can understand, thoughts unceasingly arise inside me, some with an enticing shine, and, to my satisfaction, I get to sort through them and select the brightest and best for my writing. It’s like finding diamonds day after day, which has been a pleasing project in these adventuresome and discovery-laden retirement years.   

LOSING HER FEARS
(about Braelynn J., 52, Blessings, CT)

She’s always losing her fears, 
letting them slip away 
when she isn’t watching them. 
Even though some of them seem huge to her, 
they’re harmless little fears,
and they have an easy way of disappearing
while the sun is shining 
or when she’s lost in satisfaction. 
Some days, for sure, she can find no fears anywhere,
search as she might. 
Her long life always seemed made of fears, 
and it confuses her to be bereft of them. 
On those days, 
a soft light of confidence shines everywhere,
especially inside her, 
and she starts to suspect 
that fears are afraid of light.

CASCADE

WORDS LIKE LIGHT

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

         On these hot summer days, it would be good to occasionally step inside a soft, refreshing cascade of water . . . and fortunately, something like this is always happening. Right now, as I sit in the early morning at my computer, an easygoing waterfall of fresh thoughts is flowing through me, just as it will be five minutes from now, and all day tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Also, a peaceful stream of blood is rolling through me, as always, and showers of new feelings are spilling over, and quiet currents of breath are tenderly entering my lungs. This life I am part of is an unruffled outpouring of good gifts, though I am often unaware of this ever-present cascade. Will today be different? Will I purposely stay still and feel the streams of life carefully cooling and washing me?  

THAT WHICH FLOWS AND FLOWS

He loves his coffee and his wine,
but truly revels in the drinks
that have no end.  In several winks
the wine is gone, but the divine

rewards within a cup of Love
can never end. A glass of Trust
holds deep and endless harmony,
and Kindness, like the sky above,

cannot be kept within a cup
and keeps on spilling over while
he drinks and drinks. A smile
fills his face when he takes up

a mug of Gentleness, for he knows
there's always more and more
to have. He loves to freely pour
a cup of that which flows and flows.

Below, some scenes from our beach-walk this morning, with Delycia leading the way …

EFFULGENCE

WORDS LIKE LIGHT

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

     Earlier today, when I was worrying myself silly about some supposedly large problem, the word ‘effulgence’ floated up in my mind, and fairly suddenly there was the light of relaxation instead of the darkness of distress. It seemed, for a few moments, like all of life was actually full of brightness. Even my worries seemed strangely dazzling, as if they were shiny but harmless specks of light. I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, and the yellow walls looked luminous. I felt like I was floating in a strange kind of splendor. I saw an old, disheveled truck pass by outside, and even it seemed to glitter and gleam. For those few moments this morning, the lustrousness of life was so clear, even in the doctor’s quiet, ordinary, but oddly bedazzling office.

SHINING THINGS 

One morning 
he saw a silver coffee cup 
shining on the edge of his sink. 
Soon he noticed other shining things 
in the house. The old stove seemed 
to be living in light again, 
the mouse beside the keyboard 
was covered in a blanket of brightness, 
and his socks seemed lit up, 
by which he knew his bicycle 
would shimmer down the streets that day. 

PRIVACY

WORDS LIKE LIGHT

Friday, August 26, 2022

         A friend recently bemoaned the gradual disappearance of privacy, but I’m not sure it should be grieved over. One dictionary says the word “private” refers to something that “belongs to some particular person or pertains to and affects a particular person or a small group of persons”, but is there really anything in this universe that is private in that sense? Yes, I realize that I ‘own’ a certain amount of money, but does the value of that money belong only to me? Did I alone make that money valuable, or was it not, rather, the hard work of countless strangers, over many years, that made the dollars in my pocket worth something? Yes, at this point in time they are in my pocket and my bank account, but they have passed through innumerable hands to reach me, and their journey will continue far into the future after I spend them. In a sense, I don’t ‘own’ my money; it doesn’t belong to a particular person named ‘Hamilton’. I just use it for the time being before it passes along to others. In that sense, it’s not my own private property. The material goods I ‘own’ are also not strictly mine – not a personal, exclusive possession. Like my money,  my wife and I  are only ‘borrowing’ the couch and chairs in our living room (even though we paid cash for them). The craftsmen who made them and the people who may use them after us surely own them as much as we do. The furniture is ‘on loan’ to Delycia and me — and so, as a matter of fact, is everything else I theoretically ‘own’. ‘My’ heart certainly does not ‘belong’ to me. I did nothing to earn it; it was freely given to me by the Universe some 80 years ago. The same goes for ‘my’ lungs, ‘my’ muscles, even ‘my’ thoughts and feelings. Ideas and emotions aren’t ‘made’ by me. They’re not my private possessions, things I can own and be proud of. They come from the vast world of ideas and feelings that’s been re-creating itself for eons and eons. They’re created from the books I’ve read, the people I’ve listened to, the movies I’ve seen, and so on. Like all of us, I’m lucky enough to share in an immense and very public wealth of thoughts and emotions. So what’s the big deal with privacy? As far as I can tell, we live in a universe in which, the dictionary notwithstanding, nothing “belongs to some particular person” or “pertains to and affects a particular person or a small group of persons”. Everything belongs to everything, everything affects everyone, and everyone belongs to everyone. Privacy would seem to be essentially impossible in this kind of universe, so we may as well bid the charade of it a grateful farewell.

ACQUIESCENCE

WORDS LIKE LIGHT

Thursday, August 25, 2022

         The word ‘acquiescence’ often carries a negative connotation – a sense that a person is reluctantly giving in – but it’s interesting that the word derives from the Latin word for ‘quiet’, which offers a fresh perspective on it. When I acquiesce to whatever’s happening in my life, perhaps I’ve simply decided to settle into a quiet posture of acceptance. Perhaps it implies embracing even the worst situations with calmness and respectfulness, and then studying them and trying to learn from them. Rather than necessarily suggesting a submissive attitude, acquiescence may actually stem from understanding that saying yes to the universe’s plans for me can prepare the way for a wider kind of wisdom. I may not always love what’s happening in my life, but bowing to it can bring the inner quietness and light that learning something new often produces. I might even drop the ‘a’ in the word. Perhaps I want to keep the quiescent kind of life I seem to have fallen into, a life marked, not by the sluggishness that sometimes shows up in retirement, but by a powerful kind of peacefulness, which often can come from just accepting what’s happening. I guess I’ve slowly learned to extend a welcome to problems instead of opposing them, partly because acceptance is simply more restful than resistance, but also because working with a problem instead of against it seems to make my old life, in little and large ways, more triumphant day by day. Back in my youthful 50’s, I was often stressed and frenzied from fighting with problems, but now, in my fairly hassle-free 80’s,  I’m putting out a quiet hand of welcome to trouble, just to see what possibilities it might present.

GOING ALONG

Going along, you can get to a place 
where peace can prepare feasts for 
you, 
finding you rest in every moment,
making your life like a lighthearted
and holy and endless event.
 A silent signal is sent out each moment, 
a sign 
to choose to let go 
and to give.  
* on Tuesday, ducks on the Mystic River at sunset *

INSPIRATION

WORDS LIKE LIGHT

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

When I feel like I need some inspiration, the greatest gift of all is that it’s everywhere. I can get instant encouragement just by feeling my lungs rise and fall as my body does its amazingly graceful – though elderly – breathing, or by seeing new light laying its freshness across the land each morning. There’s newness everywhere – always – and that by itself can be a stimulant to a seemingly discouraged 80-year-old fellow. Just watching my old legs move fluidly as I walk through the house is quiet encouragement that life is still amazing. Seeing raindrops sitting with ease and elegance on the leaves of a holly bush can be an inducement to stand up and smile and even sing a little song, and listening to our clothes dryer doing its skillful work can boost my incentive to keep my eyes on life itself as it works its daily, delightful miracles. Discouragement comes only when I can’t see the simple but inspiring wisdom that’s always waiting for me to open my mental door and say a sincere and appreciative welcome. 


GUIDED WITH GLORY
(about Harrison P., 61, Blessings, CT)

He's often guided with glory,
as if he's a king who's cared for
by servants. Some days, seeing leaves
loosening in a breeze brings him
inspiration about what to do next
and how to do it. Some days,
the sky suddenly darkening
guides him to hold the light
of his life up higher. He can't help
being guided, because goodness
always gathers near him
to show him how to go.  You feel
victorious when you have
that kind of guidance, the leadership
of leaves and darkness, and of course
the flow of kindness,
the river that cares and steers.
* a very lucky grandfather with my son James and two of my grandchildren, Ava and Noah *

INDEFINITE

WORDS LIKE LIGHT

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

         It seems strange, sometimes, that the word ‘indefinite’ is so beautiful to me, since, to most people, it probably carries a somewhat negative flavor. We usually want our lives to be the opposite of indefinite – like understandable, and clear, and user-friendly – but I see, more and more, the beauty of obscurity and uncertainty. For me, at the ripe young age of 80, life has become more and more beautifully limitless, a reality without confining borderlines and constrictive explanations. In my younger years, I found it fun to apply easy labels in order to define and understand various parts of my life, but now I know that labels always overlook the vastness and nebulousness of reality. All of this life I’m part of is as indefinite as mist and smoke, as unfixed as breezes and sunshine. After my wonderful long years of searching and studying, I’ve come – happily – face to face with the immeasurable mystery of everything, and it makes me want to wave my arms in thankfulness. I’m a free-and-easy 80-year-old ripple in an unsearchable ocean, happy to simply appreciate the indefinite, open-ended grandeur of things instead of hopelessly trying to define and understand them.



ONE DAY OF  KNOWING NOTHING

One day,
no one knew anything,
and this knowing nothing
made a saintly kind of happiness.
Little lights of unknowing
shone everywhere. 
A silky sea called Ignorance crashed
in spectacular surf on the shore,
and thoughts were so light
they lifted off from people's heads
like light-hearted butterflies.
Broken lives were refurbished
simply by this awareness of ignorance,
and a gentle bewilderment
kept everything sheltered and hushed.
You could see something shining
inside you, because artificial
understanding was no longer there.
Thoughts were shining 
with the salutary light of simplicity,
and soft, medicinal 
explosions of puzzlement 
were everywhere.

REALLY

WORDS LIKE LIGHT

Monday, August 22, 2022

         Today, I hope I can keep in mind what is really true about life, even though this truth sometimes seems unbelievable. Throughout the day, I need to occasionally say to myself that, yes, it is really true that the present moment is the only moment that ever exists. In reality, there is only the wide-ranging and far-reaching present, never the past or the future. We often ‘think’ about the past and future, but the thinking definitely always takes place in the ever-present present. I should also constantly remind myself today that, since there truly is no past and no future, but only the limitless present, then the present moment is actually, in point of fact, always brand-new. This moment, right here and now, each of them, is genuinely fresh and first-hand, the very latest in moments. Each and every moment today, in truth, has never existed before, which means that I will be present with new-born wonders, over and over again, all day long. And, finally, I hope I can often remind myself today that, since the present moment is, in truth, all there ever is, then each moment actually has no beginning, no end, no boundaries, no limits. The real truth is that I am always living in a boundless, brand-new, mind-bending heaven, right here in our small home in our small town on our small planet in a universe that is, in plain fact, way beyond my meager human understanding. I guess, if truth be told, I am a very lucky old dude!

REALLY WINNING 

Really winning could be
studying the words of a book 
so they switch on like lamps, 
or chewing a bagel you've chosen 
with boldness and sincerity, 
or sitting in any chair in your life 
like it's a throne, 
or writing a sentence 
with juice in its words 
and power and its punctuation, 
or even making a mistake 
and seeing the miracle inside it.