Saturday, January 4, 2020

SERENE CONFUSION

01/04/2020

       As far as I can remember, the word ‘confusion’ has always carried a negative connotation, as though it is something adverse and undesirable. However, I’ve been feeling a new friendliness toward the word, partly because I recently found that it derives from the Latin word ‘confundere’, which means ‘mingle together’. The English verb ‘fuse’, meaning join or blend, comes from the same Latin root, and all of this helps me see that confusion can be thought of as simply the blending and mingling of things or situations or people – something that is not only not necessarily negative, but actually natural and nonstop in our universe. Literally everything is always mingling and blending, from electrons and atoms, to the cells in our bodies, to the air we all share and breathe, to winds and clouds across the skies. When lovers meet to make love, they blend in the most natural way, ‘fusing with’ each other – or ‘con-fusing’ – the way water molecules, we might say, ‘con-fuse’ with each other in the ocean. The mingling of two human bodies, the blending of sunshine and shadows, the intermixing of words among friends –these are just some of the ways our universe is constantly ‘con-fusing’ (blending) all of its parts, and always with a serene kind of naturalness.  

       So … from now on, I hope I can truly love the constant confusion in my life – the intermingling of feelings and thoughts, pleasures and sorrows, successes and failures, lives and deaths. It’s how the universe has been swirling along for billions of years – in serene confusion, and taking me, luckily, along for the ride.    

on the frig, our magnetic poem for today

Friday, January 3, 2020

LIVING WITH POLISH

   I’ve known a few people in my life who seemed to live lives of utter evenness, almost silkiness, as if their lives were somehow polished to the point where problems rolled easily over and around them. These people were not artificial in their smoothness, as though they were merely covering up some hidden brokenness, but seemed always genuinely unruffled, like the smooth and polished waters of an easy-moving river. I wonder if this might be why these people were also thoroughly polite, their friendly manners being similar to the way a lake will softly slide around you as you swim. Their politeness seemed as natural as an easy breeze feels as it flows around you, or as sunshine feels as it surrounds you on certain days. Speaking of sunshine, I recently found that the word ‘polite’ comes from the Latin word ‘polio’, which means ‘to polish’, and so perhaps these people were simply as polished as spring sunshine, bringing a genuine brightness and warmth wherever they went. I never had the feeling that they were ‘trying’ to be polite, but that courtesy and civility simply shone out from them like silky, polished sunshine.  

        

the shadows of Hammy and Cia

Our chalkboard poem for today …

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A GRATEFUL HEART  

An old church hymn asks for “a grateful heart that loves and blesses all”, and this morning I’m giving some thought to the word “all”. The hymn doesn’t say “blesses some”, or “blesses the good things that happen”, or “blesses people who act the way I think they should act”. It says “all”, as in everything that happens, everything that comes my way – the pleasant and the unpleasant, the advantageous and the seemingly useless, the triumphs and the trouncings. The hymn suggests that every aspect of my life should  somehow be honored. I should, in some way or other, bless everything that happens. As Shakespeare reminds us, blessings (he uses the word “mercy”)  should not be “strained”, but should be shared the way “the gentle rain of heaven” falls upon the earth — indiscriminately, unconditionally, thoroughly. Rain falls on the bad and the beautiful, and so should my gratitude.  

WALKING, BELONGING, WEAVING

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

ELM GROVE CEMETERY, ONE OF OUR FAVORITE PLACES FOR WALKING

This morning – without my beloved walking partner, Delycia – I took a fairly fast walk down to the cemetery and back. I was bundled up warmly and moved my arms speedily in order to stay toasty. It pleased me that I was able to focus on some of my morning meditation thoughts as I walked, which seemed to keep me a little warmer as I moved alongside the chilly wind. The cemetery was, as usual, a quiet, untroubled place, just what I always need during a walk. The walk back home was especially fun, since I pictured in my mind my hot cup of coffee with some sliced apples and assorted sweet goodies on a plate.

My poem for today …

BELONGING TO EVERYTHING

One day,
a man was like a sheep
that had no shepherd,
but just a steady, silent light
to show him the way,
and some shy but athletic happiness
to surround him and say
this is precisely where and when
you should be.
On that day,
he belonged to nothing
but also to everything,
every flock of uprising birds,
all the brightest shaking leaves,
even the worn-out clouds
he sometimes saw above his house,
clouds that seemed to always
have a place to stay,
like he did on that day
when love was endless inside him,
when all things were singing
and asking what would be the cost
of simply realizing
that he’s never without a shepherd,
that love is endless inside him forever
and so happy to be there,
and all things were thanking him
for being always their friend
and for staying with bigheartedness
inside their continuous light.

Our chalkboard poem for today …

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Matty came over this afternoon with some strands of milkweed fiber, and, with a warm fire going in the fireplace, he sat on the floor and carefully wove the strands into twine. I sat nearby, reading and enjoying the fire, and we occasionally chatted about one thing or another, but mostly we sat in silence, me reading and Matt twisting the milkweed strands together. When he left after an hour or so, he took with him a strong piece of milkweed twine, maybe 4′ long. Both Cia and I had held the twine and tested its strength, and were totally impressed!

WARMTH AND DANCING

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

We had a wonderful visit from Matty yesterday – two hours of friendly and often profound conversation. I am a lucky dad to be learning so much from my four children. I was their classroom teacher for a few years, but they have been my teacher for all the years of their lives. It’s so fortunate that Matt lives just a few miles away, which makes it easy for us to get together for discussions. Yesterday, we sat in front of a friendly fire and roamed in a carefree way over countless topics, from stoicism to weaving milkweed strands to the struggles of young people today. There was warmth flowing out from the fire, and also from our unruffled, heartfelt words.

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ACTUALLY DANCING 

On any given day, my thoughts are usually as gossamer and scattered as the dusting of snow across Mystic some winter mornings, and that’s exactly what I love most about them. I feel fortunate that my thoughts are as insubstantial as the snowflakes that floated down on us last night. Even worrisome thoughts seem to easily scatter through my mind, and, if I let them, just as easily disappear, as will this wispy sheet of snow by the afternoon. When I step back and simply observe them, I see that my thoughts are actually flimsy specks that fling themselves around in fairly disorderly ways. It’s like they’re having fun, these sometimes bothersome but always free-spirited thoughts that dance around inside me, and I often have fun observing them in their escapades. Like snowflakes, even the most fearful thoughts sooner or later settle to a stop — sometimes on a computer screen in curious rows called sentences. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

My poem for today …

AN AFTERNOON OF GRATITUDE

He sat beside a vase of flowers
and felt filled up with gentleness.
The seeming chaos and distress
of all the world was gone. The powers

he felt were soft and reassuring.
The sunshine through the windows flowed
into him like streams, and slowed
him down, and helped him start to sing.

Carnations were his audience.
He sang a song he’d never heard,
of sunshine and a grateful bird
who didn’t have the common sense

to be unhappy and complain.
The flowers seemed to like his song
and shined more pink and bright. Along
the western hills a single lane

of birds was slowing down to hear
a guy sing out with mellowness and praise.
A squirrel on the lawn in rays
of sunlight stopped and raised its ear.

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DINNER FOR FEAR
Like many of us, I’ve been fighting fear for most of my life, but now, in my 70s, I see that I probably should have been giving it a good-natured “hello”, and perhaps even setting out dinner for it. Strangely, my resistance to fear has only seemed to enable it to spread and grow stronger. The more I’ve fought to push fear out, the more powerful it seemed to become. So, I guess I’m tossing in the towel. I’m sending up the ceasefire flag so fear can see I’m not afraid of it. In fact, I’ve started putting out invitations: “Please come in, fear. I’ll set out dinner for you. Let’s relax and learn about each other. Linger as long as you want.”
Fear, I’m finding, often disappears fairly soon in the face of simple hospitality.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

My poem for today …

ALL IT TAKES

He saw some branches shaking in a breeze,
and clearly knew that all the force that frees

the branches isn’t in the branches, but in
the breeze itself. The trees receive the spin

and whirl of a breeze, and it remakes
their lives. For patient branches, all it takes

is letting breezes do their swirling dance
with them, and soon the branches start to prance.

He saw what he had rarely seen, that he
could do the same, could be a patient sea

that rolls or sleeps as wisdom blows across
it in the storms of life or in the flow and toss

of daily living. He saw that he is not the one
who does the work of life, but that the fun

of living comes from letting go and letting
Spirit do the work. He saw that getting

free involves allowing forces even larger than
the universe itself to swirl and roll and fan

his life. Like branches in a breeze, he’s in
the best of hands, and cannot help but win.

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A WHATEVER KIND OF GUY
One day, visiting my grandchildren at their house in the countryside, I started messing around with some small stones on one of the many stone walls on the property – just seeing what structure I could create in a few minutes. I had no design in mind, only the desire to do something spontaneous and set the stones wherever my hands wished them to be. If someone had asked me what I was building, I might have said “whatever my hands wish” – or maybe, like so many young people today, just “whatever”, perhaps with a suitable shrug. However, there would be no spirit of indifference or exasperation in my “whatever”, as there often seems to be when I hear the word spoken. If I said “whatever”, it would be because whatever I build with those small stones would be something special to me. I guess, in a way, I’m a whatever kind of guy. Whatever a day brings, I try to see what it has that can help me. I know that whatever happens a minute from now is the truth for that moment, and whatever thought I have at any moment helps me, somehow, be exactly who I’m supposed to be. It’s a good word for me. I’m more likely to smile than shrug when I say “whatever”.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2019

My poem for today …

A NEW WORLD

He thought he was a separate thing, apart,
inside a universe of other separate things
surrounding him and causing him to start
a fight at every turn with all the “kings”

that tried to rule him, kings like doubt and lack
and illness. Then one day he saw a light
that shined so clear and bright he turned his back
on his belief in separateness. The sight

of something new came into view, a world
where nothing was alone and frail, but all
was part of one eternal flow that curled
around and through and over like a shawl

of well-made oneness. He could now
see how mistaken he had been! He saw
a world that clearly showed him how
an endless oneness was the only king and law!

Now, he lives in peace and feels oneness sing
of safety like a loving, calming king.

Cia is away today with her good friends Evelyn and Peter, so this morning I had the unusual experience of exercising by myself. I had arranged to meet my good friend Alan at McQuades for coffee at 10:00, so I left the house around 9:00, walked down to the cemetery, then back up to the market for coffee and a visit with Alan, and then back home, a total of about 3 miles – not especially brisk or strenuous exercise, but good enough to bring a fresh feeling to my fortunate 78-year-old body.

Our chalkboard poem for today …

Friday, December 27, 2019

This morning, we did a wonderful walk into Mystic – past the Mystic Seaport with occasional sightings of the river, then over the famous Mystic drawbridge, and ending at Sift Bake Shop for a tasty breakfast. Then, it was back home along the west side of the river, with lovely views of ships at the seaport and flocks of waterfowl, and finally home again on Riverbend Drive – a total walk of about 6.7 miles.

Then, this afternoon we saw the new movie version of Little Women, and we both loved it. I was struggling with tears now and then as the life of this deeply loving family unfolded. It helped me realize, for the umpteenth time, that all of life is a splendid blend of loathing and love, sadness and rejoicing, turmoil and tranquility. I left the theater a wiser man, friend, and husband.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

This morning, after a quick workout at the Y, we drove up to Jamie’s for a Christmas visit with him and Noah and Ava. It was, for me, quite astonishing to walk into their ‘great room’, so beautifully decorated for the holiday season. The centerpiece was a huge blazing fire in their historic fireplace, with enormous logs lit up and letting warmth flow out out to fill the room, something Patch and Hogan obviously love.

Above the fireplace was this marvelous decoration, made solely by Jamie and the kids. I loved studying it carefully to appreciate the various colors and features.

Their Christmas tree, cut down from the forest on Jamie’s property, is an old-fashioned beauty, with many homemade ornaments from years past. (While I was admiring the tree, Patch – like I often am – was obviously grateful just to be close to Delycia.)

Then, we all took a walk at the Audubon Preserve, a wonderful way to end our happy Christmas visit.