Delycia and I love to rise very early each morning, especially in the summer, when we can see the darkness lowly disappear as the sun rises. Here is what I saw above the patio at 5:00 a.m. this morning,
It’s easy to understand how “connected” I am when I see the sunshine spreading across my wife’s gardens on these summer mornings, for it’s the same sunshine that warms the whole world, including this family of Canada geese Delycia and I passed on our bike ride this morning.
We live in a small town, but we share the sun with limitless numbers of living things, sharing as closely as brothers and sisters. The light that lands on Delycia’s daylilies, and on these geese, also fills valleys in France, and the same sunshine that sometimes brings out our sunscreen starts trees setting out more leaves in China. I try to think of this when the world seems like a disjointed, straggling place. When I feel like a puzzled sightseer on an utterly undisciplined planet, I try to see, in my mind, all the many millions of us living our lives lit up by the same sun. It’s like we’re all the offspring of sunlight. We all need the sunlight to restore us each morning, and all of us – all the many billions of us – say thanks, in our own ways, when it does. It’s like we’re living in an infinitely large family – including all the Canada geese – and we all find comfort together under a light that never leaves us for long, and that illuminates all of our lives in similar ways. Even in our most troublesome times, the sun stays with us, like a father for brothers and sisters, like a mother making sure her children are sharing, as one, her unfailing light.
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OFF-SPRINGINGa poem about Sharon Z., 82, Blessings, CT
On some days,
she knows she’s the offspring
of winds and lights,
the child of swirling stars.
On those days of wisdom,
she wonders how the limitless universe
is able to be the mastermind
of all mountains and weathers
and mosquitoes and women like her.
She feels her family all around her -
the flowing air,
the always unfolding light,
the moments singing as they arrive and leave.
She knows she’s a youngster
surrounded by brother and sister trees
and streets and restful clouds
and people poised on the brink
of being born again
every single moment.
There are times when I see, with surprising ease, that I’ve been given the gift of complete freedom. On those occasions, it becomes clear to me that, rather than being bound within a separate, isolated, vulnerable body, I am actually an essential part of a boundless and harmonious universe. Atoms that make up the mind and body I call ‘mine’ were shaped at the same moment that stars started to shine and the earth to spin, and thus have sailed freely through countless eons. My thoughts, too, have flown to me on the freest wings, sailing into my life from who knows where, and I can take those thoughts beyond all boundaries, wherever I please. Most of the time, I confess, I do feel fettered by all kinds of limits, or walls, like this stone wall we passed on our bike ride this morning,
but at certain special times I know I’m as free as the morning winds that were passing over this wall and heading out to anywhere and everywhere.
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There will be lavish space
You can dare to do anything today
because your actions will stream out
in limitless directions,
Let your life
and float in freedom,
for all boundaries
are broken down today,
and the light knows no end.
Nothing is solid.
All is spreading and dancing today.
On our walk this morning, Delycia and I took separate trails at the Peace Sanctuary, and at one point I came upon this view of the Mystic River.
As I sat for a few minutes, I thought of a problem I’ve been battling for the past few days, and I slowly started to see a truth I’ve often seen before – that a problem doesn’t require a battle. I was disappointed in myself, because it occurred to me that I’ve been responding to problems in these senior years in pretty much the same way I handled problems when I was 12 years old – by seeing them as adversaries and forcefully fighting them off. Back then, I saw life as an almost constant contest between me and my multitude of enemies, from sickness to storms to darkness to countless possible catastrophes, and it seems I’m still, at 78, sometimes wrestling with life instead of simply living it. As I sat above the river this morning, I began seeing this current problem of mine as maybe more like a river to be floated on than a battle to be fought. Maybe life isn’t so much a fight as a friend, a convivial adventure instead of an endless struggle. The best way to work with a river is probably to tell it to go where it will and you’ll follow, and perhaps I need to say something similar: “Proceed, problem. Take me to a truth I haven’t seen before. Let’s see what we can do together.” When I was 12 (and 30 and 60), I attacked my problems, and almost always lost. Maybe, sitting above the Mystic River today, I again found a new way.
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a poem about Bill M., 87, Blessings, CT
He welcomes his problems
like lovable puppies.
He knows they prepare him
for further adventures and fun ahead,
so he hugs his problems
in heartfelt friendship,
showing them the thoughtfulness
that may inspire them
to share their beneficial wisdom.
His problems are his helpers.
Their companionable barks
are the neighborly signals
of fresh inspiration,
arriving and ready.
Below, a gallery of flowers from Delycia’s garden today …
Often, while I was waiting for my evening college class to begin, I sat in a lobby at the college surrounded by humming snack machines, and it occasionally got me thinking about the humming minds of students and their teachers. For three hours on fifteen nights each semester, my students and I met together in a small room, and, though each of us was sometimes silent, our minds were always making the steady sounds of earnest thinking. That’s what minds do: they silently hum like hardworking snack machines, making endless refreshments, you might say, for our thought-hungry lives. After all, we live on thoughts, all of us. Our thoughts feed us, fill us with spirit and vision, and free us to find new ways to widen our lives. Whether we’re working on an important project or just enjoying an idle afternoon, our minds are manufacturing thoughts that can carry us a thousand miles in a millisecond. Our minds are mechanisms made of a wild kind of wisdom, and they hum with the liveliness of limitless snack machines. I tried to keep this in mind as I made my way with my students through our evening classes. In the deadest, most soundless moments of a class, our always animated minds were beating the drums of thoughts and throwing thinking parties inside us. Silence and dullness on the outside, perhaps, but inside, always the purr and pulsation of spirited thoughts.
This morning Delycia and I heard another kind of humming machine – that of a dense and flourishing forest. We took an hour-long walk through the Oswegatchie Nature Preserve in Niantic, CT, and I think we both loved the richness of the place, the overflowing wealth of countless kinds of life carrying on their silent humming all around us as we walked. We especially noticed the mushrooms as they sat here and there in a sort of princely stillness, but surely surging with life inside. Here’s a quick slideshow of our favorites …
And here’s another slideshow of some of the other silent ‘humming machines’ we passed on our walk …
And finally, the lovable and loving walkers themselves …
In my lifetime, 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 since 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 almost 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 like these, under which Delycia was paddling her kayak this morning. (I was lagging behind – with my camera.)
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 rivers like the Wood River in Hopkinton, RI., where we were this morning. The mingling of two human bodies, the blending of ripples in rivers, 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 serene 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 lucky me along for the ride.
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FLOATING IN A THOROUGH BUT WAYWARD WAY
(Harrison P., 61, Blessings, CT)
He found his real self on a soft,
affectionate afternoon in February,
an afternoon that followed him around
like it loved him and held him close.
He could never see his real self clearly,
never in his whole life,
but lo, there it was this thoughtful afternoon,
floating in a thorough but wayward way
as though it was thinking how wonderful
all of life was, and when he
saw it sashaying around, he said
It’s my real self!
and he started
to understand, at last, the largeness of life,
including himself, how whole he was,
how wide and helpful to all of life,
and he let go and got a start, at least,
at floating in a thorough but wayward way.
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And here’s a slide show of scenes from this morning’s float …
And here’s an old dude taking a quick and cold dip after a hot paddle …
Pausing on our bike ride this morning beside this old, peaceful pond
brought to mind, for some reason, the countless thoughts that come drifting down on me in their soft but insistent way, like raindrops on a pond. Like all of us, I live in the midst of a steady rainfall of thoughts, all as soft as the rain that sometimes descends on this pond. True, some of my thoughts – those filled with stress or uneasiness – don’t seem especially soft, but perhaps that’s because I often feel more like a sheet of asphalt than a soft, welcoming pond – like I’m being besieged by the thoughts instead of being softly visited by them. When unsettling thoughts seem to be filling my mind, perhaps I can learn to take a few (or maybe many) steps back and dispassionately survey them as they flutter down on me, simply taking notice of the thoughts instead of being deluged by them. Then, maybe those distressing thoughts might seem as harmless as raindrops settling softly on this old, welcoming pond. Raindrops soon disappear and become a useful addition to ponds like this, and perhaps I can learn to let thoughts softly descend on me and soon assimilate themselves in a helpful way in the limitless, universal Pond that I and all of us are part of.
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A happy, young-at-heart couple taking a break on their bike ride this morning …
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a man with advanced cancer
grew weary of goodness
and decided to flee from it forever.
He tried to not see
the graciousness of the nurses and doctors,
nor the benevolence brought by the sunshine
at his hospital window,
nor the mild manners
of autumn’s leaves settling
on the windowsill.
He turned his face
from the affectionate softness
of his comfortable bed,
and from the goodwill
of the clean walls and helpful floors.
He couldn’t stand the compassion
of his visitors,
and he always jumped away
from the generosity of a new morning.
It was no use, though,
for goodness never gives up.
The man finally surrendered to it,
and both he and his grateful cancer
fell into its soft arms.
This morning we started our day in a very safe place – the Peace Sanctuary along the Mystic River.
It’s a small but special nature preserve, and especially in the last few months it has seemed like a place of safety for us – an unspoiled oasis in the midst of the chaos of the covid-19 pandemic. This morning, as almost always, we were alone on the trail and had only the rustlings of leaves and a few stray raindrops as soft sounds to accompany us. I think we both felt sheltered as we walked – sheltered from the light rain under the wide-spreading trees, but also sheltered from the disorder of our furious human world. At home, we think of our silent meditation times as small ‘retreats’, and these walks in the Peace Sanctuary are like walking retreats as we pace along in the silence and solitude of peacefulness.
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MEDITATION AMONG THE HILLS OF SUSSEX
(with Delycia in the UK)
Some cars were moving softly past the hills,
and he was sitting on the grass outside,
with sunshine on his shirt
and silence in his life -- the silence
of contentment and simplicity.
He luckily had someone by his side.
Her hair was gray like hillside mist,
and in her eyes was blueness
like a valley lake. The cars passed by
in peacefulness, and so did all his thoughts,
like clouds that drift along in satisfaction
in an undisturbed sky. He sat and watched
his thoughts, and watched her hair,
as soft as clouds along the hills,
and watched their lives that lingered
and relaxed and let the universe spin on
the way it must.
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Below, a slideshow of some of this morning’s flowers in our own special sanctuary, Delycia’s garden:
We had a wonderful visit with Annie, Gabe, and Louie this morning, out in the breezy shade on this very warm day. It was special for all of us, I think, to just be together, doing the proper distance thing but still sharing our friendship as fully as ever. I completely forgot to take pictures, but on an early walk this morning, before their visit, I passed some stones that, surprisingly, brought thoughts of our family.
Here, all the stones are special in their own exclusive way, just like the five of us in our shady yard this morning, and each stone, small or large, plays its special role in keeping all the stones, and the wall, stable and steady, just like all of us in our blended family try our best to do.
And here’s another closely bonded stone ‘family’ …
hugging and holding each other together. We couldn’t physically hug our family members in the backyard this morning, but we hugged their hearts with our hearts, maybe the strongest, happiest hug of all.