I sometimes think of writing a story about some reflections of trees in a river, like these on the Wood River where we kayaked on Friday morning …
and, in my story, the tree reflections decide that they are, in fact, real trees, not just reflections. Gradually, these tree reflections become proud of their separateness as ‘real’ trees, and begin thinking that they are better than the other reflections, but also start worrying, because maybe the other tree reflections, which are also ‘real’ trees, will be able to hurt them, and even kill them!
This story, even if it never gets written, is an important one to me, because it portrays, in some ways, my own situation in life. I usually think of myself – my ‘self’ – as a separate material entity existing in a universe of countless other material entities, all competing with each other to stay separate and healthy, but when I’m wide awake and thinking clearly, I see how foolish that is – just as foolish as these tree reflections on the Wood River yesterday thinking they are actually real, individual, separate trees, and not reflections.
More and more, as the years have passed, I have come to see that what is called ‘I’ or ‘me’ or ‘Ham’ is simply a reflection of something so vast that it can’t be comprehended or described. Every thought I think and move I make is actually a reflection of the thoughts and movements of this infinitely forceful power, which I sometimes refer to as Spirit, or Soul, or just Life. These tree reflections don’t really have to work hard to sway and bend, nor I do I have to work hard to live a fulfilling – even miraculous – life. Like the tree reflections, I just have to relax and let the powers do their marvelous work. Lucky me.
A year or so ago, as the dentist was working on my teeth, I studied some hidden-word puzzles on the ceiling, and soon, as the drill droned on, I was thinking of other hidden surprises in my life, the little wonders that wait by the thousands for me to find them. As I thought about it, it seemed possible that all the moments in a day are made of useful surprises, small shocks that have the power to uplift a life. A day could be compared to a puzzle in which wonders wait beneath the seemingly humdrum happenings. I thought perhaps I could be like a scout searching a wilderness of secret treasures. As the dentist did his work, my day-to-day life started to seem like a stirring escapade, a journey among unseen jewels and gems. They were just words hidden among letters on the dentist’s ceiling, but they helped me have a look into the fortune-filled life I’m lucky to be living, even when I’m lying back in a dentist’s chair.
I saw lots of surprises on our morning walk today on Napatree Beach in RI.- small bombshells and amazements that kept me somewhat astonished for the entire walk:
… some wild, wavy clouds in the west …
… the skeleton of a large sea turtle …
… the remains of what looks like a young shark …
…. and some rickety old man named Hamilton placing a stone on a cairn.
When someone said to me, speaking about someone else, “He’s really deep”, I said to myself, “Yes, and aren’t we all?” In 78 years, I haven’t met anyone who wasn’t deep, in the sense of being a thoroughly impenetrable puzzle. Yes, I sometimes take satisfaction in saying I understand this or that person, but it’s always a pretense, a charade that charms me into believing I am smarter than I actually am. In some places the ocean can be many miles deep, but not nearly as deep as every single person I pass on the street. There’s eventually a bottom to the ocean, but where is the bottom of someone’s inner life – someone’s sorrow, for instance? Where is the bottom of a broken heart, or of happiness? Is it ever possible to understand the scope of the most ordinary person’s simple gladness? The Grand Canyon is deep, yes, but not nearly as deep as William next door, or Anna, a check-out person at McQuades. I stand in awe on the shore of any ocean, yes, but I should do the same in the presence of any person.
On my walk in the Peace Sanctuary this morning, I passed several scenes that seemed ‘deep’ to me, like this lovely trail that led me quietly along …
and these trees as the rising sun was shining behind them …
and this view of the Mystic River, whose charm, for me, is as deep as any ocean …
A SHOT IN THE DARK
She said it was an absolute
shot in the dark.
She said her spoken words
went out into undisciplined darkness
and deep into space, and she never saw
what happened to them, until
time went by and blessings
descended on her, the subtle
blossoms from those old words
that had wafted through the universe
setting down seeds
for fortunate people.
I’ve grown to love the word ‘wherever’, I guess because it seems like such a wide-open, welcoming word. It says to me, “Come on in, at anytime and in any place. Please enter – and enjoy feeling satisfied.” ‘Wherever’ is a word about miracles. If I ask where I can find miracles, this word gives the answer, ‘Wherever you are.’
This morning, while Delycia was doing a walk along the river, I took a bike ride along Lantern Hill Road, and – yes – wherever I looked, I saw miracles and felt a powerful satisfaction. If someone had asked me what part of the ride was the best, I would have answered, “Wherever I was,” because every moment was a miracle to me.
(about Patricia F., 46, Blessings, CT)
August 11, 2020
is precisely where she wishes to be -
inside a shimmering forest
beneath an unfolding sorrow,
in a disorderly store
on a silent seashore -
She says wherever she is
is perfect for her
is always perfect
And here are two miracles from earlier this morning, at 5:15 a.m …
(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 …