WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Friday, August 13, 2021

ASTONISH

         The word ‘astonish’ comes from the Latin word for thunder, so it could literally mean being thunder-struck, shocked like sudden thunder and lightning can shock. I’ve been astonished like this – ‘stopped dead in my tracks’ – countless times in my long life, but much more so in the last few years. In fact, it’s truly a daily, sometimes hourly, experience now. Life, more and more, seems like almost constant ‘lightning and thunder’, but in the best and happiest of ways. I am now, at the age of 79, truly amazed, stunned, and startled by almost everything. I know now that I have absolutely no answers, but only awe-struck questions, and I am loving the questions (as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke advised a young poet to do). “Why did this just happen? Where did this thought come from? How did I get here? Who the heck am I?” In these elder days, I walk around in an almost constant daze, but it’s a happy daze, a bewilderment that brings me grateful joy. I feel like I’ve reached the summit of a mountain where the view is both striking and mystifying, both beautiful and utterly baffling. And strangely enough, I am totally at peace with this astonishment I’m feeling in my 79th year. In fact, I am grateful for it, for I feel like I’ve entered a land of both constant surprise and absolute safety. Somehow, my bewilderment brings with it quietness and contentment. There’s lightning and thunder, yes, but it’s the kind that carries illumination and instruction and a smile. 

IN MAZE

In Maze, Mississippi, USA, 
the residents seem always thunderstruck, 
as if astounding thoughts 
are constantly ascending 
like stars inside them. 
They seem almost speechless,
like words couldn’t possibly describe 
the miraculousness of their lives. 
They see their lives as shoreless rivers 
flowing in a poised and imperishable way. 
As with all of us, 
they sometimes must take a trip
with sorrow, 
but they’re astonished that its hard road 
always leads to new kinds of light. 
They’re staggered by the freshness
of every single moment, 
as if life is always
starting over with a sparkle. 
They’re flabbergasted by the simplest sights – 
leaves moving in winds, 
a single bird sitting in grass. 
These folks of Maze often look totally lost, 
but somehow in a lovely, lucky way.





And here are some scenes from our recent walks, and roses outside our dining room window, and Queen Anne’s lace beside our patio, and two loving friends named Hammy and Delycia …

Bikes, Peaks, and Poems

Friday, May 22, 2020

We took our first real bike ride of the season this morning, a quick 8 miles, and here’s a look at Delycia finishing the second 2-mile stage in a very strong fashion …

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HONEST AMAZEMENT

“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken;

or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes

He stared at the Pacific – and all his men

Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –

Silent upon a peak in Darien.”

— John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

I’m always hoping to more often feel what “stout Cortez” and his men felt on that “peak in Darien”. Keats pictures them standing on a hill above the Pacific Ocean, staggered by the scene, and I would like to foster more of that kind of bewilderment and wonder in my life. Cortez and his men saw a startling sight, and every day – every moment – I am witness to scenes which, in their own special ways, are just as amazing. Hard as it is to remember during the sometimes wearisome routines of the day, the various circumstances that arise around me are as unique and mystifying as the Pacific Ocean, and really, the only suitable response to them is honest amazement. The life I share with Delycia is my “Darien”, and wherever I happen to be is the “peak” where I can look “with a wild surmise” at the inscrutable magnificence of life. A “surmise” is a guess, a supposition, a hunch, and that’s honestly all I have when it comes to understanding the things I see and experience. In the end, they’re all complete conundrums to me. If you ask me to make clear the mystery of even the simplest circumstance – the look of lamplight on a table, the sound of a car coming past the house, the whole sky shining at 7:00 a.m. — all I could do is make a hit-or-miss guess, a “wild surmise”. A better response might be to stay respectfully silent, like the astonished explorer and his men.

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Our current fridge magnetic poem …