“… 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.
(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."
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.
On the walk Delycia and I took this morning at Haley Farm State Park, I started thinking about the natural grace we both were displaying as we walked along the trail. We weren’t doing anything fancy – just walking – and yet I saw stylishness in the movements of our 80-year-old legs. We passed over the stones and slopes and dips with senior-citizen poise, moving our old legs with marvelous suppleness. Really, it’s a major miracle how the human body does its daily tricks, and one of its finest feats is the fluid movement of the bones and muscles and nerves of legs. How does this wonder happen – even the well-worn bodies of Delycia and me flowing along with seeming lightsomeness – and today, on a trail of rocks and rises and bumps? I guess I actually shouldn’t be surprised, since our two vintage bodies do these kinds of wonders on a daily basis – lifting pencils with deftness, walking from room to room with elderly elegance, turning our heads as easily as breezes bend and flow. Truly, a fine finesse is with us always, though I don’t often notice it. Even the act of typing these words has a certain nimbleness in it, arising, perhaps, from the simple grace of just being alive – and, luckily, old.
Below, my beloved fellow hiker leading the way …
SAVED BY GRACE
(Bill M., 87, Blessings, CT, USA)
He knows he is saved by grace -
by the wind
with all its wings
sailing with poise,
by the easeful brightness
of even sorrow and darkness,
and by the light-footed
carefree or nervous feelings
that circulate inside him.
He sees finesse in all the moments
parading through life,
even the fearful ones
that throw and spin themselves at him,
but then bow with benevolence
if he gives them his finest gift,
an unruffled nod
and a smile.
WORDS LIKE LIGHT
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
I hope to keep in mind today that I am always surrounded and softly held by our pretty-as-a-picture universe. Even just sitting at my desk in the early morning, doing my daily writing, I see the striking patterns in the wood of the desk, my moderately graceful handwriting on post-it notes, and the silver shine of my small pencil sharpener in the lamplight. Even if I were in a hospital bed, being treated for a serious illness, I hope I would notice perhaps the appealing patterns in the woodwork, or the way clouds curl and slowly flow across the sky outside the window, or even just the elderly elegance of the hairs on my arms. There is some pleasing splendor in even the saddest situations – the delicate tears of sorrow, the bowed-down beauty of friends consoling friends, the sublime service freely given by first-responders. For sure, this is a bewitching world I’m lucky to be living in, where there’s something stunning in even the simplest moment.
SINGING ALL NIGHT
One night a woman heard voices
She couldn't seem to stop them.
It was as if her mind was spilling songbirds
all over her bedroom. The brightness she saw
as she walked the floor was the brightness
of the suspended stars, the understanding
that all she ever needed
was with her
at this very moment.
The voices she heard
were the voices of forests
on the sides of mountains,
and schools of fish celebrating in infinite rivers.
the songs of minutes
made in heaven,
of sunglasses so happy on a sunny day.
And here’s a slideshow of some scenes from recent days …