Amazement

­­WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

 Thursday, May 5, 2022

Note: I start my reflection today with a quote from a poem by John Keats. In this poem, Keats writes about how the Spanish explorer Cortez and his men must have felt when, in their explorations, they reached a mountain peak where, to their surprise, they suddenly saw a vast body of water, later to be named ‘the Pacific Ocean’.

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“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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Below … some scenes from our walk on Napatree Beach this morning …

… and here’s Delycia with her next-door neighbor friend …

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

IMMEASURABLE

            I’ve spent most of my life believing that everything is measurable – capable of being set apart, analyzed, and appraised. Life, to me, was an object, or a series of objects, all of which had a beginning and an end, and thus could be accurately plumbed and quantified. Most importantly, I believed the person called ‘me’ had a start and a finish, a front and a back, a top and a bottom, and therefore was able to be set apart and objectively considered as a separate ‘thing’ – but also was able to be attacked and injured – and even destroyed – by other separate, measurable ‘things’. Life, for those early years in my life, was a scary proposition, filled with measurable ‘objects’ competing with other ‘objects’. 

            Now, though, I rest in the wonderful understanding that all of life is immeasurable. There are  no beginnings or endings – none whatsoever – but just the endless flow of endless life. I still sometimes fall back into the habit of measuring things – Has this been a ‘good’ day? Do I have ‘enough’ money? Is my patience large enough to handle any adversity? – but more and more now, I am able to step back and see the boundlessness of everything. It’s like life is a shoreless, bottomless, and surfaceless ocean, and the phenomenon called ‘I’ is simply one of its countless stunning and measureless ripples. When I see life like that, as it truly is, then living becomes a free-flowing and risk-free adventure – not something to be analyzed, measured, and worried about, but simply stared at in wonder, appreciated, and loved.

SAILING AWAY

Into the night he sailed. His sorrow
was simply another star in the sky,
another sound of the summer night.
The only cause of sorrow is separation,
and that had disappeared as soon
as he slipped past his selfishness
into the immeasurable ocean of the present.
An impressive life had been looking for him,
and he felt it had found him
on this night of swimming stars.
His mind wore a loose yellow shirt
as he sailed along, his sorrow stretching
behind him like disappearing lights.

Yesterday, we had a wonderful lunch at Cafe Flo, on the Lieutenant River, and here is our view from our table on the lawn …

And here’s our chalkboard poem for today …

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

STUN

            This day, I hope, will stun me almost constantly. Like a child, I’d like to walk through the moments of this day in a continuous daze, totally stunned by the miracle after miracle that life will surely produce. Just the skill of carrying a cup of coffee to my lips – which I just did – should astound me with its finesse and gracefulness, and the way Delycia and I share thoughts by sending them over to each other in spoken words should astound me again and again. The fact that my body will breathe – in and out, over and over, all day today – with absolutely no help from me, should stagger me the way a child is staggered by the simplest occurrence. This day will be a maze of the most beautiful kind, and I look forward to wandering through it in a stunned way, constantly stupefied by the wonders of this mysterious life I somehow share with mountains and squirrels and Delycia and shoppers in McQuade’s supermarket.

ONE DAY LIKE CHILDREN 

One day,
they chose to be children.
chose to have stunned faces
and eyes as wide as windows.
They walked around
wondering why and how
about everything. 
They gaped instead of looked,
studied instead of passed by,
stopped and stared instead of
glanced and went. 
They spoke
only questions or exclamations
all day, 
because you can't
say clear statements
if you are constantly 
astonished.

And here’s a scene from our long, lovely walk on Napatree Point yesterday …

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

TRUSTING

            In these days of apparent worldwide disorder and skepticism, my goal is to be trusting. After all, I am part of an infinite universe that has been unfolding beautiful miracles for billions of years, so why shouldn’t I step back, set aside my personal wishes and preferences, and trust this miraculous universe to proceed with its plans? I guess I need to be more childlike – more willing to simply stare in wonder at the amazing mysteries that disclose themselves each moment. I want to be an ingenuous 79-year-old guy who gives his complete trust to whatever happens. This doesn’t mean I will always like what happens, or that I will weakly stand aside and let hardship have its day. On the contrary, trusting the universe means standing – and staying – right in the center of whatever’s happening, thereby finding the cease-fire and victory that is always available in every situation, no matter how grim. The truth is that ‘I’ don’t really have to do anything today, since this inestimable universe of ours will be doing everything that needs to be done – giving me new breath each moment, new feelings and thoughts, new and spectacular scenes to see, new adventures to share in. I should be wide-eyed with wonder all day as the shoreless and imperious river of the universe tirelessly moves me along. 

BE AND LET AND TRUST
(Andy H., 70, Blessings, CT)

He knows
the universe works well 
without his help. 
The trees in winds can work their waves 
and bends with no input from him, 
and clouds float soft and light 
without his crackerjack advice. 
Good breath lifts up his lungs 
with ease and poise, 
and he’s amazed 
to feel them rise and fall. 
He knows 
he never has to take control, 
since life does all the work. 
He only has to be, 
and let, 
and trust.