Words from Rilke

If only for once it were still.

If the not quite right and the why this

could be muted, and the neighbor’s laughter,

and the static my senses make –

if all of it didn’t keep me from coming awake –


Then in one vast thousandfold thought

I could think you up to where thinking ends.


I could posess you,

even for the brevity of a smile,

to offer you

to all that lives,

in gladness.


Rainer Maria Rilke, as translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macey in Rilke’s Book of Hours

Published in: on October 29, 2010 at 08:36  Leave a Comment  
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Rain by Shel SilversteinRain.  Heavy, steady rain.  The dry ground soaks it up as if it cannot get enough. In an old camping trailer the rain drums rhythmically on the roof, making me feel cozy, yet restless.  Rest-less, as in unable to sleep.  A sense of urgency, of needing to be gone from here before the rains turn to snow, yet still uncertain of the direction.

There is no right or wrong, really, in terms of decision.  Any step leads to a new place, new experience, new stories.  Or unexpected repetitions of old stories. Who are we without our stories?  We define ourselves as this or that, some definitions carried forward from childhood, some developed along the way, some evolving out of radically new experiences, some out of a sense of unending sameness.  Day by day our actions are guided by what we tell ourselves about who we are and what we are capable of.  (Never end a sentence with a preposition, goes a story from high school English class.)

Our stories become our identities.

That’s not a bad thing – it is what being human is all about.  Stories, adventures, experience.  “Everyone should write their memoirs,” Tanza said to me once, her point being that every life is fascinating.  We all have a story, multiple stories that have helped shape who we are in this moment, and have brought us to this point in our lives.   Some of our stories have been adventure stories, filled with travel and excitement, while others are stories of staying home, building family and garden and community.  Some have been comedies, romantic comedy maybe, or even black comedy… Romance, drama, mystery, how about a fairy tale?  Horror stories?  Tear-jerkers?  Happily-ever-after stories?

Ok, maybe I am carrying the metaphor too far, but really, if you think about your own stories ~ the places you’ve been, the people you know, the weaving in and out of connections and paths, incidents and co-incidents ~ it is all fascinating.  Step back for a moment from the drama of your life and see it as if you were reading a book, or watching a movie.  If we can step back, become an observer in our own stories,  we can let go for a moment of  “the way things are suppose to be” and see “what is” with new appreciation.

If I step back from this drama of not knowing where I’m going (what i judge as the failure of instinct) and see it all as story, will a new door open up?  will i see possibilities where I had seen none before?  Maybe, maybe not, but I might be able to appreciate it a bit more as Adventure.

So who writes these stories?  Is it us?  The so-called new age movement had us all believing that we create our own reality – and for those of us who bought in to that we eventually found that such a unexamined belief just leads to guilt, and the overwhelming sense that we must not be good enough, or not doing something right, because our reality sucks, and it’s not at all what we meant to create…..

There is some truth to creating our own reality, as in writing our stories, making our decisions, choosing how to face the situations of our lives. But here’s the other thing…. we can’t see with the long lens of time.  We can’t see all possible outcomes from our small human perspective.  We are, in these human forms, limited.  Can you see what’s  around the next bend before you get there?

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, and for reasons we can’t figure, our stories take us in to dark places, and we wonder how we got here, how we will get out.  Other times, we unexpectedly rejoice in the glory of choices well made, stories well written.  Maybe those really dark places hold nuggets of wisdom and joy that we could not come into any other way, or maybe the things we thought we wanted most are not the stories that bring us the most joy.   We don’t know, can’t know before hand….

No matter what stories we live – this direction or that,  this choice or the other – there is no right or wrong.  It’s all an adventure. We are humans,  maybe just many expressions of god experiencing an amazing range of emotion and actions and stories.  Whatever the plot, our storDeuce and the Dalai Lamaies shape us, give meaning to our lives, create ways for us to share who we are.

Maybe that’s the important thing here: stories need to be shared to be appreciated.  We need to share our stories with one another, give up harsh self judgment for self appreciation, and come together in community to appreciate all stories – to laugh and cry and love and share in the full experience of being Human.   Our stories give us food for relationship; they are beautiful no matter the content, and bring out the tenacity and beauty in each one of us.

How do I write my future story?  I cannot see with the fullness of time what outcome my choice today might ultimately have.  My view is narrowed, limited by the current version of my story.  All I can do, all any of us can do, is to make our choices with integrity and maybe a bit of faith, trusting instinct, taking action, being in the moment, and loving the adventure of once upon a time.

Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 13:12  Comments (2)  
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I give you an emptiness,

I give you a plenitude,

unwrap them carefully.

– one is as fragile as the other –

and when you thank me

I’ll pretend not to notice the doubt in your voice

when you say they’re just what you wanted.

Put them on the table by your bed.

When you wake in the morning

they’ll have gone through the door of sleep

into your head.

Wherever you go

they’ll go with you and

wherever you are you’ll wonder,

smiling about the fullness

you can’t add to

and the emptiness

that you can’t fill.

poem by Norman MacCaig

Published in: on October 15, 2010 at 08:54  Leave a Comment  
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Cold and Dry.  The autumn air deepens into winter’s bite at night ~ below freezing temps in the high desert of Central Oregon.  Time moves on:  autumn, just arrived, already merging into winter. In the moving, stillness.  The dryness of this day, in this place, is crisp, cold, unyielding.  Waiting.

I find myself depleted, emptied of purpose, watching, listening. Waiting.  Dry.  My skin is dry, my body craving water, moisture. Even my spiritual center feels dry, crisp, like an autumn leaf that crumples when you fold it in your hands, bits drifting down into the earth.  Compost.

I imagine walking barefoot on the thick, wet carpet of a rain forest  (avoiding slugs) under drips of rain from bright green mossy branches, or diving in to the wild waves of a cold, salty ocean (not that I would really…being the cold wimp that I am, it is more a romantic notion than a practical one, no matter how thick my bathrobe may be).  I crave the idea of moisture, of wet, of wild water, of a fertile flow that might feed some new step, some new force of creativity.

Dry spells are normal, I suppose. This emptiness, this nothing…. creative types know it well.  Writers block that comes after a period of prolific writing, blank canvas that stares back at a painter as if nothing could ever fill it, architects or web designers who lose, momentarily, that creative flow that builds something out of nothing.

And if it happens in creative endeavors, why wouldn’t it also be a natural part of spirituality?  Spirituality is nothing, if not creative (in fact, when creativity is separated from spirituality, there can be no true inspiration, but that is a thread for another day).

Contraction precedes expansion.  Expansion requires contraction.  Perhaps contraction is necessary to integrate creative and spiritual expansion, and maybe emptiness is part of a letting go that allows space to open for a different kind of creative expression.   Yin and Yang, and All that Jazz.

oceanEven the ocean contracts and expands in response to some greater force that we can only marginally grasp.

This dry, brittle spiritual center is, I know, a momentary contraction.  I’ve known it before, know that this too will pass. Creative contraction is always temporary, no matter how absolute and devastating it is in a moment.  The emptiness is not really empty. My friend William used to say: “even numbness is a feeling,”  and Pema Chodron reminds me that feelings are simply energy, they come and they go, none of them are permanent.  Change happens.  Contractions give way to expansions, emptiness invites form, and is filled.

For now, all I can do is allow the emptiness, allow the dry spell.  Here God, this too is yours.  It is all I have to offer in this moment.


Published in: on October 12, 2010 at 09:13  Comments (2)  
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