Presently the two mares and the two colts came over to see me and to take a drink. The colts looked like children with their big grave eyes, very humble…and they were tamer than I expected. They came over and nudged me with their soft muzzles and I talked to them a bit. – Thomas Merton
A Blessing – James Wright
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
(James Wright, “A Blessing” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose.Copyright 1990 by James Wright. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.)
This morning I give thanks
I give thanks for
open windows and
French doors half-opened
This morning I give thanks
for clear glass tumblers
of cold Sebago water
and the crickets
of course and the crows
thanks for the cool
the comfort of hands
thanks for the taste of lemon
and the hair brush
I give thanks
for the shadow
that lingers a moment
then leaves the world
(photo: Portland, Maine – August 2014)
To keep the spirit of eternal youth active in us during the second half of life, we must learn again to play with our experience. Recall the joy of discovery before it bowed to work, obligation, and duty. Movement is alive; inertia is dead. We become more “unalive” as we cling to that which is predictable and unchanging. Enthusiasm is closely related to the spirit of play – the word comes from the ancient Greek theos, meaning “god.” To have enthusiasm is to allow yourself to be filled with divine assistance, so the ego does not need to handle your tasks by itself.
– Robert A. Johnson, from Living Your Unlived Life
The Peace of Wild Things
BY WENDELL BERRY
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
The grip the present has on me. That is the one thing that has grown most noticeably in the spiritual life – nothing much else has. The rest dims as it should. I am getting older. The reality of now – the unreality of the rest. The unreality of ideas and explanations and formulas. I am. The unreality of all the rest. The pigs shriek. Butterflies dance together against the blue sky at the end of the woodshed. The buzz saw stands outside there, half covered with dirty and tattered canvas. The trees are fresh and green in the sun (more rain yesterday). Small clouds, inexpressibly beautiful and silent and eloquent, over the silent woodlands. What a celebration of light, quietness, and glory! This is my feast, sitting here in the straw!
– Thomas Merton, journal entry – August 25, 1958
(photo: Runaround Pond, Maine – June 2019)
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
I don’t think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is. It is a ‘hypaethral book,’ such as Thoreau talked about – a book open to the sky. It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better. Or that has been my experience of it. Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural. This is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine – which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.
– Wendell Berry, “Christianity and the Survival of Creation” in Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community
[one of William Blake’s drawings for Dante’s Inferno]
Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth. I feel that a man may be happy in this world. And I know that this world is a world of imagination and vision. I see every thing I paint in this world, but everybody does not see alike. To the eyes of a miser a guinea is far more beautiful than the Sun, and a bag worn with the use of money has more beautiful proportions than a vine filled with grapes. The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity, and by these I shall not regulate my proportions; and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. As a man is, so he sees. – Wm. Blake