The headline in the Seattle Times reads “For third day, grieving orca carries dead calf in water.” (July 26, 2018). As I write this morning it is the sixth day the mother has carried her dead baby on her nose, diving down deep to retrieve it whenever it slips off. I don’t have words to express how I feel. The photo says it.
Elephants also mourn, holding wakes for fallen elephants. In a PBS production I saw a herd come across the remains of a bull elephant. They circled the skull caressing it with their trunks, even lingering over it. Around and around they went, emitting those low rumbling sounds humans cannot hear by ears alone.
I mourn that many humans no longer hear. We seem to have forgotten how to care enough for one another to hold vigil.
Breathing in I care
Breathing out I release indifference
Breathing in I care
Breathing out I release hate
Breathing in I care
Breathing out I release fear of the other.
Breathing in we care
Breathing out we release indifference
Breathing in we care
Breathing out we release hate
Breathing in we care
Breathing out we release fear of the other.
May the merits of this practice extend to all sentient beings in the universe.
Photo Credit: Seattle Times
From Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
trans.Anita Barrows and Joanna Macey
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.
-No forcing, no holding back
-But rivers can overflow,.wrecking havoc on nearby communities
-“Let justice roll down like a river,” Amos 5:24
-The Colorado river carved out the Grand Canyon over a period of millions of years
-Rivers plunge over steep ledges into pools below. Hear the roar of Niagra Falls and Victoria Falls in Zambia
-The River Dee in Scotland meandering along peacefully, allowing fly fishers the luxury of patience.
I resist the drive to dualize by insisting that I act this way and not that way. What matters, in Rilke’s mind, is that my action be true to itself, authentic.
“Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” Norman MacLean
I settled into my meditation on the dock this morning, luxuriating in black bird twitters and the flash of red wings. The sun on my back thawed my winterized bones. Ahh, how good to be alone with the divine… until the holy muse quietly morphed into a magnificent Great Blue Heron holding vigil in the water lilies. Her faithful practice spoke to me,”Stand still. Watch and wait. Your authentic self will catch up with you.”
It should come as no surprise that much of what you read here has already been written elsewhere, for there really is “nothing new under the sun.” Thank you to the mystics and wonderers who go before me. What is new for each of us is the aha moment when we see a truth for the first time or when we peel away another layer so as to understand at greater depth.
For a few years I have used this mantra to stop the human flow of judgment and criticism,”God alive and we thrive.” If god is alive in the conversation, we thrive instead of being dragged down in a cloud of negative energy. I have found the mantra quite helpful until the other day when I had to deal with the incessant noise that accompanies city living and was given a new layer of meaning. I recalled a video of a Buddhist nun who used a bell to call her to mindfulness. She alluded to feeling so frustrated and impatient with the noise that kept her from mindfulness, and substituted the noise itself as the bell calling her to mindfulness. I began to consider the noise outside as a call to mindfulness and a different word came up, the word “presence.” My mantra became “Breathing in presence I release irritation. Breathing in presence I release unrest.” After a while the noise slipped away and I was gifted with a few moments of connection with the divine…much more satisfying than fixating on the noise of garbage trucks uploading!
Subsequently, other uses of the mantra have presented themselves to me. One day I fixated on the possibility of someone’s interference in my life. That negative energy did me no good at all, but this mantra transported me out of it, “Breathing in presence I release mistrust. Breathing in presence I release fear.” When we live in divine presence there is simply no space for negative energy. When we invite presence we are inviting the divine presence that lives in the other person to share space in our being. It is like greeting someone with “Namaste, I greet the god in you.”
I invite you to try this mantra and share in a comment that will give all of us tools for our spiritual growth. Blessings be yours.
As a scruffy six-year-old I loved to sprawl on the parking strip under the Hawthorne trees Dad planted and pick dandelions to string a necklace for Mom. I’m sure the people riding past on the city bus were quite amused at the sight. I wore rolled-up baggy jeans, orange Mr. Magoo glasses, and tight Richard Hudnut Quick Home Perm curls. When satisfied with my masterpiece, I ran up the stairs and through the backyard to the kitchen screen door, which banged repeatedly behind me like a glorious drum roll announcing my grand gift. “Oh, Honey, it’s beautiful! Yellow is my favorite color, you know,” Mom exclaimed with every new necklace.
As a budding teenage beauty I lounged on the parking strip with friends hoping that Billy would just happen to walk by. Right. His paper delivery route took him by my house at the same time every summer afternoon. To wile away the time we plucked the leaves off dandelions to the tune of “He loves me, he loves me not.”
And now, the damn dandelions! They served me well in younger, carefree days. in adulthood they are an eyesore, a nuisance. We regard them as useless weeds which overtake our carefully manicured grass, buying into the lawn culture marketed by herbicide companies.
What if we regarded dandelions as we do the weeds in our carefully manicured souls? Let them grow among the virtues while we train them. We could treat them like questions living into answers, as Rilke says. The result just might be a more human landscape.
photo credit: Fire Engine Red <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/22620629@N05/25729346044″>Dandelions DP</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
. . . Whom should I turn to,
if not the one whose darkness
is darker than night, the only one
who keeps vigil with no candle,
and is not afraid—
the deep one, whose being I trust,
for it breaks through the
earth into trees,
when I bow my head,
faint as a fragrance
from the soil. [II, 3]
Rainer Maria Rilke from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macey
Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.
— 2005 “A Briefer History of Time”
Jennifer A. Payne’s
WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING TOUR
“Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind”
Would God floss? Do spiders sing? Can you see the Universe in your reflection? Find the answers to these questions in more in this new book by Connecticut writer Jen Payne. Her poems in EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING: WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND investigate the human condition and its folly, the beauty of our natural world, and the possibility of divine connection. 80 original and vintage photographs include a series of discarded dental flossers that inspired the book’s title.
ALA Notable Book author Dale Carlson calls the book “a brilliantly incisive commentary on our simultaneous human sense of beauty and waste and loss.”
EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING speaks to the common heart that beats in you and in me, in the woods and on the streets, across oceans and around this planet. It asks us all to consider the effects of our actions and how they influence everything else in the Universe.
Jen Payne’s book, Evidence of Flossing: What we leave Behind, carries prophetic power in the spaces between its words. It is truth and beauty delivered to us in wide-eyed wonder by a child’s heart passionately in love with nature.
The prophet shows up in bold statements like,”This watch around my neck doesn’t work,” (Time Peace) and “My fingers touch its teeth like rosary beads, penance for our collective apathy,” and “Numbed and dumbed by these machines,” (Now Trending>)
Other times we encounter a mystic drawing us into the essence of the universe, “Everything is flowing, god whispers. How foolish am I to resist?” (Resistance is Futile.)
In each poem Jen crawls inside a subject and settles in for a leisurely lie-in until she understands, then becomes her subject. The integrity of the process gifts readers with fresh insight and renewed commitment to be mindful of what they leave behind. As in this verse from “Sanctified without Assistance,” ‘Jen’s writing is sometimes spare, creating space for soulful birthing: “Come winter, bare-branch whispers of hope promised, stored.”
Evidence of Flossing: What we leave Behind should not be missed. You will come away with both righteous anger and with hope. You will be blessed with insight into the nature of spirituality and rekindled with the joy of nature.
About the Author:
Jen Payne is inspired by those life moments that move us most — love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. Her writing serves as witness to these in the form of poetry, creative non-fiction, flash fiction and essay. When she is not exploring our connections with one another, she enjoys writing about our relationships with nature, creativity, and mindfulness, and how these offer the clearest path to finding balance in our frenetic, spinning world.
Very often, her writing is accompanied by her own photography and artwork. As both a graphic designer and writer, Jen believes that partnering visuals and words layers the intentions of her work, and makes the communication more palpable.
In 2014, she published LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, a collection of essays, poems and original photography. Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind is her second book.
Jen is the owner of Three Chairs Publishing and Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company founded in 1993, based in Branford, Connecticut. She is a member of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, the Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Arts Center, the Guilford Poets Guild, and the Independent Book Publishers Association.
Installations of her poetry were featured in Inauguration Nation an exhibition at Kehler Liddell Gallery in New Haven (2017), and Shuffle & Shake at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven (2016). Her writing has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, WOW! Women on Writing, and The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health.
You can read more of her writing on her blog Random Acts of Writing, http://www.randomactsofwriting.net.
Jennifer can also be found online at:
Be sure to visit!
So we have arrived once again on the cusp of celebration, when expectations run high and nerves fray at the edges. In this lovely poem, For The Senses, John O’ Donohue offers us a way through, a way to be for the holidays.
This way demands that we slow down, watch, listen, wait.
May the touch of your skin