Step Back. Good. Now, Look Again.

[Whale in a green sea, by Jorge Vaz (a/k/a jfmfaz, on Flickr). Found it at the blog
of North Vancouver artist Therese Lydia Joseph.]

From whiskey river (italicized portion):

The trouble with you and me is we are used to what is happening to us. We grew into our lives like a kernel beneath the earth, never able to process the enigma of our composition. Think about this for a moment: if you weren’t a baby and you came to earth as a human with a fully developed brain and had the full weight of the molecular experience occur to you at once, you would hardly have the capacity to respond in any cognitive way to your experience. But because we were born as babies and had to be taught to speak and to pee in a toilet, we think all of this is normal. Well, it isn’t normal. Nothing is normal. It is all rather odd, isn’t it, our eyes in our heads, our hands with five fingers, the capacity to understand beauty, to feel love, to feel pain.

(Donald Miller [source])


How to See Deer

Forget roadside crossings.
Go nowhere with guns.
Go elsewhere your own way,

lonely and wanting. Or
stay and be early:
next to deep woods

inhabit old orchards.
All clearings promise.
Sunrise is good,

and fog before sun.
Expect nothing always;
find your luck slowly.

Wait out the windfall.
Take your good time
to learn to read ferns;

make like a turtle:
downhill toward slow water.
Instructed by heron,

drink the pure silence.
Be compassed by wind.
If you quiver like aspen

trust your quick nature:
let your ear teach you
which way to listen.

You’ve come to assume
protective color; now
colors reform to

new shapes in your eye.
You’ve learned by now
to wait without waiting;

as if it were dusk
look into light falling:
in deep relief

things even out. Be
careless of nothing. See
what you see.

(Philip Booth [source])

Not from whiskey river:

The Task

It is a simple garment, this slipped-on world.
We wake into it daily—open eyes, braid hair—
a robe unfurled
in rose-silk flowering, then laid bare.

And yes, it is a simple enough task
we’ve taken on,
though also vast:
from dusk to dawn,

from dawn to dusk, to praise, and not
be blinded by the praising.
To lie like a cat in hot
sun, fur fully blazing,

and dream the mouse;
and to keep too the mouse’s patient, waking watch
within the deep rooms of the house,
where the leaf-flocked

sunlight never reaches, but the earth still blooms.

(Jane Hirshfield [source])


If a fish is born in your aquarium and you call him John, write out a birth certificate, tell him about his family history, and two minutes later he gets eaten by another fish — that’s tragic. But it’s only tragic because you projected a separate self where there was none. You got hold of a fraction of a dynamic process, a molecular dance, and made a separate entity out of it.

(Eckhart Tolle [source])


Night Flight

I am doing laps at night, alone
In the indoor pool. Outside
It is snowing, but I am warm
And weightless, suspended and out
Of time like a fly in amber.

She is thousands of miles
From here, and miles above me,
Ghosting the stratosphere,
Heading from New York to London.
Though it is late, even
At that height, I know her light
Is on, her window a square
Of gold as she reads mysteries
Above the Atlantic. I watch

The line of black tile on the pool’s
Floor, leading me down the lane.
If she looks down by moonlight,
Under a clear sky, she will see
Black water. She will see me
Swimming distantly, moving far
From shore, suspended with her
In flight through the wide gulf
As we swim toward land together.

(George Bilgere [source])


His sister, he saw, was standing beside him. He tried to explain it to her, tried to put a finger on what fascinated him. This house, he told her. It’s a little different. There’s something about it… But he saw, from the way she looked at him, that she thought it was a game, that he was making it up.

“What are you seeing?” she asked, with a grin.

Why not? he thought. Why not make it a game?

“What are you seeing?” he asked her.

Her grin faltered a little but she stopped staring at him and stared at the house.

“I see a house,” she said.

“Is there something wrong with it?” he prompted.

She nodded, then looked to him for approval.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

Her brow tightened like a fist. “I don’t know,” she finally said. “The window?”

“What about the window?”

“I want you to do it,” she said. “It’s more fun.”

He sighed, and then pretended to think. “Something wrong with the window,” he said. “Or not the window but the number of windows.” She was smiling, waiting.”The problem is the number of windows. There’s one more window on the outside than on the inside.”

He covered his mouth with his hand. She was smiling and nodding, but he couldn’t go on with the game. Because, yes, that was exactly the problem, there was one more window on the outside than on the inside. That, he knew, was what he’d been trying to see all along.

(Brian Evenson [source])

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  1. Beautiful, beautiful Fridays. Sometimes too beautiful to bear.

    The jewels here for me are Donald Miller and Phillip Booth. Is Miller’s Greatest Hits as good all through, or have I already had the best of it here? Should I get the e-book?

    When I have the temerity to try a poem, it winds up with Booth’s rhythms and phrasing. See “Amor Fati.” In Pawleys Island, you can see scores of deer on the shoulder of Hwy 17 just before sunrise in patchy fog, particularly when you’re taking your daughter to meet a sailor arriving on an early bus from Panama City to Charleston. (He is her future husband; it is your first sighting.) It’s the eyes you notice first.

    Tolle, whose real first name is Leonard. This selection makes me wish I wasn’t terminally pissed at the entire gaggle of spirituality gurus. What can I say?

    • *laughs evilly* Hahahaha! I see my evil plan has worked: week after week, to bring one or another favorite person back here, out of hiding, no matter how (a) day-job-preoccupied I’ve been or (b) life-preoccupied they’ve been. I say again: Hahahaha!

      The curator(s) at whiskey river, like all of us, go through phases, and recently they’ve included numerous gems of Donald Miller’s. (I included another at the top of last Friday’s post.) Alas, I haven’t read any more of him than I’ve found on whiskey river, although (like you) I think I might like to. (What I’ve learned about him online suggests that he’s just a bit too explicitly capital-G-God-focused for me to appreciate in large gulps, as it were.)

      I love that bit about the deer, the early-morning fog, the sailor, the daughter. (You probably knew I would.) Glad to see you haven’t lost your touch. :)

  2. that blog address was an error. It’s:

    • Now this is great news. So looking forward to catching up — it’s been way too long (and I’ve been way inundated at work).

      I changed the link in the “Touchstones” category at the right; let me know if you want to “go dark.”

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