How Comes the Dawn

'The Blue Hour,' by Dave Toussaint on Flickr.com

[Image: “The Blue Hour,” by Dave Toussaint. (Found on Flickr; used here under a Creative Commons license.) Toussaint reports that this shot of Yosemite Falls was taken roughly 45 minutes before sunrise. If you’re viewing this on a sufficiently large screen, click on the image to see it in the photographer’s preferred original size of 1140 x 754.]

From whiskey river:

Where do we find ourselves? In a series of which we do not know the extremes, and believe that it has none. We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight. But the Genius which, according to the old belief, stands at the door by which we enter, and gives us the lethe to drink, that we may tell no tales, mixed the cup too strongly, and we cannot shake off the lethargy now at noonday. Sleep lingers all our lifetime about our eyes, as night hovers all day in the boughs of the fir-tree. All things swim and glitter. Our life is not so much threatened as our perception. Ghostlike we glide through nature, and should not know our place again. Did our birth fall in some fit of indigence and frugality in nature, that she was so sparing of her fire and so liberal of her earth, that it appears to us that we lack the affirmative principle, and though we have health and reason, yet we have no superfluity of spirit for new creation? We have enough to live and bring the year about, but not an ounce to impart or to invest. Ah that our Genius were a little more of a genius!

(Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series [source])

and:

To the New Year

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

(W. S. Merwin [source])

and:

The Tongue Says Loneliness

The tongue says loneliness, anger, grief,
but does not feel them.

As Monday cannot feel Tuesday,
nor Thursday
reach back to Wednesday
as a mother reaches out for her found child.

As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.

Not a bell,
but the sound of the bell in the bell-shape,
lashing full strength with the first blow from inside the iron.

(Jane Hirshfield [source])

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A (Not So) Particular Place, a (Not Very) Particular Time

'The Crossing - Downpatrick Head'

[Image: “The Crossing: Downpatrick Head, County Mayo, Ireland,” by architect Travis Price, his students, and numerous local craftsmen. For more information, see this PDF and the Catholic University of America site.]

From whiskey river:

Between where you are now and where you’d like to be there’s a sort of barrier, or a chasm, and sometimes it’s a good idea to imagine that you’re already at the other side of that chasm, so that you can start on the unknown side.

(David Bohm [source])

and:

All Winter

In winter I remember
how the white snow
swallowed those who came before me.
They sing from the earth.
This is what happened to the voices.
They have gone underground.

I remember how the man named Fire
carried a gun. I saw him
burning.
His ancestors live in the woodstove
and cry at night and are broken.
This is what happens to fire.
It consumes itself.

In the coldest weather, I recall
that I am in every creature
and they are in me.
My bones feel their terrible ache
and want to fall open
in fields of vanished mice
and horseless hooves.

And I know how long it takes
to travel the sky,
for buffalo are still living
across the drifting face of the moon.

These nights the air is full of spirits.
They breathe on windows.
They are the ones that leave fingerprints
on glass when they point out
the things that happen,
the things we might forget.

(Linda Hogan [source])

and:

After an old Hasidic master died, his followers sat around, talking about his life. One person wondered aloud, “What was the most important thing in the world for the master?” They all thought about it. Another responded, after a time, “Whatever he happened to be doing at the time.”

(Susan Murphy [source])

and:

Sayings from the Northern Ice

It is people at the edge who say things
at the edge: winter is toward knowing.

Sled runners before they meet have long talk apart.
There is a pup in every litter the wolves will have.
A knife that falls points at an enemy.
Rocks in the wind know their place: down low.
Over your shoulder is God; the dying deer sees Him.

At the mouth of the long sack we fall in forever
storms brighten the spikes of the stars.

Wind that buried bear skulls north of here
and beats moth wings for help outside the door
is bringing bear skull wisdom, but do not ask the skull
too large a question until summer.
Something too dark was held in that strong bone.

Better to end with a lucky saying:

Sled runners cannot decide to join or to part.
When they decide, it is a bad day.

(William Stafford [source])

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The Deceptively Smallest of Lessons

'Lesson #3: On Starting Small,' by user theshanghaieye on Flickr.com

[Image: Lesson #3: On Starting Small, by user Don (theshanghaieye) on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license. (Click to enlarge.) The descriptive text accompanying the photo includes this note, from a source identified only as “Rules of Chess”: If a pawn makes it all the way across the board, it may be promoted to any piece of the same color. They reminded me of the Lewis chessmen.]

From whiskey river:

All That Is Glorious Around Us

is not, for me, these grand vistas, sublime peaks, mist-filled
overlooks, towering clouds, but doing errands on a day
of driving rain, staying dry inside the silver skin of the car,
160,000 miles, still running just fine. Or later,
sitting in a café warmed by the steam
from white chicken chili, two cups of dark coffee,
watching the red and gold leaves race down the street,
confetti from autumn’s bright parade. And I think
of how my mother struggles to breathe, how few good days
she has now, how we never think about the glories
of breath, oxygen cascading down our throats to the lungs,
simple as the journey of water over a rock. It is the nature
of stone / to be satisfied / writes Mary Oliver, It is the nature
of water / to want to be somewhere else, rushing down
a rocky tor or high escarpment, the panoramic landscape
boundless behind it. But everything glorious is around
us already: black and blue graffiti shining in the rain’s
bright glaze, the small rainbows of oil on the pavement,
where the last car to park has left its mark on the glistening
street, this radiant world.

(Barbara Crooker [source])

and:

It is only for a week or two that a broken chair or a door off its hinges is recognized for such. Soon, imperceptibly, it changes its character, and becomes the chair which is always left in the corner, the door which does not shut. A pin, fastening a torn valance, rusts itself into the texture of the stuff, is irremovable; the cracked dessert plate and the stew pan with a hole in it, set aside until the man who rivets and solders should chance to come that way, become part of the dresser, are taken down and dusted and put back, and when the man arrives no one remembers them as things in need of repair. Five large keys rest inside the best soup-tureen, scrupulously preserved though no one knows what it was they once opened, and the pastry-cutter is there too, little missed, for the teacup without a handle has taken its place.

(Sylvia Townsend Warner [source])

and:

In The Middle

of a life that’s as complicated as everyone else’s,
struggling for balance, juggling time.
The mantle clock that was my grandfather’s
has stopped at 9:20; we haven’t had time
to get it repaired. The brass pendulum is still,
the chimes don’t ring. One day I look out the window,
green summer, the next, the leaves have already fallen,
and a grey sky lowers the horizon. Our children almost grown,
our parents gone, it happened so fast. Each day, we must learn
again how to love, between morning’s quick coffee
and evening’s slow return. Steam from a pot of soup rises,
mixing with the yeasty smell of baking bread. Our bodies
twine, and the big black dog pushes his great head between;
his tail, a metronome, 3/4 time. We’ll never get there,
Time is always ahead of us, running down the beach, urging
us on faster, faster, but sometimes we take off our watches,
sometimes we lie in the hammock, caught between the mesh
of rope and the net of stars, suspended, tangled up
in love, running out of time.

(Barbara Crooker [source])

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Here (for Now)

'Too bad about old Ainsworth,' by Barney Tobey in the New Yorker

[Image: cartoon by Barney Tobey in The New Yorker of September 13, 1982 (source)]

From whiskey river (italicized portion):

The Sensual World

I call to you across a monstrous river or chasm
to caution you, to prepare you.

Earth will seduce you, slowly, imperceptibly,
subtly, not to say with connivance.

I was not prepared: I stood in my granmother’s kitchen,
holding out my glass. Stewed plums, stewed apricots —

the juice poured off into the glass of ice.
And the water added, patiently, in small increments,

the various cousins discriminating, tasting
with each addition —

aroma of summer fruit, intensity of concentration:
the colored liquid turning gradually lighter, more radiant,

more light passing through it.
Delight, then solace. My grandmother waiting,

to see if more was wanted. Solace, then deep immersion.
I loved nothing more: deep privacy of the sensual life,

the self disappearing into it or inseparable from it,
somehow suspended, floating, its needs

fully exposed, awakened, fully alive —
Deep immersion, and with it

mysterious safety. Far away, the fruit glowing in its glass bowls.
Outside the kitchen, the sun setting.

I was not prepared: sunset, end of summer. Demonstrations
of time as a continuum, as something coming to an end,

not a suspension; the senses wouldn’t protect me.
I caution you as I was never cautioned:

you will never let go, you will never be satiated.
You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.

Your body will age, you will continue to need.
You will want the earth, then more of the earth —

Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond.
It is encompassing, it will not minister.

Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you,
it will not keep you alive.

(Louise Glück [source])

and:

Aphorism #33

One of the best means for arousing the wish to work on yourself is to realize that you may die at any moment. But first you must learn how to keep it in mind.

(George Ivanovich Gurdjieff [source])

and (italicized portion):

Sabbaths: VII

Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to its rest.

With the ongoing havoc
the woods this morning is
almost unnaturally still.
Through stalled air, unshadowed
light, a few leaves fall
of their own weight.

The sky
is gray. It begins in mist
almost at the ground
and rises forever. The trees
rise in silence almost
natural, but not quite,
almost eternal, but
not quite.
What more did I
think I wanted? Here is
what has always been.
Here is what will always
be. Even in me,
the Maker of all this
returns in rest, even
to the slightest of His works,
a yellow leaf slowly
falling, and is pleased.

(Wendell Berry [source])

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Reimagining the World

'Imagination' (one of a series), by Inara Pey on Flickr

[Image: “Imagination,” one of a series posted on Flickr by Inara Pey. (Click image for full-size original.) The images in this set are all digital creations — scenes from the Second Life alternate-universe “game”/virtual world. See Pey’s blog post about it for more information. Image used under a Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river:

Imagination can so easily be trapped by the wish to escape painful facts and unbearable conclusions. The New Age idea that one can wish oneself out of any circumstance, disease, or bad fortune is not only sadly disrespectful toward suffering, it is also, in the end, dangerous if escape replaces awareness.

At the same time, the act of seeing changes those who see. This is perhaps most clear with self-perception. By my perceptions of who I am or what I feel, not only do I re-create my idea of who I am but I also change myself. Perception is not simply a reflection of reality but a powerful element of reality. Anyone who meditates has had this experience: Observing the activities of the mind changes the mind until, bit by bit, observation creates great changes in the soul. And the effect is the same when the act of perception is collective. A change in public perception will change the public. This is why acts of imagination are so important.

Like artistic and literary movements, social movements are driven by imagination. I am not speaking here only of the songs and poems and paintings that have always been part of movements for political and social change, but of the movements themselves, their political ideas and forms of protest. Every important social movement reconfigures the world in the imagination. What was obscure comes forward, lies are revealed, memory shaken, new delineations drawn over the old maps: it is from this new way of seeing the present that hope for the future emerges.

(Susan Griffin [source])

and:

Love brings something inside you to life. Perhaps it is just the full dimensionality of your own capacity to feel that returns. In this state you think no impediment can be large enough to interrupt your passion. The feeling spills beyond the object of your love to color the whole world. The mood is not unlike the mood of revolutionaries in the first blush of victory, at the dawn of hope. Anything seems possible.

(Susan Griffin [source])

and:

Uley, Glos

The moonlight is suddenly large:
a brightness on the fields that only shows
when this house dims
and something clearer rises
through the parish I know by heart, bricks and glass, the dead
immersed in stone,
subtle erasures, siftings of blood and bone,
as if this was the story of a place
that I could tell without impediment:
first thought, then form, a drift of native souls
scattered across the land like seed or snow,
ordered and lost; a sieve of consciousness
the making of this commonplace domain:
respected borders, marriages and births,
the giving up and taking on of names.

(John Burnside [source])

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Take a Good Look

Edie Adams and Ernie Kovacs, in a publicity still for Kovacs's show 'Take a Good Look'

[Image: Publicity still featuring Edie Adams and Ernie Kovacs for the latter’s comedy game show, Take a Good Look. (Adams was a regular panelist.) For more information, see the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river:

The moon shines on the river,
the wind blows through the pines —
whose providence is this long beautiful evening?

(Yongjia Xuanjue)

and:

Speak, memory, that I may not forget the taste of roses, nor the sound of ashes in the wind; That I may once more taste the green cup of the sea.

(Daubmir Nadir)

and:

Start with a blank surface. It doesn’t have to be paper or canvas, but I feel it should be white. We call it white because we need a word, but its true name is nothing. Black is the absence of light, but white is the absence of memory, the color of can’t remember.

(Stephen King [source])

and:

You think when you wake up in the morning yesterday don’t count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it’s made out of. Nothing else. You might think you could run away and change your name and I don’t know what all. Start over. And then one morning you wake up and look at the ceiling and guess who’s laying there?

(Cormac McCarthy)

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The Possibilities of Treeness

'Tree on the Hill,' by Patrick Winfield

[Image: Tree on the Hill (2012), by Patrick Winfield. 24×23.5 inches, film and Polaroids on panel]

From whiskey river:

Deep down, I don’t believe it takes any special talent for a person to lift himself off the ground and hover in the air. We all have it in us — every man, woman, and child — and with enough hard work and concentration, every human being is capable of [the feat]… You must learn to stop being yourself. That’s where it begins, and everything else follows from that. You must let yourself evaporate. Let your muscles go limp, breathe until you feel your soul pouring out of you, and then shut your eyes. That’s how it’s done. The emptiness inside your body grows lighter than the air around you. Little by little, you begin to weigh less than nothing. You shut your eyes; you spread your arms; you let yourself evaporate. And then, little by little, you lift yourself off the ground.

Like so.

(Paul Auster [source])

and:

Tree

All day I waited to be blown;
then someone cut me down.

I have, instead of thoughts,
uses; uses instead of feelings.

One day I’ll feel the wind again.
A moment later I’ll be gone.

(Dan Chiasson [source])

and:

We end up stumbling our way through the forest, never seeing all the unexpected and wonderful possibilities and potentials because we’re looking for the idea of a tree, instead of appreciating the actual trees in front of us.

(Charles de Lint [source])

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All in Good Time

[A favorite minute from Citizen Kane. See the note at the end of this post.]

From whiskey river:

To Waiting

You spend so much of your time
expecting to become
someone else
always someone
who will be different
someone to whom a moment
whatever moment it may be
at last has come
and who has been
met and transformed
into no longer being you
and so has forgotten you

meanwhile in your life
you hardly notice
the world around you
lights changing
sirens dying along the buildings
your eyes intent
on a sight you do not see yet
not yet there
as long as you
are only yourself

with whom as you
recall you were
never happy
to be left alone for long

(W. S. Merwin, from Present Company [source])

and:

We’re here, there, not here, not there, swirling like specks of dust, claiming for ourselves the rights of the universe. Being important, being nothing, being caught in lives of our own making that we never wanted. Breaking out, trying again, wondering why the past comes with us, wondering how to talk about the past at all.

(Jeanette Winterson. from Lighthousekeeping [source])

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In the Water

[For information about this photo, called “Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida,”
see the Note at the bottom of this post.]

From whiskey river:

Adrift

Let my dreams while I’m wide-awake
loose. Let me be drowned, bap­tized,
in the light given me. Day comes around,
night, fall, win­ter, spring,
sum­mer. Leaves over­head, under­foot.
Waves arrive, buf­fets from friends
offended, ene­mies. Let it all come:
this is my way, this is the canoe I’m in.

(William Stafford [source])

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