POETRY: This Morning, I Wanted Four Legs by Jane Hirshfield

September 14, 2018

Nothing on two legs weighs much, or can. An elephant, a donkey, even a cookstove—those legs, a person could stand on. Two legs pitch you forward. Two legs tire. They look for another two legs to be with, to move one set forward to music while letting the other move back. They want to carve into a tree trunk: 2gether 4ever. Nothing on two legs can bark, can whinny or chuff. Tonight, though, everything’s different. Tonight I want [...]

POETRY: My Life Was The Size Of My Life by Jane Hirshfield

September 7, 2018

My life was the size of my life. Its rooms were room-sized, its soul was the size of a soul. In its background, mitochondria hummed, above it sun, clouds, snow, the transit of stars and planets. It rode elevators, bullet trains, various airplanes, a donkey. It wore socks, shirts, its own ears and nose. It ate, it slept, it opened and closed its hands, its windows. Others, I know, had lives larger. Others, I know, had lives shorter. The depth of lives, too, is different. There were times my life and I made jokes together. There were times we made bread. Once, I grew moody and distant. I told my life I would like some time, I would like to try seeing others. In a week, my empty suitcase and I returned. I was hungry, then, and my life, my [...]

POETRY: Thrush by Louise Glück

July 19, 2017

Snow began falling, over the surface of the whole earth. That can’t be true. And yet it felt true, falling more and more thickly over everything I could see. The pines turned brittle with ice. This is the place I told you about, where I used to come at night to see the red-winged blackbirds, what we call thrush here— red flicker of the life that disappears— But for me—I think the guilt I feel must mean I haven’t lived very well. Someone like me doesn’t escape. I think you sleep awhile, then you descend into the terror of the next life except the soul is in some different form, more or less conscious than it was before, more or less covetous. After many lives, maybe something changes. I think in the end what you want [...]

GOD: Heaven’s Encores, by G. K. Chesterton

January 12, 2017

From Orthodoxy Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising.  His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.  The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they feel some game or joke that they specially enjoy.  A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life.  Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged.  They always say, Do it again; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead.  For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough [...]

THE SANCTITY OF LIFE: Things Seen And Unseen by Sam Torode

November 21, 2016

From A woman in a white coat walked into the room and flipped on the fluorescent lights, jarring my wife awake.  Bethany had been asleep for about half an hour – the longest nap she had managed all day.  Though the doctor had ordered her to get plenty of sleep, nurses kept coming in every few minutes to take her temperature and blood pressure. The day before, we were invited to lunch at a Thai restaurant.  When we returned home, Bethany was bothered by a cramp in her side.  Blaming the food, she laid down in bed.  But after four hours of increasing pain, we left for the emergency room, thinking that it might be appendicitis.  We were right, after after a few hours the appendix was removed with no complications [...]

POETRY: Vita Nova, by Louise Glück

July 27, 2016

You saved me, you should remember me. The spring of the year; young men buying tickets for the ferry boats. Laughter, because the air is full of apple blossoms. When I woke up, I realized I was capable of the same feeling. I remember sounds like that from my childhood, laughter for no cause, simply because the world is beautiful, something like that. Lugano. Tables under the apple trees. Deckhands raising and lowering the colored flags. And by the lake’s edge, a young man throws his hat into the water; perhaps his sweetheart has accepted him. Crucial sounds or gestures like a track laid down before the larger themes and then unused, buried. Islands in the distance. My mother holding out a plate of little cakes— as far as I [...]

POETRY: Handmaiden Of Moon Dancing, by Martha Graham

April 13, 2016

fly me to stars in the thrill of one swan night over a crescent arc to feel a flame of sighs, teasing dreams so silent yet ever wild and like a neon light, speak through your feet, your ribs twirling in drips of summer’s rage: throw away the restraint of confined movements dictated by a body unmoved; of a flower keeping her flutters from crawling freely on grass give me a sway through leaps unto ocean’s swell without need for thought or reason, rather, lift the flesh made from love or hate, to burst with primitive heat; fingers liquid in motion unbidden by a sacred place that doesn’t exist on earth, when all but the fragrance of a naked skin expresses the very force that writhes in the faint of depth, licking the cells inside out… [...]

POETRY: Cutting Loose, by William Stafford

January 13, 2016

Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason, you sing. For no reason, you accept the way of being lost, cutting loose from all else and electing a world where you go where you want to. Arbitrary, a sound comes, a reminder that a steady center is holding all else. If you listen, that sound will tell you where it is and you can slide your way past trouble. Certain twisted monsters always bar the path—but that’s when you get going best, glad to be lost, learning how real it is here on earth, again and [...]

PRAYER: A Psalm Of Life, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

September 14, 2015

Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem. Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul. Not enjoyment, and not sorrow. Is our destined end or way; But to act, that each to-morrow Find us farther than to-day. Art is long, and time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave. In the world’s broad field of battle, In the bivouac of Life, Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife! Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant! Let the dead Past bury its dead! Act,—act in the living [...]

POETRY: Sunset, by Rainer Maria Rilke

August 5, 2015

Translated by Robert Bly Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors which it passes to a row of ancient trees. You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you, one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth, leaving you, not really belonging to either, not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent, not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing that turns to a star each night and climbs— leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads) your own life, timid and standing high and growing, so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out, one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a [...]

LIFE: Death, by Thomas Merton

May 19, 2015

From Love and Living Death is the end of life. This statement seems at first sight quite obvious.  It appears to say everything essential about death.  Yet merely to declare that when a living being ceases to live, it “dies,” is perhaps to say nothing of any importance at all.  If we reflect on the implications of “life” and “death” and the “end of life,” we become uneasily aware that to make purely casual statements about these realities – a statement which turns out to say “nothing of importance” – is a frivolous abuse of speech.  This reveals an incapacity to face the reality of life, death, and the end of life.  Death is treated with frivolity because life itself [...]

REFLECTION: Resisting Life, Rejecting Love

July 31, 2014

A number of years ago now I was having a bad reaction to a chemotherapy drug.  I had begun to walk bent over from the pain it was causing me.  So I was ordered to stop taking it.  Not surprisingly, I stood up again and walked around pain free. Two weeks later, to the day, I was upstairs on the first floor, having my breakfast while reading a book, still in my flannel nightie (it was a slow day, I was still celebrating the release from the pain).  And I began to vomit.  Huge, full-body releases of everything solid and every drop of fluids I never knew my body could hold. On the half hour, exactly. For ten hours straight. I knew that I should be getting myself to the hospital, but I had stayed on that floor (it was only a few steps [...]

POETRY: Black Snake, by Margaret Gibson

July 23, 2014

1. When, in the darkened room, I hear a clatter from the mantel of the central chimney with its many chinks, and turn to see why a plate has leapt to the floor on its own, I freeze as a sleek thick ribbon of snake slides like rain over the rough stones of the chimney and into an opening I swear is no wider than the eye of my wedding [...]

POETRY: Microcosmos, by Wisława Szymborska

July 23, 2014

Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak When they first started looking through microscopes a cold fear blew and it is still blowing. Life hitherto had been frantic enough in all its shapes and dimensions. Which is why it created small-scale creatures, assorted tiny worms and flies, but at least the naked human eye could see [...]

MEDITATION: The Eucharist — The Mystery Of Our Christ, by Karl Rahner

March 2, 2014

What happens when we celebrate the Eucharist?  The simple answer is: The Lord’s Supper which he celebrated at the beginning of his passion becomes present among us and for us.  If we are to understand this central element of our faith we must reflect on what happened at the Lord’s Supper, and we must ponder what it means when it is said that this meal becomes present among us and for us. What did the Lord do when he celebrated the supper with his apostles?  Perhaps the easiest way to place the unfathomable plenitude and impenetrability of this happening before us is to say that in that hour Jesus accepted his death as the giving of himself to God for the redemption of the world.   He gave himself to God as the one to be put to [...]

POETRY: Instructions To Painters & Poets, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

January 29, 2014

I asked a hundred painters and a hundred poets how to paint sunlight on the face of life Their answers were ambiguous and ingenuous as if they were all guarding trade secrets Whereas it seems to me all you have to do is conceive of the whole world and all humanity as a kind of art work a site-specific art work an art project of the god of light the whole earth and all that’s in it to be painted with light And the first thing you have to do is paint out postmodern painting And the next thing is to paint yourself in your true colors in primary colors as you see them (without whitewash) paint yourself as you see yourself without make-up without masks Then paint your favorite people and animals with your brush loaded with light And be [...]

POETRY: The Hammock, by Li-Young Lee

January 29, 2014

When I lay my head in my mother’s lap I think how day hides the star, the way I lay hidden once, waiting inside my mother’s singing to herself. And I remember how she carried me on her back between home and the kindergarten, once each morning and once each afternoon. I don’t know what my mother’s thinking. When my son lays his head in my lap, I wonder: Do his father’s kisses keep his father’s worries from becoming his? I think Dear God, and remember there are stars we haven’t heard from yet: They have so far to arrive. Amen, I think, and I feel almost comforted. I’ve no idea what my child is thinking. Between two unknowns, I live my life. Between my mother’s hopes, older than I am by [...]

REFLECTION: A Whimsical Story, by David Steindl-Rast

November 7, 2013

From A Listening Heart The food chain is a closed circle.  On the biological level we humans are but one link in that chain.  Wisdom will taste life and death with full awareness and will relish their tart intermingling.  But wisdom has a wider perspective.  Wisdom can see a food chain, as it were, that transcends biological life – not a closed circle, but an ever-rising helix.  Father George Kosicki tells a delightfully whimsical story about this: Once upon a time, there was a dandelion growing in a meadow.  The dandelion whispered to the amino acids and all the other nutrients in the soil, “How would you like to become dandelion?  You need only to allow yourselves to be dissolved in a drop of water and I will suck you up [...]

GOD 101: The Importance Of Being Seen

May 3, 2013

Sometimes, well, actually pretty often, I come to think that we live our lives upside down and inside out.  What we appreciate in life, I have come to think, may be just the frivolous rosettes on top of the cake’s icing. On the other hand, what is most important, I’m not sure we recognize at all. At all. I remember receiving my “last” lesson (even though it wasn’t my last lesson in time, I guess it was the last lesson in God’s manual for me).  I was in my twenties.  Fairly young to be receiving the “last” word of God, in my opinion.  Although at what age do you think a person is fit to receive anything from God, last thoughts or otherwise? Anyway. The “last” lesson goes [...]

GRACE: The Grace of Aridity and Other Comedies by Kathleen Norris

October 13, 2012

From Portland Magazine It’s all about water, and grace. Our planet is mostly water, as are we: one fact of nature that astonished and delighted me when I first encountered it as a child, and which I still treasure as evidence of the essential unity of all things, is that human blood, chemically speaking, is nearly indistinguishable from sea water.  While we live and breathe, we are literally at one with the ocean, and when we die, our bodies become earth.  This is not New Age fancy, but science. We human beings, however, are remarkably adept at ignoring elemental truths; we’d rather place our faith in technology, and keep playing with our toys.  Every now and then I read of a survey conducted by sociologists in which Americans are [...]

HEALING: The Matters Of Life And Death, and a tale of my own

December 20, 2011

It can be said that healing and prayer are the same functions.  After all, both seek to bring something we want into reality through God.  It may seem that they are the same, but they are not. Healing is an almost infinitely profound concept, whereas the mechanics of prayer can be delineated.  A unique factor of healing, that differentiates it from prayer, is that you can heal into life.  And you can heal into death.  In truth, there is no difference. Another distinction between prayer and healing is that prayer is just simply what it seems to be: a petition to God for something that is on our hearts.  Healing is an actual ridding from the body and mind a potentially enveloping darkness.  Of this subject I will wait until another [...]