Alive & Well

photoSing Now & Always

To celebrate at breaking of the dawn

Or close of evening, or the stroke of noon,

There is no sweeter pleasure than a tune

Well sung by everyone, an antiphon

To peace, to sorrow, or to happiness;

No matter what the poetry or text,

It truly matters most that what is next

Is choral concord to renew, redress,

Resound through all the unseen years ahead,

A clarion, an anthem or motet

Grander than any ear has heard as yet,

And run to distant history, a thread

Of melody and harmony so strong

That no one can resist joining in song

Gently into the Night

digital illustration from a photograph

Reparations

While the quiet of the evening draws its curtain on the noise

Day had clamored ’til its leaving, I will lie in calm and poise,

Gently as a bed of lilies bends in summer’s kindest breeze,

As the cat turns, curling, ’til he’s found his pose of greatest ease;

While the dusk falls, silent, deeper into night, my eyelids close

Heavily…I’m soon a sleeper in the stillest of repose…

Midnight finds me softly dreaming, all the day’s loud clatter gone,

‘Til birds chatter at the streaming light of the approaching dawn

While I lie in silent dozing where no sound comes breaking through,

All that shouted ceases, closing restive lips—and spirits, too,

Slip like shades and never flutter more than deepest sleeping sends

To the surface from the utter place of healing and amends;

I will rest here in the solace and the silence so supreme

It can quiet every call as I lie still and, gently, dream…digital illustration from a photograph

I Find Respite in the Woods

We all find our places of escape where we can. Having grown up in the Evergreen State and not far from both the vast forests of Mt. Rainier and the green refuge of the Olympic Peninsula’s rain forest, I have always found trees and wooded places a comfort and a place of safety and reassurance. No matter how deep the sorrow and pain, I have found strength returning to me and a gentling of the spirit poured on my woundedness in those times spent in the protective forest greenery. When I can spend time among the trees and relish their distinctive and individual beauties, I find myself rescued and my hope renewed.digital illustration

To the Woodland

Cedar, bless me with your resinous breath,

And oak, stretch down those knotted arms to me

And close me in, so others cannot see

My sorrow as I stand so near to death—

I come here to the woodland for relief

Among the leafy shadows of the glade,

Hoping to leave my sadness where I’ve laid

It here, a monument in shade to grief—

Sweet birches, bend your green to veil my tears

And weep with all the willows, as I do;

Great trees, for graces have I come to you

Each time that I grew mournful through the years—

I come here to the woodland for relief

And leave a monument, in shade, to grief.

This mottled darkness will give way to sun

Anon, as time flows on, and so shall I;

The dead still sleep, no matter how I cry,

And I must live, or my own death’s begun—

And I’ve much yet to live, and purpose find

In bringing others light who, too, repine

That have no pine-groves filled with peace like mine

As balm and rescue for a troubled mind—

Who know not aspens’ kindly whispered care—

Should all seek peace and comfort in the wood,

These mercies surely better us, their good

And healing gifts send us renewed from there—

So we’ll go to the woodland for relief

And leave in shade, as we emerge, our grief.digital illustration

Yet More Advice-to-Self

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Kick Up Those Heels and Run

I was watching a television interview with a couple who had just come in from horseback riding on their beautiful Montana acreage. The man was walking his horse to the gate the woman rode up, dismounted and pulled off her horse’s tack. Both horses were beautiful, healthy and contented looking animals, and clearly had bonds with their riders. But when the woman took off that bridle, the mare kicked up her hooves and ran into the pasture at top speed, rocking like a foal over the tussocks with her tail streaming behind her.digital illustration

There was no sense that she wanted, let alone needed, to get away from her Person. Still, she seemed to relish the unencumbered moment and revel in what she could do all of her own volition in it. And that, I think, is a wonderful thing.

Shouldn’t we all remember, from time to time, to throw off the traces of what we must do, throw our propriety and responsibility and all of the trappings of expectation and normalcy and Requirement and just cut a little caper? Isn’t there a reason we are capable of being free, adventuresome, unpredictable and happy? I’m pretty sure that the earth will not stop rotating on its axis if even the most high-powered and busy, the most seemingly essential and useful people on it, actually get out of harness once in a while and take pleasure in the moment with childlike innocence. And I’m even more sure that once anyone has taken the break that offers such a sense of independence, ease and simple happiness, he/she can return to work as a healthier and more productive person; whatever might have been missing or diminished in the time of absence is caught up and refreshed, right along with the person who does it all.

What could be better than to return to our day-to-day Normal life refreshed, renewed and recharged because we dared to demand a moment of freedom and playtime! Yes, we do have to demand it. It’s almost unheard-of that anyone would hand any of us a one-hour holiday, let alone a day or two. Why should they? Every one of us has a whole list of things we need, or at least want, others to do for us, so we aren’t likely to cut each other a break from supplying our wants and needs unless and until they buck their bonds, too.

It won’t do to be rude and selfish about it, but I would advocate for our all keeping our eyes open and ears pricked up so we can notice any opportunity to stand up for our good health and happiness. And take it. And take off with it!

Hope Lives in Unexpected Places

photoTo the Astonishment of Angels

Where in the wilderness of life an adumbration points the way

From our benighted place, our strife and sorrows, to the sun of day,

A banner flares out on the breath of some great strength to give reprieve

To wearied lung and heart, from death to lift us to where we believe

Once more that goodness lies within, that kindness is courageous love,

That generosity’s akin to calling stars down from above

And handing them to needy souls to light their way to higher ground,

And that small songs pierce blazing holes in prison walls with their mere sound—

Here in the bitter night and cold, when such a beacon lights a spark

To guide us forward, as of old, let us rise up and leave the dark

And carry all our fellows, too, to those bright, grand palatial places

Where in the wilderness the true angelic joy renews its graces.photo

Back from the Brink

photoBurnout. Tension. Stress. Exhaustion. Doesn’t matter what I call it, the unfriendly truth of that state of being is the same. Distraction. Aching and malaise. Irritability, withdrawal, collapse. The dramatic drops in life participation and wholeness all come together in equally unpleasant responses.

What are the causes, catalysts and triggers? As many and varied as the moments of any lifetime, of a million lifetimes, can allow. How is it that I–or anyone else on this madly spinning globe–can survive such stuff assailing us, let alone prevail against it and win?

Why, in a number of ways, we all do it pretty much all of the time. That’s how our species can even continue to exist; if we didn’t have a whole arsenal of defenses and strategies for the cosmic battle, it would’ve taken little more than a moment’s stray breeze to blow us all to oblivion. But vulnerable and weak as we are, we do have our ways, and we survive.

Faith. Whether it’s the belief in something as grand and benevolent as a Supreme Being that will rescue me or in something as small and ephemeral as the offer of a stranger’s hand to grasp mine and pull me up, faith can overcome many an obstacle.

Hope, too. If not utterly confident of it, as long as I can summon a sense that there’s some probability or even possibility of better things ahead, I have a chance of mustering just enough strength, patience and will to wait for the good to come to me. I may not be able to reach for it myself any longer, but I can hang on, however thinly, to a promise of change and renewal. For the return of the light.

And love. When all other resources are at their lowest ebb, even faith and hope having withdrawn in the impenetrable distance, love can carry me through. I have a greater store than most, being surrounded as I am by not only the encouraging affection and support of spouse, family and friends but also the remarkably kind uplift I’ve received at the hands and words of a wide array of acquaintances and strangers buoying me in my life over every would-be catastrophic wave. Beyond even this, there is another love that serves me well, when I can remember it: the love inside me that, however pale and faint it’s grown in my weakened state, recognizes a need to care for and comfort others in their time of need. The moment I can step outside of my own need, my hunger, despair, anger, longing or sorrow, just enough to recollect the existence of anyone else, I tend to draw back, however slowly, from the brink myself.

I can look around again with eyes less inward-focused and with a heart more willing to keep living, hard as it may seem at the time, and crawl back toward more gracious and sanguine days. My fellow survivors show me how to do it all the time. In this, I am once again truly at peace.digitally enhanced photo