October 31, 2010

Praise Them

The birds don't alter space.
They reveal it. The sky
never fills with any
leftover flying. They leave
nothing to trace. It is our own
astonishment collects
in chill air. Be glad.
They equal their due
moment never begging,
and enter ours
without parting day. See
how three birds in a winter tree
make the tree barer.
Two fly away, and new rooms
open in December.
Give up what you guessed
about a whirring heart, the little
beaks and claws, their constant hunger.
We're the nervous ones.
If even one of our violent number
could be gentle
long enough that one of them
found it safe inside
our finally untroubled and untroubling gaze,
who wouldn't hear
what singing completes us.

~ Li-Young Lee

October 27, 2010

The Sculptor

In ancient India lived a sculptor renowned for his life-sized statues
of elephants. With trunks curled high, tusks thrust forward, thick
legs trampling the earth, these carved beasts seemed to trumpet to the
sky. One day, a king came to see these magnificent works and to
commission statuary for his palace. Struck with wonder, he asked the
sculptor, “What is the secret of your artistry?”

The sculptor quietly took his measure of the monarch and replied,
"Great king, when, with the aid of many men, I quarry a gigantic piece
of granite from the banks of the river, I have it set here in my
courtyard. For a long time I do nothing but observe this block of
stone and study it from every angle. I focus all my concentration on
this task and won’t allow anything or anybody to disturb me. At first,
I see nothing but a huge and shapeless rock sitting there,
meaningless, indifferent to my purposes, utterly out of place. It
seems faintly resentful at having been dragged from its cool place by
the rushing waters. Then, slowly, very slowly, I begin to notice
something in the substance of the rock. I feel a presentiment . . . an
outline, scarcely discernible, shows itself to me, though others, I
suspect, would perceive nothing. I watch with an open eye and a
joyous, eager heart. The outline grows stronger. Oh, yes, I can
see it! An elephant is stirring in there!"

"Only then do I start to work. For days flowing into weeks, I use my
chisel and mallet, always clinging to my sense of that outline, which
grows ever stronger. How the big fellow strains! How he yearns to be
out! How he wants to live! It seems so clear now, for I know the one
thing I must do: with an utter singleness of purpose, I must chip away
every last bit of stone that is not elephant. What then remains will
be, must be, elephant."

When I was young, my grandmother, my spiritual guide, would often tell
just such a story, not only to entertain but to convey the essential
truths of living. Perhaps I had asked her, as revered teachers in
every religion have been asked, "What happens in the spiritual life?
What are we supposed to do?" Granny wasn’t a theologian, so she
answered these questions simply with a story like that of the elephant
sculptor. She was showing that we do not need to bring our real self,
our higher self, into existence. It is already there. It has always
been there, yearning to be out. An incomparable spark of divinity is
to be found in the heart of each human being, waiting to radiate love
and wisdom everywhere, because that is its nature.

--Eknath Easwaran, in God Makes the Rivers To Flow

October 22, 2010

Luminous Language

The water spoke
Soft whispers
The air current
Of this one‐pointed

Gabriel Isa Madrone

October 16, 2010


I'm a wanderer
so let that be my name –
the first winter rain

October 10, 2010

Now I Know Why

Now I know why people worship, carry around
magic emblems, wake up talking dreams
they teach their children: the world speaks.
The world speaks everything to us.

-William Stafford

This marks my mother's passing - 88 years of a rich, full life. I'll miss her, as I carry forward all the talking dreams she taught me.

October 6, 2010


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 helplessly 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 star.

~ Rilke