The moon drops one or two feathers into the field. The dark wheat listens. Be still. Now. There they are, the moon’s young, trying Their wings.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe Or move. I listen. The wheat leans back toward its own darkness, And I lean toward mine. ~James Wright from “Beginning”
Wherever it was I was supposed to be this morning— whatever it was I said I would be doing— I was standing at the edge of the field— I was hurrying through my own soul, opening its dark doors— I was leaning out; I was listening. — Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems, Volume 2
I am leaning back further into darkness.
Sun rays through the window blinds no longer rouse me awake. The farm animals are eager for their evening tucking in rather than lingering long in the fields. The leaves blink away their green.
I ready myself for bed early, glad for respite and stillness.
Summer isn’t over yet but its fatigue is evident. We’re leaning back, eyes closed, ready for rest.
My summer of “no doctoring” finishes today. I return to part-time clinical work tomorrow; a new beginning is on the way.
I am readying myself.
I consider how it will feel to put the stethoscope back on and return to spending most of my daylight hours in window-less rooms. Several months of freedom to wander and wonder will be tough to give up.
However, when I meet my first patient of the day, I’m “all in.” Someone is needing my help more than I need time off. The wind has shifted, it is time to migrate back to the work I was called to do over forty years ago.
Still I will look for beautiful things where I can find them, knowing that even though they don’t last, they will always be well worth the weeping.
God gives every bird his worm, but He does not throw it into the nest. ~Swedish Proverb
You wake wanting the dream you left behind in sleep, water washing through everything, clearing away sediment of years, uncovering the lost and forgotten. You hear the sun breaking on cold grass, on eaves, on stone steps outside. You see light igniting sparks of dust in the air. You feel for the first time in years the world electrified with morning.
You know something has changed in the night, something you thought gone from the world has come back: shooting stars in the pasture, sleeping beneath a field of daisies, wisteria climbing over fences, houses, trees.
This is a place that smells like childhood and old age. It is a limb you swung from, a field you go back to. It is a part of whatever you do. ~Scott Owen “Arrival of the Past”
The beginning of summer brings back early childhood memories of waking early in the morning with no plans for the day other than just showing up.
As a kid, I was never bored with so many open-ended hours before me; the air felt electric with potential adventures, whether it was building a tree fort, bushwhacking a new trail in the woods, searching out killdeer nests in the field, catching butterflies, or watching a salamander sunning itself for hours. The possibilities felt infinite and I was free as a bird to go looking for what the day had to offer.
By the time I was ten, I began to work to earn money to make my dream (owning my own horse) come true – picking berries, weeding gardens, babysitting neighbor kids. The work routine started early as dreams don’t happen without striving for them.
Now for the first time in 55 years, I awake knowing life has changed in the night: I don’t have a schedule and don’t need to show up to a job. The long summer days I thought were gone and forgotten have been here all along, just now uncovered again.
I can go back to those days of electrifying potential open-ended hours, just to simply show up to the moments before me.
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow; Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued Elations when the forest blooms; gusty Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights; All pleasures and all pains, remembering The bough of summer and the winter branch.
But in contentment I still feel The need of some imperishable bliss. ~Wallace Stevens from “Sunday Morning”
Earthly contentment~ whether a full stomach or adequate bank account or a covering of snow~ these don’t last.
May I not settle into comfort, but seek to fill my continual need with what will never perish, even as the latest snow melts and the late afternoon light fades.
Rest assured, simply knowing there comes imperishable bliss someday, I too am transformed.
When, in the cavern darkness, the child first opened his mouth (even before his eyes widened to see the supple world his lungs had breathed into being), could he have known that breathing trumps seeing? Did he love the way air sighs as it brushes in and out through flesh to sustain the tiny heart’s iambic beating, tramping the crossroads of the brain like donkey tracks, the blood dazzling and invisible, the corpuscles skittering to the earlobes and toenails? Did he have any idea it would take all his breath to speak in stories that would change the world? ~Luci Shaw “Breath”
Breath created the world by forming the Words that tell the stories that change everything and us.
Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
~Mary Oliver from The Swan
This laboring of ours with all that remains undone,
as if still bound to it,
is like the lumbering gait of the swan.
And then our dying—releasing ourselves
from the very ground on which we stood—
is like the way he hesitantly lowers himself
into the water. It gently receives him,
and, gladly yielding, flows back beneath him,
as wave follows wave,
while he, now wholly serene and sure,
with regal composure,
allows himself to glide.
~Rainer Maria Rilke, “The Swan”
This is the time of year when we look at making changes in how we live our lives. We want to start fresh as the calendar turns over; we want to become “new” too. Maybe it is giving up an old destructive habit or adopting a new healthier routine, but it means giving up something familiar and becoming uncomfortable, at least for a while.
I seek out the graceful gliding part of life and not the lumbering awkward part. I’d like to say I live out equal measures of both, but I don’t – I’m lumbering and awkward too much of the time due to my own choices. It is difficult to navigate the waves of life when in “lumbering” and “laboring” mode, as wave follows wave, some gentle and lapping, others overwhelming and crashing.
I know what grace looks and feels like, floating atop whatever wave hits me, to stay on the surface and not get soaked through.
I pray that whatever comes, this stretching light over the waves, will fill me with its beauty and grant me grace to glide.