I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world —
~Mary Oliver from “Mindful”
Some days I’m the needle
and other days I’m the pin cushion
Today I may be both,
probing into people’s lives and feelings,
moving beyond their sharp edges
to find the source of their pain.
They don’t realize I wince too,
remembering how it feels.
I choose the softness of the light
that floats close to the ground,
that reaches out with cloudy grasp.
This is what I was born for:
delighted to be lost
and then found.
I know from experience that when I allow busy little doings to fill the precious time of early morning, when contemplation might flourish, I open the doors to the demon of acedia. Noon becomes a blur – no time, no time – the wolfing down of a sandwich as I listen to the morning’s phone messages and plan the afternoon’s errands.
When evening comes, I am so exhausted that vespers has become impossible. It is as if I have taken the world’s weight on my shoulders and am too greedy, and too foolish, to surrender it to God.
~Kathleen Norris from The Quotidian Mysteries
These are days with no breathing room,
no time to stop and appreciate each moment
as a bud about to burst into bloom.
And it is my fault
that I’m not breathing deeply enough~
simply skimming the surface
in my race to the end of the day
as time’s petals, so open, so brilliant, so eternal
close up unseen and unknown.
And as you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged on the shingly beach of a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens.
~Stephen Graham from The Gentle Art of Tramping
That great door opens on the present, illuminates it as with a multitude of flashing torches.
~Annie Dillard (in response to the Graham’s quote) from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
There is a second or two in each day
(and some days I must watch hard for it)
when there is a moment of illumination
like a multitude of flashing torches,
when I can see just beyond what is here and now.
It feels like a promise.
When I miss it,
this opened door that is not a door~
too busy to notice-
too blinded to see-
having turned my face away,
nevertheless it happens without my witness.
It saddens and gladdens my heart to know that
it will be offered up again tomorrow.
My life is not this steeply sloping hour,
in which you see me hurrying.
Much stands behind me;
I stand before it like a tree;
I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because Death’s note wants to climb over—
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
they stay there trembling.
And the song goes on, beautiful.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke from “My Life is Not This Steeply Sloping Hour”
On Monday mornings I often feel I’m stuck immobilized in the spot in the middle between discordant notes. There is on one side of me the pressure of catch-up from what was left undone through the weekend and on the other side is the anticipated demand of the coming week. Before I arrive to work, I dwell uneasily in dead center between the unknown ahead and the known behind.
This moment of rest in the present, this trembling broken Now, is my moment of reconciliation, my Sabbath extended.
This Monday morning I allow myself an instant of silence and reflection before I surge full bore into the week, knowing that on my journey I’ll inevitably hit wrong notes, just as I do when I play, unprepared, at the piano.
But it can be beautiful nevertheless.
Even the least harmonious notes seek reconciliation within the next chord. I now move from the rest of my Sabbath back into the rhythm of my life.
Trembling, still trembling.