Saturday, December 15, 2012

White Sky

Some days the clouds pile up thick as down comforters, deep as unfallen snow. The earth hushes beneath their weight; the wind rushes in whispers. Last night it rained, a real rain, for the first time in more than a month. Just after dawn the sky cleared, then clouded again — not storm clouds but a pale winter deepening, calling in the solstice.

William Stafford wrote about this sky:
“Many things in the world have

already happened. You can

go back and tell about them.

They are part of what we

own as we speed along

through the white sky.

“But many things in the world

haven't yet happened. You help

them by thinking and writing and acting.

Where they begin, you greet them

or stop them. You come along

and sustain the new things.”

         —William Stafford, In the White Sky

This is the weather of manifestation. Anything you can think of might be there behind the cloudbank, white against the trees. Close your eyes and look for it. Let regrets fade into the sky. Create your heart’s delight; choose a life that brings joy. 

We are all here, in this moment, in this sky.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


At one point I had the idea that clearing and smoothing the walking trails through my woods would result in brisk exercise. That was before I caught myself stopping every few steps to look at something: seed pods on a redbud tree, gooseberry leaves turning scarlet, a cat following me, the view across the creek valley, a spider web, the sky.

Along the west side of the ridge, I often pause so long I seem to take root, like Tolkien’s Ent Treebeard:
“I can see and hear (and smell and feel) a great deal from this, from this, from this a-lalla-lalla-rumba-kamanda-lind-or-burúmë. Excuse me: that is a part of my name for it; I do not know what the word is in the outside languages: you know, the thing we are on, where I stand and look out on fine mornings, and think about the Sun, and the grass beyond the wood, and the horses, and the clouds, and the unfolding of the world.”
— Treebeard in The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

I don’t even want to close my eyes to meditate. The sounds of the woodlands overwhelm me. Blue jays set up a racket. Crows argue politics. Footsteps in the fallen leaves might be a cat or a deer or a wild turkey. The occasional car or truck labors uphill. A neighbor fires up the chainsaw. The wind swishes across the valley before it begins to move the trees on the ridge. I have to look.

One of my favorite cards in Morgan’s Tarot is “The Universe: Not unfolding the way it should.” The Zen joke, of course, is that the Universe can only unfold exactly the way it should.

Leaves cover the paths. Branches outline the sky. In a few months the trees will bud again. Geese call above the clouds, heading south, this time. The seasons and cycles turn. I pause on the hillside and look across the creek valley to watch the slow unfolding of the world.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blue Sky

Autumn is the season of the bluest skies. It’s not only the contrast with the red and gold leaves, although the sky sets off those fiery colors like nothing else. When the leaves have gone, branches frame shifting light, drifting clouds. The lines of the earth reach deep into the sky.

I drink the sky on sunny days. I tilt my head back until my neck stretches and cracks. The color saturates the air around me. A crow soars overhead calling to his mate. A cardinal lands among the wild grapes, swinging the vines like a kid on a jungle gym.

This sky is Hera’s mantle, Brighid’s cloak, the fabric of the universe. It blankets the woods and cradles the fallen seeds waiting for spring. We are all jewels woven in its web, glowing in its light.

I do not understand how blue became the color of sadness. This cerulean exuberance has nothing to do with sorrow. I want to taste this blue in my throat all winter long. I want my words to shine with its harmony. I want this color to permeate my bones until I am translucent as leaves of rue. I want to fall into the sky.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The View from the Earth

Lie on the ground and look up. Everything changes. The trees are not separate beings but an interlacing pattern of leaves and branches. The sky embraces the earth. Small plants tower above you. Birds swim in the atmosphere. Clouds and sunlight permeate everything.

The Greeks invoked Gaia by touching the earth. There is no more straightforward way to make contact with her.
“Whoever you are,
howsoever you come
                  across her sacred ground
         you of the sea,
         you that fly,
it is she
         who nourishes you.”
The Homeric Hymns, tr. Charles Boer

Compost: lowly and holy.
In his Dictionary of Word Origins, Joseph T. Shipley includes this entry: “humble. A recent* book on gardening is called ‘A Sense of Humus’ (L. humus, ground, soil; cognate with Gr. chthon, as in Eng. autochthonous, on its own soil, native). To exhume is to take out of the ground. The L. adj. humilis, on the ground, lowly, became Fr. humble, whence Eng. humble, mainly in the figurative sense.”
* Shipley’s book was first published in 1945. Bertha Damon published "A Sense of Humus," her account of gardening in 1930s New Hampshire, in 1943.

Spinach starts small, deep in humus.
Humility has always seemed like a strange, undesirable virtue to me.  Who would want to be humiliated? How would it contribute to anyone’s spiritual development? But humility has nothing to do with shame or pride. It is about perceiving yourself as part of the earth, a single organism within Gaia. It is about acknowledging your place on the planet, your home, your earth.

From the ground, all life is exalted. All beings are holy. Those at the bottom support those at the top. Those above rain blessings on those below. To be humble is to be generous and noble to all creatures. The view from the earth transforms the world.