The Drum of a Day

All we have is the heartbeat

played on the drum of this day.

We are the hands on the skin,

and this hollow space

that swells with the rising sun,

pregnant with possibility.

Here resonates the call

to work and play and —

thrumming within each beat —

the sun’s farewell,

the night into which we naked return.

 

(Title from a poem by Antal, an 8th-century poet and the only woman among the Twelve Alvars of  South Indian Vishnu worship)

The Place That Shelters

desk and garden in retreat room at New Camaldoli

A bumblebee buzzes under the eave

as I take a sip from my coffee cup.

Though the sun has yet to peep

over the mountaintop,

light is seeping into the world.

All is still

except for the bee and me.

Jasmine and juniper,

salvia and fig tree,

even chipmunks and quail

wait in silence.

All is still 

but the bee and me

and the rolling restless sea.

Soon, soon

stirrings will burst

into full-throated blessing,

the rest and prayer

of this longed-for retreat day,

but in this moment

we perch on the threshold

and see,

   as guests at the feast would,

   the bee and me seeking and sipping,

   creatures alike in our need,

that this day will be good,

yes, very good indeed.

California coast from New Camaldoli

Solstice Fire

Long days and sultry nights

leach all reason

from my sleep-starved

flesh-enmeshed spirit

drunk on light and heat

then hungover

and with me a whole hemisphere

besotted and whirling.

Here at the edge of the sea 

the fog will float in soon 

and for all of us eventually

the soft quilt of darkness

but today and always

the cave of your heart

is lit with God-fire.

Feel it flow

through your veins.

Burn —

as only you know how.

Inspired by Linda Serrato’s poem “On This Morning” in Sacred Stone,  Sacred Water: Women Writers & Artists Encounter Ireland.

Happy Easter, Happy Earth Day

“I can hardly wait to have a drink,” a fellow churchgoer told me with a grin as we walked out of the Easter Vigil a few years ago.  Ah yes, the bliss when you finally partake of a delight you’ve abstained from for forty days (alcochol! chocolate!), but that was the year I gave up social media, and I had no burning desire to rush home and check Facebook. In a relatively short time I’d gotten out of the habit of even thinking about it. Plastic, on the other hand, I have obsessed about like no other Lenten sacrifice of my life, yet there can be no blissful anticipation at returning to its use.

“How’s your plastic challenge going?” friends often asked me over the last six weeks, and the answer was always some variation of humbling – because I kept failing. Early on I imposed my own penance and promised to give 50¢ to charity for every piece of plastic I put in a trashcan and 25¢ for every piece I recycled. Any guesses on my donation to Save Our Shores? My transgressions add up to a shocking $25! The biggest culprits were trash bags, tamper-proof seals, and takeout containers. There’s not much I can do about those plastic seals, but I’m learning which restaurants use compostable containers and try to remember to take my own “doggie bag” with me when I go out for a meal. Despite my failure to completely eliminate single-use plastics, I have reduced, which means less garbage and fewer trash bags. If you’re contemplating reducing your plastic use, consider other side benefits. Eating less processed food is good for your body as well as the planet. By not shopping online, you will support local businesses and maybe even buy less stuff.

Which habits will stick now that Lent is over? To be honest, the ones that don’t require much of a sacrifice like using mesh produce bags and shopping bulk bins. Avoiding clamshell containers is much harder because I love fresh berries and those Trader Joe’s salads that are perfect to take for lunch at work, but I’m going to try. I’ll definitely keep relying on my Kleen Kanteen and Zojirushi coffee cup and plan to switch from liquid to bar soap, but I might not keep making my own yogurt (yogurt tubs can be recycled though!).

After forty days of considering environmental action as spiritual practice, I’m delighted that Easter and Earth Day almost coincide this year. At this double celebration of life and hope, I’d like to end with a poem in honor of the gray whale I wrote about last week.

gray whale spouting
Photo courtesy of NOAA

Spring Migration

In the lagoon

I could hear my tribe breathing,

but in the billowing open sea

whale spray and ocean ferment

are all the same –

our spouts, her whitecaps.

We ride the tidal surges,

lost and found in her power

as we sing our way home.

What Shape Waits in the Seed

When humans begin to play

in the workshop of the Mother,

we cheer at the fireworks

and admire our reflection

in the miracles we have wrought.

She welcomes her co-creators,

but how proud we are

to loosen the strings

and toddle away.

It’s easy then

to mistake a warning shot

for the starting gun

and take off in a carbon-fueled race to the stars.

Few notice when winter snows come late

and monarchs lose their way.

Hungry engines keep boring,

while tinkering fingers slide up the double helix.

 

monarch butterfly

What shape waits then in the milkweed seed,

and who will hear the cries

when caterpillars stop turning into butterflies?

 

 

Title from “What to Remember When Waking” by David Whyte

Written upon learning that monarch butterflies will likely be extinct in twenty years.

Image courtesy of Kenneth Dwain Harrelson

 

Epiphany

He could be Walt Whitman,

sitting here with a saw outside Bookshop Santa Cruz.

To the bashful but curious toddler in his father’s arms

he might look like a grandfather

the boy hasn’t met yet.

“How ‘bout I play you a song you know?”

Saw handle between his knees,

the old man bends the blade and guides a bow

across its flat edge.

Haunting tones float over us,

and the little boy recognizes the tune

at the same time I do.

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star …”

Played on a musical saw,

the humble notes are ethereal as starlight.

Does the old man know that 

today is the Feast of Epiphany?

Or is he, like father and child,

an unwitting king,

the three magi

offering their gifts here on Pacific Avenue?

Statue of a musical saw player
Photo courtesy of Ali Eminov