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

River Journey

I’m thrilled to introduce the Kingdom of Enough’s first guest blogger: my friend Sarojani, a wise poet and member of the local Celtic band Innisfree.

empty canoes in a river

There is a bend in the river.

Boat’s gotten too heavy.

Gotta keep what’s worth keeping.

Gotta let some things go.

 

I remember floating

weightless

only water and sky.

It was simple then.

I did not know

grief or climate change,

the ravages of war

or a young black man’s daily danger.

 

I believed in presidents being

good and smart leaders

with dignity and integrity:

true public servants who helped

make things better.

Never doubted there was enough

food or water for everyone.

 

But now I believe in the more immediate politics

of loving kindness,

the cast of burnished sunlight

in the late autumn afternoons

through the old growth redwoods,

the gift of longing for ongoing communion

with The Beloved.

 

I remember a day in the Irish landscape

at Croagh Patrick

the Holy Mountain

in the town of Murrisk, County Mayo

where for centuries

pilgrims have been making their way

up the rocky path

to leave their failings,

make their promises,

cry their fervent prayers.

 

I set out that day with the only plan

that I would go as far as I could.

I was older now, heavier, not very agile or confidant

in my uphill climbing abilities.

But I knew my heart was true.

Before very long and way after many

had passed me, I sat on a large rock overlooking the beauties of Clew Bay

and the surrounding landscape.

I had already reached my limit.

 

There I meditated for awhile

with the light of the swiftly moving clouds

and the full presence of the Irish wind.

I settled in to a deep stillness

and felt to be in a place of solace and guidance.

When I finally opened my eyes

I saw pilgrim after pilgrim passing me,

making their way up the steep slope

and I began to greet them and then

silently bless their journey.

 

It felt right.

I had been rightly placed.

I knew that I had my own special place on this mountain

and was doing what I had been prepared for

in this very moment;

that we all have a particular path,

places we are planted, people who seem to come randomly into our lives.

The medicine we all have for each other.

 

I thought of our dear fragile earth,

the fabric of our government that appears to be coming apart at the seams,

the potential for mass despair and feelings of hopelessness;

that somehow we are helpless in the face of our
daunting circumstances.

But then I remember the Holy Mountain;

the one we each are climbing every day
in the best and only way we know how,

climbing In the way we were made to climb.

 

I see step by step

each of us

being given pieces to hold to fight for

to help heal.

 

The Water Protectors.

The interpreters of whale songs.

The research scientists relentless in making their pleas with hard evidence

in giving voice to the earth’s cries.

Those striving for peace in thought, word and deed

choosing diets and lifestyles

that protect animals and ecosystems.

The poets, artists and musicians who stay true

to keeping beauty alive and well in the world.

There is a bend in the river

and I see boats

of every shape, size and color

making their way safely

through the tumultuous channels

and abiding the ever-changing currents.

“But where will we all land?” do you ask.

 

I guess that part is up to us.

 

By Sarojani Rohan

 

The Last Oozings

grape clustersLeaves on the spent canes of the
boysenberry vine crinkle and fade,
while congregations of Concord grapes
swell with purple sweetness.
Into the green globes hanging from the persimmon tree
an orange stain begins to creep.
Slowly the garden is bending towards autumn.

Unlike me
it surrenders its greenness willingly.
In a long, languid season
of praise for the light
it consents to the coming darkness.
May I join my voice to this
thanksgiving song,
reach for candle and cup,
and trust in the secret gifts
the roots know
in the belly of the earth.

 

Title from “To Autumn” by John Keats

The Untrimmable Light

The waning moon has sunk into the sea,
and the leaves of the fig tree tremble
in the zephyr come to rustle
the darkness from this mild winter night.
All across this mountain,
through a sunny autumn
and into a dry December,
leaves cleaved to their life-sustaining branches
beyond all reason,
but now,
now a storm is coming.

Raindrops patter on the roof
like the footsteps of exiles,
but then retreat.
Not yet! Not yet!
For a moment the wind holds its breath.
Hills and coastal plains thirst in silence,
and fading leaves await the fateful tug.

All day long clouds flirt with the sun,
and sometimes their private laughter
spills showers from above,
but the deluge does not come.
Instead, across sky and sea,
past fig leaves fluttering in the afternoon breeze,
through the window of my cell at New Camaldoli,
a sunbeam finds my notebook and me.
Leaf shadows dance a mad jig on the wall,
but a poet’s in the spotlight:
the page aglow tells it all.

Title from the poem “Mindful” by Mary Oliver.

Your Mirror

oak tree

From root to crown

the oak tree gives You glory,

in sap and leaf

on branches

where squirrels play

and the bluejay squawks his morning joy.

Light becomes food,

water and sugar into sap

and acorns,

autumn harvest for

crow, squirrel, human,

and a gift to the earth

that may sprout a seedling in the spring.

 

A pair of doves build a nest here,

make love, make eggs,

chicks hatch,

fledglings test their wings,

and seedlings grow

in the shade of their mother.

 

Leaf,

star,

woman

looking out her window at dawn –

what do we have in common?

When the body becomes Your mirror,

leaves drink light,

and I make it into a song of praise.

 

(Title from a poem by Mahadeviyakka)