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

Prayer in a Time of Fire

I hear your voice in my sweetheart’s lullaby.

Let’s share the moonlight, he sings

in the waltz time melody he wrote for me.

I hear your voice in the notes of his ukulele

and the whir of hummingbird wings,

bamboo fluttering in the breeze

and the silence of the butterfly’s flight.

 

But in these days of smoke and ashes

my ears yearn to hear you in the rain,

falling on leaves and roof,

sliding in rivulets down the windows.

Oh, won’t you pour into the eave-guarding gutters

And gurgle through the downspouts?

 

With chapped lips and a dry throat

I praise you

and raise my rough and calloused hands.

You soothe us now with our own tears,

but I implore you,

sweeten my song with freshwater,

let us fall asleep to your voice in the rainfall.

raindrops in a pool

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 Ground Beneath

 

IMG_3813In the centuries before the friars built a mission here, in all those autumns of acorn gathering, how many native feet trod the ground beneath this house? When its foundations were laid seventy years ago, did the builders find potsherds or old Spanish coins? Did they find bones?

In the shadow of the yellow Victorian next door with its turrets and gingerbread trim, what inspired the architect to look further back in time to cloister arches and thick adobe walls?

The answers are lost in lathe and plaster. I like to think that the laughter and music and poems that bubble up in our home mean that it was constructed on happy ground, that in the five thousand years before the missionaries came, children played here. Boys walked up the hill from the river to hunt rabbit and squirrel; girls came to find berries.

Before the road in front of our house was paved, wagon wheels carved ruts in the earth. Now ten thousand cars a day drive by, and only small islands of forest and grassland remain where the city has grown.

Yet, still, acorns fall to the earth every autumn, and sometimes, sometimes a hawk circles overhead.

 

 

(Images of Ohlone village life from murals at the Wash & Dry on the corner of Water St. and Branciforte Ave. in Santa Cruz.)

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

Garden Swing

Our yet-to-be-born children would rock on this garden swing with their sweethearts one day, my ex-husband and I imagined when we bought it over twenty years ago. The jarrah wood was smooth then, polished a deep and lustrous brown. We bought a can of special oil too on the salesman’s recommendation, fully intending to recoat the swing at least once a year to protect the Australian hardwood, but that oil, like my husband and the dream of children we might have had, is long gone.

Instead the seasons in their turn have done the scouring and burnishing. For the last five years, in the garden I share with a new love, the swing has sheltered under the boughs of a redwood, its base moldering into the rich soil. Needles and cones and industrious spiders have joined the work of sun, wind, and rain to turn the wood rough and gray.

In the spring I brush away the cobwebs and duff and sit down on the old swing. My back nestles against a curve in its back, human spine, muscles, and sinew aligning with wood slats as if we were designed for one another. In the heat of the day the scent of feathery redwood branches mingles with childhood memories of camping in the mountains, and I push my foot against the cushion of forest floor in this little corner of my city garden to set the swing in motion. The rasp of wood in metal rings and bolts echoes the creak of my own joints. Someday I will accept my gray hair and wrinkles as graciously as I do this weather-roughened wood. Someday I will ripen into glory. But for now I glide back and forth with the whispers of those young lovers I dreamed of long ago. For now I am at ease in a moment of sun-softened stillness.

The Gift of the Canyon

Morning sun and shadow in Zion Canyon

The first day in Zion our Road Scholar group walked on the canyon floor along the Virgin River, and I craned my neck to look up at a landscape unlike any I’d ever seen. Eons ago the sand dunes that covered this plateau petrified, and now the red rock walls towering above us offered a sense of the river’s long and languorous lovemaking with Navajo sandstone.

Early the next morning half our group began the hike up to Observation Point, knowing we would climb 2100 feet over the next four miles. The sun had yet to clear the eastern rim, so we walked in shade, bundled in warm clothes, just the twelve of us as opposed to the hundreds we’d encountered the day before. The trail was mostly wide and even as it switch-backed up the canyon wall and offered sweeping views down to Weeping Rock where we’d begun and across the canyon to the western wall. I fell into a slow and steady pace.

Echo Canyon

Perhaps an hour into the hike, the trail turned down a gorge called Echo Canyon into a scene so surprising and lovely that it stopped me in my tracks. Instead of being on the edge of a canyon wall I was suddenly inside, folded into the curves and undulations of stone, which were touched in this moment by the sun’s first tender kisses on red rock and secret pools.

It took nearly three more hours to reach Observation Point. As the group spread out, I often walked alone, up, up, up, taking breaks to peel off layers, drink water, and look at the desert world around me – slickrock paintbrush growing improbably out of a crack in the rock and striations in the curved canyon wall that I paused to study as I would a work of art in a museum. At one point I heard rumbling nearby and with the instincts of a city girl whirled around looking for a truck almost in the same instant that I realized how ridiculous that was. Instead, somewhere close but out of sight, rocks were crashing down the hillside. This is unstable country, I remembered our geologist guide saying. Was I about to be buried in an avalanche? The clatter faded. Or had Tom hiking somewhere ahead of me been hit by falling rock? I pressed on. Eventually the trail leveled off, and I came out to the point, where I found the rest of the group safe and sound. At 6500 feet we snapped photos and enjoyed stunning views down the canyon.

Mary at Observation Point

In the following days, as I hiked in Bryce, the Valley of Fire, and Red Rock Canyon, my thoughts kept returning – not to the height I’d attained at Observation Point, but to the quiet moment when the trail veered into Echo Canyon. What was it about that place? I guessed it was the intimacy of the lusciously curved red rock walls surrounding me. We’re used to being onthe earth, but in that passage of undulating stone I had the sense of being init. Unlike in a tunnel or cave, though, I was immersed instead of enclosed, in the light instead of in darkness. Maybe this glimpse of geologic time, a peek at eternity, hints at what the cave of the heart looks like.