# 39 Dolphins are not Manatees and I Am Not a Princess Dolphins and dogs, like my Yogi-boy, do not need to be loved for their youth, beauty and good behavior to be happy. This… More
What passes? Dreams on night air and nightmares words spoken notes played the flight of birds laughing through the sky an embrace a kiss. our bodies. What is completed? A teacup, Its purpose served, the crack appears, a memory sealed with one gold thread. What remains? Wide blue sky silence that fills a canyon.
*Not only for experienced writers. Join in even if you don’t think you can write!. You will surprise yourself!
During these trying times, it can help to be inspired by wisdom, humor and profound observations. For those who do not know me: I am a published writer, and have been teaching writing at the college level for the past twenty years. I’ve always found inspiration for my own writing from writers and thinkers, and so am offering these workshops to inspire your own thinking and writing.
In this workshop, we will read short inspiring selections from many wisdom traditions then discuss one of these before we write. Some of the excerpts will be philosophical, some disturbing, some comforting, others just playful or funny.
Our writing will be whatever we are inspired to write after our discussions. Sharing what we write will be optional, but encouraged. I will also offer writing guidance based on Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, and others.
Here is an example of a quote we might discuss and write about: If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees. (Rainer Maria Rilke)
When: Each Sunday September 5-26, 3:00 PM – 4:15 PM
Cost: Sliding scale according to need, from $20-$50.
If interested, please reply to this blog or to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Western mind draws a sharp boundary between humans and the rest of the world….for the Western mind, it is hard to recognize mind in animals, whereas for the Japanese mind, it is hard not to do so.~~Semiotician Yoshimi Kawade, written in 1998
That quote gets me to thinking…
Brutus, the lab mix that I often dog sit, sends me love with a look. He and I look directly, usually silently, into each other’s eyes each time we want to tell each other something. It’s simple. Direct. Clear. A type of mind reading. I’ve learned from dogs and cats how much can be said by the eyes.
With Brutus and Gus, the tiger-striped cat, words are seldom necessary even though I use them out of habit. Brutus and Gus hear me make sounds. Brutus looks at me patiently until I make myself clear.; Gus is less patient and will walk off unless I add a treat to the sounds.
I think, that people need dogs and cats for more than the unconditional love (well, conditioned as for Gus the cat)—we get sick and tired of talking.
Or we can’t stop talking around people and can only be quiet with our pets. Words are hard to come by. The right ones. Words can be so difficult to find. Those we speak are often the ones we repeat out of habit; they aren’t the words available, or even appropriate often, in the present moment, if we took the time to notice those.
People don’t listen for the most part. Dogs listen. They learn the meaning of words.directed to them. When I say “car” or “beach” or “cookies” to Brutus, he comes to a happy attention. Have we learned any language from other animals in the same way?
Our words come from minds filled with past and future, so how accurate are they? How wise? Meanwhile, my stock and trade is, ironically, words; I’m a writer and a teacher. However, I’ve been investigating the mind in the way of the as a Buddha and I am starting to see its limitations.
Intelligence in Nature, An Inquiry into Knowledge, by Jeremy Narby, an anthropologist, is filled with words for 243 pages. Since they are written instead of spoken, they have been carefully chosen and re-thought many times; writing can be a more clearway to use words than speaking. Narby writes about the intelligence he and other scientists, have discovered in creatures great and minuscule (like nematodes). “A slime mold,” he writes,” in a maze has the capacity to apprehend its situation and act on its knowledge.” He makes the point that there are more forms of intelligence than we ever dreamed of. A Western mind has to overcome hundreds of years of the myth of human intellectual superiority.
Recently I read in Narby’s book that “Information of one kind or another is consistently circulating in nature, in particular in the form of biochemical molecules. The world is streaming with signs. Not so long ago, some people considered the use of signs a specifically human trait.”
All this is to say, that I am searching as I write: what is nature telling me? What is it I am missing? Can I become better at reading the signs life is posting? We’ll see…
*Not only for experienced writers. Join in even if you don’t think you can write!. You may surprise yourself!
photo from Google photos
During these trying times, it can help to be inspired by wisdom, humor and profound observations. For those who do not know me: I am a published writer, and have been teaching writing at the college level for the past twenty years. I’ve always found inspiration for my own writing from writers and thinkers, and so am offering a workshop to inspire your own writing.
In this four week workshop, we will read short inspiring selections from many wisdom traditions as well as by humorists, chefs, visual artists, philosophers, comedians, fiction and non-fiction writers and poets, then we’ll discuss one of these before we write. Some of the passages will be philosophical, some comforting, others just delightful, playful or funny.
Subjects will range from food to furniture from silly, to spiritual.
Our writing will be whatever we are inspired to say after our discussion. Sharing what we write will be optional, but encouraged. I will also offer writing guidance based on Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, and others.
Here is an example of the types of passages we could consider:
“As you unfold as an artist, just keep on, quietly and earnestly, growing through all that happens to you. You cannot disrupt this process more violently than by. looking outside yourself for answers that may only be found by attending to your innermost feeling.”~~~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Here’s another: “You have to stay in shape. My mother started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 now and we have no idea where she is.” ~~George Carlin, comedian
The first session will be free. If you choose to continue, the cost will be $60.00 for the four week workshop.
Begins once per week October 1st-November 5th (day and time be determined) via Zoom (instructions will follow)
If you are interested, please email me at email@example.com, or leave a comment here.
What kind of courage do we need? We must accept reality in all its immensity…the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to meet the strangest, most awesome and most inexplicable of phenomena.~~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
The Courage We Need is
to stand alone
on the dance floor.
The courage we need is
to stay steady
as we feel the foundation cracking
to see clearly
thick as heavy blankets
as the sleepers
The courage we need is
of the trance.
The courage we need is
to love with a broken heart,
shed fears like leaves,
Today my hometown music
sets the groove
for the dance
in this coffee shop.
how the projects
loom over expressways
the “El” clatters
shakes the rattling windows
of a tenement
screeching to a scheduled stop
from the eleventh floor, a five-year-old watches
as below cars speed
the refrain “Stand by me…”
fills the air from somewhere near
before the deafening roar of the train
passes the boy
I feel the
not mine but
his brother waiting
sitting on the stoop
one more time.
In third grade Fred and Larvell were my friends.
When I was ten
Larvell's mother was shot.
When I was twenty,
Fred was shot in his bed.
In my car, Marvin Gaye sings
“Makes me Wanna Holler, Throw up Both My Hands…”
on the radio.
I feel faith between the notes, love
not mine, but
from a distance, mine too
as I drive to the South Side
to my job at the welfare
The brown-eyed children,
under silver blankets
that sparkle like Christmas tinsel
or gleaming party gowns
worn at country clubs,
sleep on the cold, cement floor
but do not understand
the wire cages,
the long, hot walk
through the desert.
Do they wonder,
as children will,
what they did wrong?
Who will explain
this land that hates them,
these people who sleep
on silk sheets
walk on marble floors,
washed by brown-eyed women,
take cool rides
in shiny new trucks
through the desert
like cruel-eyed matadors
immune to the pain
of the bull,
drunk on their comforts.
Who can explain
why these people
what they did wrong?
Words mask meaning
which rises in silence
with the attention,
of a dog.
We know this
but refuse to trade our talk
Those who stop to still themselves
know how dogs know:
see the others’ eyes shift
flutter like a bird taking flight
how the mouth tightens
the shoulders rise.
Though we sit close to each other
from a distance.
Work with what you are
If you are a fawn
stand still as wood
in a field of tall green grass
at the edge of a forest
your dark eyes wide open
flit and fly home
through the twilight.
If you are a fawn
your soft brown ears
upright will catch sounds
of wind through the pines.
If you are a field mouse
scurry, slipping between
If you are a human
see the fawn, the pines, the wildflowers
feel you breath as wind,
how your heart beats as
bird mouse, fawn
then and only then
your tender work
Tinney Creek, St. Petersburg, Florida
Tinney Creek runs past
the TJ Max
It travels back and forth
from Tampa Bay
rises and falls daily with the tide
feeds Egrets, families of Muscovy ducks and Mallards
who seek tiny prawns, mud crabs, bugs.
Feathery Java fern
grow in it’s rich mud,
as if this was still The Garden.
Between snaking highways,
the creeks and their residents
as if this was still The Garden.
Down the busy street a ways
atop a pole advertising Beer and Low-Cost Cigarettes,
an osprey has built a roomy nest,
designed in the contemporary open sky plan.
A lone Roseate Spoonbill sometimes visits Tinney Creek
always in company with her Egret.
I watch as
Spoonbill lifts it’s comical Dr. Seuss face
twitches its white and rosy feathers
lowers its wide paddle-like beak into brackish water
side to side
The ducks, Ibis, Egret, crows and I claim
this creek and the remaining
Royal Palms, oak trees, iridescent sunsets
“I used to see many Roseate Spoonbills here once,”
a neighbor tells me.
My heart aches
as it beats
at these all too familiar words:
There were many here
At night, arriving home,
my headlights sweep over the banks of the creek
lighting up a line of ducks, like fat-buddhas
heads curled into their downy breasts
asleep despite ambulance sirens,
the roar of traffic.
At dawn they will wake
waddle like drunks
raise their chicks,
the Osprey will hunt,
the Spoonbill and Egret will visit
I will marvel at how they float and splash
and the creek
feeds us all
as if this is still the Garden.
To Practice Seeing
poems by Anda Peterson
Nest appeared in Salt Creek Journal, a publication by the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, April 2018
Circumnavigation appeared in Sky Island Journal, June 2018
Table of Contents
Mermaid Visits Congress…..pg 2
Pushaw Lake, Maine, Late August…..pg 6
Requiem for a Dharma Bum Jack Kerouac, read on the occasion at the anniversary of his death at the Flamingo Bar, St. Petersburg, Florida…..pg 9
Nest…. pg 12
Tea Ceremony…. pg 15
Einstein, Buddha and Picasso Walk into a Bar…. pg 16
Chihuly Glass #1…. .pg 19
Chihuly Glass #2…..pg 21
Advice from a Live Oak…..pg 22
Boyd Hill Symphony….. pg 25
Tinney Creek, St. Petersburg…..pg 30
Tinney Creek 2…..pg 31
A Good Personality or the Play’s the Thing (with apologies to the Bard)……pg 33
For Pema Chodron, Bob, and Margaret…..pg36
From The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen:
“Is there anything I can do to win an immortal soul?”
“No,” said the old woman, “unless a man were to love you so much that you were more to him than his father or mother; and if all his thoughts and all his love were fixed upon you…then his soul would glide into your body and you would obtain a share in the future happiness of mankind. He would give a soul to you and retain his own as well; but this can never happen. Your fish’s tail, which amongst us is considered so beautiful, is thought on earth to be quite ugly; they do not know any better, and they think it necessary to have two stout props, which they call legs, in order to be handsome.”
Mermaid’s Visit to Congress
It hurts to walk on land.
Once we dreamt
how glorious it would be
above the ocean
in the land of their power
Once we sang
to guide men home
from their foolhardy voyages
the battles they waged against
the tides, the swells
of mountainous waves.
We all sang our warnings,
Whale sang and dolphin sang.
Now we know.
Each step is a shock,
like walking on shards of glass.
the cries of those
who walked this way before us,
who forgot how it was
to glide freely
under sunlit water shimmering overhead
among playful fish.
How we wore seaweed dresses
as we danced in the deep
rising like arrows through the water
with dolphins and whales.
We sacrificed our mermaid tails
our shining fish scales
the fields of water flowers
our coral castles
made of mist.
What is the sound of water?
No, I mean, really…
Who can know more than this:
a beat, a pulse
that rises and falls
after the downbeat of thunder
when rain sounds
like fingers snapping
on the roof
until the swell of a deluge
builds to a crescendo
and ends gentle
with the slow brushing beat of a snare drum.
The musician searches for a cadence
plays the tempo
set by water
the full orchestra of a hard monsoon
or jazz bounce of raindrops,
single notes struck on a piano.
I heard the sound of water
during an echocardiogram.
then I knew
the gurgling beat of my heart
with the whole great ocean
Pushaw Lake, Maine
It is late August
The bee flutters about a dandelion
gains its footing and does its work.
A man stands steady in a boat fishing
on the quiet lake.
The hammock, under two maples,
sways in the breeze.
I write these pictures
to capture the last days of summer.
This is a fool’s errand of course
Like trying to anchor the clouds.
But I persist
because I am in love with this moment
like a monk bent over his sand mandala
adding pinpricks of color in a corner of the whole.
He practices impermanence
the one lasting certainty.
The long-lived log
the swing of the ax
So I set these images
one word at a time
bent over the page
with reverence for:
The swimmer in the lake
who does a slow crawl through the evergreen water
the tall pines above her watching.
The black ant who climbs over the boulder.
A loon who rises with a haunting call
who talk a blue streak in passing.
For now, just now
I walk under the light of the moon
down the path to the fire pit
a full moon
will soon empty itself
become a sliver, a crescent
Lagoon, Martha’s Vineyard
Here on an empty stretch of saltwater lagoon this gray morning
my bare feet scoured by gold-brown sand I walk mindful of the footprints of dogs and sharp shells, rocks, mud.
I come to meditate
which is simply just to stop
to practice seeing.
Damp translucent and neon-green strips of seaweed
stretch along the shoreline. The lagoon lies still
under the smoky-pale sky
its calm speaks of a welcome respite from visitors
as if its heartbeat is steady again so I feel an intruder I will be quiet, walk slowly take a seat on a weathered green bench.
It is high tide a few days after a new moon (said to inspire new beginnings).
A swan appears on the silver water, looks my way. A mate nowhere to be seen. I whisper an invitation. I hope she will come to me teach me about her solitude but, no, she is only here to remind me to be graceful and careful
serenely alone .
She bends her long neck like a ballerina
darts her beak into the water to catch a minnow.
She will navigate this lagoon following the movement of the tides
the moon and starlight.
To begin anew
is all she knows.
Requiem for a Dharma Bum Jack Kerouac
Read on the occasion at the Anniversary of his Death
Flamingo Bar (where he drank his last) St. Petersburg, Florida
sitting at the bar
for your demons
though you knew yourself
also as a jewel in Indra’s net
caught in illusion
yet clear minded
poems spilled on the barroom floor.
You hungry ghost
you beautiful man/boy, Jack
trapped between dharma-love and whiskey-death
on the road
on the road
no arrival the right one.
America broke your heart
when it showed
it’s slave owning, lynching
In such a land
you were misunderstood
they loved your uncontrollable thirst
thought you dropped out
so cool man
lauded you for coolness
so cool man
jazz played the longings
you expressed for them
you seduced them
dark-eyed handsome man
they wanted to talk poetic in smokey bars with you
but go home sober
while you fell down the stairs pissing
shaking with the D.T’s
vomit and blood gushing from your mouth.
Far out. Far out
they applauded your shining, cascading words
You were misunderstood
They thought you said nothing matters but sex
Like it was so far out
how far out you went
in a soulless America with your lost boys
high on themselves and you.
Jack, your Buddha brother
went to the edges too
as seekers often do.
Siddhartha the sensual and bejeweled
then Siddhartha the starving monk
traveled every road
until he stopped
got off the bar stool
went to the forest
weary and done
like you are now
woken from the dream of being
and that is far out
so far out, man
To practice seeing
I choose an empty nest
fallen to the sidewalk
built into a Tillandsia,
the “air plant” that hangs from the branches of trees
A perfect scaffolding.
The plants tentacles intertwine
Round and round each other
The cardinal needs only scoop out the center.
For this, dear architect, did you use your clawing feet?
The cleverness of your construction should not surprise me
but I am human.
I have so many questions.
The answers are mapped in the mind
of a small, smooth feathered head which
pictured the design
shapes, sizes, textures
arranged each element
composed it all
into a unified utility.
How long, how difficult was the construction?
Thin, sliver twigs needed to be bent,
Bits of grape vine collected
Then inserted into the Tillandsia,
Threaded through the curls of grape vines
The stitching secures dry, flaky particles of Live Oak seedpods.
This builder knows how to balance beauty with practicality.
to practice the same day by day.
What was next indicated in your plans?
Perhaps, you decided
To lift dry, gray Spanish moss
Lacy string by lacy string
carried in your beak, flitting back and forth
on labored wings
Nest to branch
branch to nest
you knew that
moss matted down, then mixed with dirt
makes a sturdy stucco
Was this an ancient knowledge inherited from
Your dinosaur DNA?
To the stucco, lodged as if glued is
A one-by-one inch square of plastic netting from a bag of fruit.
Architect, this raises more questions.
How was the perfect size of plastic netting located, then chosen?
Was this serendipity?
Or was it a memory of a bright white, crisscrossed thing you spied from the air?
This plastic web has little function.
Did it thrill or amuse you?
Who can say it didn’t?
And why did you place this swatch of netting
On only one side of your nest?
Was this a statement?
Who can say it wasn’t.?
Or was it for fun?
Do you like fun like I like fun?
Who can say you don’t?
Woven between the Spanish moss, Tillandsia fibers and the fragile twigs
are three strips of cotton from an old cloth bandage.
Was this only for comfort?
Do you like the softness against your face?
Like I like softness?
Who can say you don’t?
Six strips of silver tinsel from an old Christmas tree
are inserted at the top of the nest.
Are you making a case for beauty?
Is this a sign of aesthetics in a life otherwise dominated by survival?
Who can say it isn’t?
The tinsel is fragile, not material for construction
in the sun.
Do you and I both delight in things that shine?
Who dares to say you don’t?
Like any clever architect
You balance beauty with practicality.
I attempt the same
day by day.
I never knew all this about you
Your jokes, your artistry
Until you stopped my mind one day
and opened my eyes
when I found your home.
The steam from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teacup
rises as a cloud
returns to earth
as rain to quench the thirst
of tea leaves.
Thay teaches how clouds appear in teacups and how
Picasso, Einstein and Buddha Walk into a Bar…
Picasso takes a swig of whiskey and says
there is blue in the horse
Yes, blue is in the horse.
If you look beyond muscle and haunch,
Buddha says, sipping his tea,
you will see
atoms that sparkle like a million small diamonds.
and drinks his beer.
they want me to make sense
draw the mouth on the face
they say, where it belongs
they don’t want the eyes on the forehead
they tell me to look at statues
to understand the body.
Einstein and Buddha laugh.
“That’s a good one!” Einstein says
“As if we aren’t particles,” Picasso says
“As if our cells are static.”
“As if we are solid bodies,” Buddha adds.
At this their laughter grows uproarious
the customers look askance.
“Did you hear the one about the two monks who pointed at a gingko tree and a cyrpess?
One of them said to the other:
‘They call those just trees! and the two monks fall on the ground laughing.’”
“Good one!” the three agree.
The customers shake their heads, concerned.
Since they sound so crazy
and one of them is wearing a sheet and no shoes
another hasn’t combed his hair for days
the three are thrown out of the bar
onto the street
accompanied by a gingko tree and a cypress
they stroll into the night
Chihuly Glass #1
A Chihuly glass shell
as are we all,
by a sacred geometry
by water and fire.
These secret equations
that set the exact beat
of our hearts
might be understood
the blazing suns
saltwater tossed rocks
ground to sand
turned hard and translucent by time
curled and bent
to correct angles
into harmonious parts
fragile as glass
smooth as the bone
of a seashell
or your spine.
Chihuly Glass #2
This is the mystery
of energy enough to ignite
colored shards of glass
into a fountain
of blue and red
yellow and orange
into a fused stillness.
The same mystery
in the candle wick,
the dry kindling.
The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way…As a man is, so he sees. ~~William Blake
Advice From a Live Oak to the Owner of the Mercedes Floating Down the Street in Miami
says the Live Oak,
Yes, you there
in front of your winter home in Florida
watching your Mercedes float
like your yacht
down the avenue
You seem surprised
that concrete crumbles under your feet.
Nearby, as if in a dream,
you hear someone saying words like
limestone, aquifer, rising sea levels
But you do not understand any language not spoken in banks.
You shouted your mantra
Fix it! Fix it!
Let me explain.
This is how you got here:
You looked at me through blinders and called me a tree.
Then you named me:
You wrote the name down in a book
as if it was truth.
I became a fact
to dismiss or use.
That was your first mistake.
When you cut me and my sap ran
you did not recall
the stickiness of your own blood.
So, I knew that our reunion would have to wait
until we had no choice.
You were too busy
conducting a war against
all that stood in your way.
You dug mines
smothered the soil with cement
slashed the forests and fields
forced water where it did not want to flow.
Your hand shakes now
as you grab at your pockets
for your rosary of coins.
You watch the news:
Coyotes leap over the walls of guarded houses.
Panthers roam the yards.
Alligators traverse your golf club.
Black bears rummage through your trash
swim at their leisure in your Olympic-sized pools.
Your homes are hidden behind steel gates
but the animals still enter
they know these woods and marshes
have mapped the paths in their veins
feel the contours of the land in their hearts.
For the first time, you hear the alarms.
Your senses open like a deer’s listening for the hunter’s next step.
You mowed when it was time to sow.
Demolished what it was time to save.
You understood only how to ravage
but not how to prune.
You did not see who shared these places with you.
That was your biggest mistake:
Yet, if you look east, west, south, north, up to the stars, down to the valley
you will see that what they call you is not what you are.
Your name is only a thing on paper
our roots, our veins inseparable.
to what speaks quietly
in both of us:
Against this cosmic background, the lifespan of a particular plant or animal appears, not as drama complete in itself, but only as a brief interlude in a panorama of endless change. ~~Rachael Carson
Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, St. Petersburg, Florida
This land feasts on fire and flood
where lightning strikes
scrub pines flare like torches.
Crackling pine needles
play a fiery staccato.
Snakes, squirrels, mice
(who’ve learned from their elders)
burrow together in tunnels
built by the able gopher tortoise.
The truce between predator and prey will hold
below the conflagration
as mouse and snake listen together
to the racing current of flames overhead.
They wait for a drenching deluge
to cool the charred tree trunks.
Grasses turned to ash
(a rich burnt compost)
will nourish sandy soil
needle thin stalks will push up through dank mud
towards the steamy sun.
Soon thickly green
vines wind around vines.
Branches cross one another, reach
in every direction.
After fire and rain
Mockingbirds, thrush, kingfishers, hawks
call out emphatic declarations
while under darkened canopies of oaks
frogs and turtles sleep.
Upon the humid air floats
A symphony of scents
honeysuckle, magnolia, fiddlewood,
rise in sweet crescendos
In the thorny brush
as mouse jumps
from the grasp of snake
white clouds, backlit by the sun
grow into mountains
portend the next fire
the next flood
and gopher tortoise casts a wary, wise eye skyward.
Really there is no edge
from which to fall.
We are like ancient sailors
trembling at the horizon.
Everything is a circle
your eye, the earth
the path is not straight
as you come round
as we do
as we all do
to where we started
which may look like
of your recollections
in hues of every color
in circular order
we spent our lives
but finding instead
A Sufi dancing in a circle of light
round of white
Like a planet
and the sun
all circadian rings of light
that cross over
deep round sound of the
drum, or the
singing bowl struck awake
Like the echo
floating in a canyon
gliding up and down
the rocky basin
returning to its origin.
Tell me then
what you fear.
where is the beginning
of this moment
or the end
of the ocean?
Tinney Creek runs past
the TJ Max
CVS, Target .
I live next to Tinney Creek,
across from a mall
along with the ducks, egrets, and crows
and the occasional hawk.
travels back and forth
from Tampa Bay
rises and falls with the tide
feeds Egrets, families of Muscovy ducks and Mallards
seeking tiny prawns, mud crabs, bugs.
In the muddy bank grow
feathery Java fern
as if this was still The Garden.
the insults of a styrofoam cup,
a plastic bag.
between snaking highways,
hawk has built a nest atop a pole
advertising Beer and Low-Cost Cigarettes.
The ducks, Ibis, Egret, crows and I claim the remaining
palms, oak trees, creek, iridescent sunsets
as our home
Tinney Creek #2
Low tide at Tinney Creek brings
a rare pink-and-white-feathered surprise.
The Roseate Spoonbill
sweeps its ladle-like beak
through the shallow water
ignoring the styrofoam cup floating past
comes and goes with the tides.
The Spoonbill lifts it’s comical Dr. Seuss face
to me for a moment then
twitching its white and rosey feathers
lowers its wide bill into the water
side to side
with open paddle mouth
for shrimps and insects.
The Spoonbill is a “gregarious bird” according to the website
“who spends time with other large wading birds,”
It arrived with an egret
now at its side
and likely enjoys the company
of the Muscovy ducks
resting like plump buddhas on the grass.
“I used to see many Roseate Spoonbills here once,”
a neighbor says.
My heart aches
as it beats
at the all too familiar words.
There were many
The Roseate Spoonbill came
to Tinney Creek.
And at night, arriving home,
my headlights sweep over the creek
lighting up a sweet stretch of sleeping ducks
despite ambulance sirens
the roar of car engines.
At dawn they will wake
to waddle like drunks
and raise their chicks
though hawk will seek them.
The creek still feeds them all
My heart resumes its song.
A Good Personality or The Play’s the Thing (with apologies to The Bard)
I usually congratulate people when they tell me, “I don’t know who I am anymore.”
Did Buddha have a good personality?
We would like to think so.
Without it who would he be?
How would he feel without it?
Let out of identity prison?
as he was constricted in his crib.
arrives on the stage
having learned his lines
face thick with make-up
mask in place.
The audience enthralled
the performance was so real!
So authentic! Like real life!
I really believed he was…they say.
Would Buddha have been a star
of the stage and screen?
No. He’d be a flop.
He forgot the role
he was assigned
misplaced the script
left his costume at home.
On his way to the theatre
Buddha got lost in the forest
Still trying to wake up
until he finally heard
suffering—his alarm clock
his personality shed like his actor’s mask
bare-faced, he knew
If we only trust what our eyes can see
we will believe the play is the only thing
and a mirror is a window.
hands on keyboard shoulder aches
a crowd of thoughts, elbow each other.
they are like drunks
shouting trash talk
thinking they makes perfect sense.
A car backfires a mindfulness bell of sorts, reminds me to breathe
Until ideas, images, words
grab me by my breath, hold me hostage and I am lost
pushed and pulled
between yesterday, tomorrow.
Then I inhale
after the exhale in the pause
before the next breath
that flickering moment
that quick bright peace is real.
For Pema Chodron and Bob and Margaret
Even though Bob and Margaret, lost both of their children
even knowing such tsunamis
sometimes I still think I stand firm on this
my plans laid out like railroad tracks
viewpoints arranged like books on a shelf
where I can reach them quickly
to prove their validity
(when necessary, of course)
What’s up is up
and down is down
I see the clock
I know the time.
I don’t need a weatherman…
Certainties crowd out
but I don’t mind
I navigate by thought alone.
It’s religious, a sustaining belief
in what I cannot see
what is ephemeral,
my thoughts and assumptions,
In those my faith is absolute.
Then I step out of my bunker
away from the tracks, the bookshelf
I go to the beach, let’s say.
Nowhere important at all
not like the places where my mind is in demand
where I use my thought-training
like a karate master.
I am barefooted
so it begins
of my body
as toes grip sand
then, beyond my control
a deep breath rises and falls.
More senses open
seeing and hearing
brought on by
the sight and sound
swooping, circling, crying sea gulls
the wide vistas, the vast sky
I stand at water’s edge
dig my feet into the heavy wet sand
anchored, safe again
until the sand slips
beneath my feet
effortlessly carrying what seemed my dense body
and I sink
an inch deeper weightless no viewpoint to grab
to steady me
pushed off the track
pulled by the tides like a pebble.
grinding out the last cigarette under your boot heel
this time for good
this time for good.
Like leaving the key on the table
and shutting the door
Surrender is like a fist opening
the grip loosening
from how it should have been.
is like untying yourself from the chair
to discover you tied it
you can stand upright.
are willing now clear enough
the wider horizon.
an angel put its arms around your shoulders
and you felt held
and you are certain
it was real.
is a lavender sky at dusk
a sweep of feathery light
a Great White Heron
on a log
in the Hillsborough River
in a frame
on your wall
take a picture
of a picture
of a heron
they can hold.
Hear “you’re nobody til someone loves you” Lament of the rejected child. “I’d rather go blind than have you walk away from me” Lament of the neglected child. “can’t live, if living is without you” Lament of the abandoned child. Love songs sung white-knuckled on our knees. Hear Coltrane’s saxophone refrain “a love supreme” “a love supreme” sung big as the sky notes round as the planet call us to the love that makes the grass grow. Love mirrored in each other’s faces to remind us, joined we can wipe our tears with flowers.
NOT JUST A WRITING WORKSHOP: COMING TO OUR SENSES
Excerpted from, a blessing “For One Who is Exhausted” by John O’Donohue
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
During these trying times, it can help to be inspired by wisdom, humor and profound observations. If you enjoy pondering thought-provoking ideas with others, this is the workshop for you. Writing will be one of the ways we will share our thoughts.
This is not a workshop that focuses primarily on writing skills and techniques. We will rely on our innate creative thinking which results in our innate creative writing.It’s true! Once we guide the inner critic and perfectionist to their proper places, creativity has room to appear.
Our writing will be whatever we are inspired to write after considering reading quotes on the topic, this one being The Five Senses. Sharing what we write will be optional, but encouraged. I will also offer writing guidance based on Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, a proponent of “free-writing” and “writing practice.”
For those who do not know me: I am a published writer of poetry, essays, memoir and feature writing, and have been teaching various courses in writing at the college level for the past twenty years. I’ve always found inspiration for my own writing from writers and thinkers, and so am offering these workshops to inspire your own thinking and writing. Critical and Creative Thinking, which I studied at the University of Massachusetts, has always been one of my interests.
When: Sundays beginning January 9th to February 13th, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Where: Via Zoom
Donations $20-$50 sliding scale for five sessions
Please RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org
First, remember to breathe as your heart beats upon the wind mixed with your own breath, then let it slip through trees, slide over ponds, along the ridged backs of the mountain, the spine of the deer, the moose, the human being. Now exhale your breath and the earth’s circles the globe in gusts, and gales. Ask: What isn’t full of breath? Mud breathes. Rocks breathe. Science tells us that trees collect sunlight, moisture, earth and water, convert it to oxygen, exhale it from the canopies of forests. When Henry David Thoreau needed more wildness than civilized Concord and even his beloved Walden Pond could provide, he went to the deep Maine forests. He sought out the people called the Abenaki who lived in the deep green Maine woods.The Abenaki’s believed, according to Thoreau, that trees “possess a spirit as real as that of a human.” When the Abenaki needed to cut a tree for their shelter and transport, they asked forgiveness of that tree’s spirit and thanked it for providing sustenance. Now Inhale, then exhale like a mountain, like the ocean.. It was in Thoreau’s nature and his philosophy to know trees as the Abenaki knew them, as the very stuff of life. For him the indiscriminate clear-cutting of the Maine woods by the white man was a tragedy, and he mourned their death. Still, we neglect what we cannot see: Inhale. Exhale, and consider this There are two ways to notice breath: The first is when it demands your attention as you gasp for air. The second is by choice, since the mind ignores the breath. The mind is a noisy dive filled with drunks shouting trash talk over each other, the loud band that plays the same bad music in endless loops. We sit on the bar stool drunk on thoughts, barely breathing. Now inhale exhale Buddhists speak of the emptiness that is our essence. But how can something invisible be real? We ask as we take the next invisible breath. We are full of what is formless. Our hearts charged with electricity. Thoreau and the Abenaki saw the living being called “tree.” They knew its oxygenated, watery blood coursed within its rough skin. To know a tree is more than its bark, more than that it’s fallen leaves, more than its dead fuel for fire, more than our wooden ships, more than the solid floor beneath our feet. Even death breathes life into the dusty world. This mystery is no mystery to wildness, to the trees, whose bodies in death as are diffused as mulch and fungus and firewood that offer shelter and nourishment. We too, exhaling our final breath, leave our minerals for new life as wind scatters our ashes into the soil. Exhale winter, inhale spring, exhale summer inhale autumn Only with the great green lungs of forests, we breathe. http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2013/08/12/211364006/this-pulsing-earth?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=share&utm_campaign=
Death on this city street is unnatural. Declarative as a gunshot. Fatal as poverty. Blood stains on pristine sidewalks, a nuisance. If I died on this city street I would first feel tossed like litter, like the people thrown out of homes plowed over, away, buried under heedless highways trembling high rise condos. as screaming sirens of careening police cars, and ambulances, played the urban dirge. If I died on Weedon Island, I would be like a tree, my body felled onto the forgiving sand, reclaimed by the endless transformation as green leaves are yellowed, wasp wings dried to powder, my bones brittled into soil for Spring blooming magnolia trees, underfoot of cautious raccoons, busy sparrows, quiet turtles, sleepy snakes, hurried bugs. On Weedon Island life and death move with the rhythm of bird calls woot woot, pause, woot woot, pause. Rest and rise. Rise and rest. So the song, and the daylight comes and goes comes and goes like the final heartbeat, before the first breath.
must first run fast like you it rushes, stumbles over boulders tin cans rusted detritus floats under broken bridges failed dams flood your road muddied darkened, thick stagnant, yet fertile surprised by the lotus then the flows downstream swept clean cleared, until all things once hidden by dark, churning waters are visible in stillness.
At 6:30 AM from my balcony, behind the palms and under the oaks, the sky is deep orange and pink. The trees look black in this still-soft rising light. Out here there are no problems only trees, birds, breezes and flowers. This is true no matter what problem I was keeping alive indoors. Once I step out into the world, letting go simply happens with no effort on my part. The air, the rising sun, the plants, and trees absorb my anxiety, coax me to breathe again, to open my heart and drop my mask. The energy coursing in everything, including me, is silent. The only sounds that come and go at this hour are mockingbird songs, doves cooing, parrots and crows squawking, an occasional car growling down the street.
The air is exceptionally cool for this time of year in Florida and this would be an ideal time and place for meditation. But I have my coffee cup in my hand and still feel groggy. It occurs to me that I could keep my eyes open for this mediation and use the sky as my meditation focal point.
It’s a clumsy meditation; I am primarily caught by my chaotic thoughts. Eyes open I know the answer is to look up and remember the sky—just the sky. Wide open and empty—such relief. I watch my mind: thinking, thinking, sky, thinking, thinking, sky…: cluttered mind, open sky. Well, what do you know… That spaciousness that the Buddha talks about is just outside my door.
Everything humans needed was once just outside their shelter.
Even now after white people, like myself, have stolen the land from the Native Americans, carved it up, depleted its soil, paved it over, built buildings that dwarf the remaining trees, and still “dream” of owning what land that remains and still build yet more structures to “protect themselves from the “wilderness” from “the elements—even now we need windows, French doors, open floor plans, space, lots of space.
Why do we so long for more room, a vista, a view? Maybe we long for home: the space in which life flows, effortless. We are homesick. We miss the sky, the birds, and the open plains of grasses. The Native Americans and the white settlers were never simply different colored skins in bodies. We shared a true home as the Native Americans tried to tell us: the space that is complete and filled with only what is real and needed. The place that is everywhere, filled with the knowledge of water and fire, of animals and insects. We think we covet any place with a view. We pay top dollar to see mountains or ocean as if they were pictures in a museum—not live, not real. We “enjoy the view” before we return to a reality that is covered in concrete.
We sit in our offices or our living rooms and long for what we call “vacation.” W call it “recharging our batteries” —not such an exaggeration since we have forgotten the source of our energy. Where do we go to “recharge”? Outside. Out to breathe again. Out to be quieted by mountains and lakes.
We return to what is “full” of life: commerce, chatter, control, capital and terror. We fear what is empty because even as we yearn for it, we have forgotten what spaciousness really is.
There are no such things as emptiness in the world. Even in the sky there were no vacant places. Everywhere there was life, visible and invisible, and every object possessed something good for us to have also—even the stones…The world teemed with life and wisdom; there was no complete solitude for the Lakota. —Luther Standing Bear
We yearn for what we destroyed—our true selves, our true home. We did not know we were destroying a part of ourselves that shares our atoms with every other living thing. We scramble to the beaches to bask in simplicity and non-doing. We rush to what is left of the wilderness to “get away from it all,” but not for long. We set aside so little time for our return home; we give it so little meaning. The Native American knew her/his body was of the soil, the water, the fire, the air. Buddhists know the same and meditate on the elements that pulse and move in the aggregate body we think is so solid. The Buddhist Forest Monks in Thailand sit in the charnel grounds watching the body’s elements fly into the air, flow to the ground, settle back into the soil. They sit on the ground meditating.
The man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures and acknowledging unity with the universe of things, was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization. —Luther Standing Bear
When I was in college in the 70’s, we learned of various Native American elders and shamans who had called for people to forgo their walled compounds and recognize the physical and spiritual bounty of earth. Some of us went to live from the land and leave the cities behind. But we were no match for the minds warped by the power and wealth the European ancestors passed down as a soul sickness to their 20th century relatives.
“When the Earth is sick, the animals will begin to disappear, when that happens, The Warriors of the Rainbow will come to save them.”—Chief Seattle, Dwamish
Perhaps the “rainbow warriors” who were prophesied to save Mother Earth and its creatures are among us. Their numbers are growing: patient and persistent environmental activists and “warrior bodhisattvas” who promise to remain with us, and guide us until we are awake again.
But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see. —Chief Seattle, Dwamish
Death on this city street
as a gunshot.
Fatal as poverty.
Blood stains on pristine sidewalks,
If I died on this city street
I would first feel tossed like litter,
like the people thrown
out of homes
plowed over, away,
trembling high rise condos.
as screaming sirens
of careening police cars,
played the urban dirge.
If I died on Weedon Island,
I would be like a tree,
my body felled
onto the forgiving sand,
by the endless
as green leaves are yellowed,
wasp wings dried to powder,
my bones brittled into soil
for Spring blooming magnolia trees,
underfoot of cautious raccoons, busy sparrows,
quiet turtles, sleepy snakes, hurried bugs.
On Weedon Island
life and death move with the rhythm of bird calls
Rest and rise.
Rise and rest.
So the song,
and the daylight
comes and goes
comes and goes
like the final heartbeat,
before the first breath.
Life On Weedon Island is different from man—made places. In the shade, beneath a tin roof at a green wood picnic table we sit and write among the living world: live oaks, saw palms, cautious raccoons, tall, naked pines festooned with hats of pine needles flitting sparrows, quiet turtles, hurried bugs soft feathers of a breeze stroke our shoulders. above, the blue sky is cloudless this morning. Death on Weedon Island is different living and dying linked as dry yellowed leaves and grasses turn to fertile mulch for Spring blooming magnolia trees. On Weedon Island are no losses like the finality of gunshots people lost and tossed from neighborhoods plowed away soil and sand pushed under shaking condos. Here we are held as if in a hammock rocked gently by rhythms of bird call woot woot, pause, woot woot, pause. The song, the bird, the daylight beginnings and endings come and go come and go like the first and the last breath.