Tag Archives: food for thought

Monet Refuses the Operation

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and changes our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

~ Lisel Mueller

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Devotional Mindfulness

I’m mulling over this post from over at Gangleri’s Grove. I didn’t directly reblog the piece because this is only tangentially related, but it’s excellent food for thought and i do recommend you go read it.

When i was practicing something-like-Hinduism, a mantra was a major part of my practice. I used to mentally repeat my mantra when i woke up in the morning and went to bathe, during the beginning of meditation (sometimes throughout my entire meditation; it depended on what i was doing), while i cooked or cleaned or folded clothes or brushed my teeth or dried my hair, while i exercised, while i did archery… I also made an effort to mentally repeat my mantra as i went to sleep at night. In short, i structured my day around my mantra. Any moment i could, i brought my attention back to those words.

The only time i specifically didn’t use my mantra was when i was supposed to be giving something my full attention—in a conversation with another person, for example. Part of honouring the Divine is honouring the Divine in other living beings, so that seemed like an appropriate circumstance to set down the mantra.

After doing this for several years, that mantra—that short series of words—became deeply embedded in my brain. It became the background music of my mind, running in a constant loop. Every moment my mind-chatter went quiet, i heard that. It was my go-to internal monologue whenever i felt angry or sad or frightened (or peaceful or joyful, for that matter). I centred myself on those words.

But then i stopped being something-like-Hindu. I stopped devoting myself to one Power to the exclusion of all others. And more than that, i’d completely changed pantheons: A mantra dedicated to a Hindu deva no longer seemed to fit, now that i found myself predominantly devoted to Powers in the Norse pantheon. The mantra—my mantra—no longer fit my practice. After dithering for a while, i decided it was best that i set the mantra aside.

It’s left a hole in my practice, though. It hasn’t entirely gone away, for starters: In moments of intense emotion, my old mantra still sometimes drifts to the forefront of my mind, ill-fitting though it now is. And it’s become something like a drug that’s lost its potency, no longer offering the comfort and anchoring feeling it once did. It’s just…words, words connected to memories that, while the pain of them is softening, they feel ever more distant.

Some Pagans i know like to recite the various bynames of their Beloveds as a kind of mantra; there’s also the possibility of something like lectio divina, or Eknath Easwaran’s method of passage meditation. I do make a habit every day of reciting my own adaptation of Sigdrifa’s prayer, and i’ve dabbled a little bit in writing short prayers of my own that could be suited to mantra practice and/or repetitive prayer. But so far nothing has felt quite “right” in the same way.


Saint Francis and the Sow

This found its way to me today. It was definitely…timely.

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

~ Galway Kinnell


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