Friday, May 27, 2016

A Wanderer's Song

Welcome to Poetry Friday. The roundup today is hosted by Julie at The Drift Record.

My wandering this holiday weekend will be solely in my head and on the page. Tuskegee, Mississippi, and the old Seneca Village in Central Park. I've been saving these for a long weekend.

Though I may wander over to the park to admire the ducks and other water birds, but no major traveling plans. I pulled out an old poetry textbook today, Doorways to Poetry by Louis Untermeyer, (published by Harcourt, Brace, Inc in 1938) and was browsing through it when I found the poem below.  Wherever you are wandering this weekend, I hope you make lots of memories.

Frontispiece of Doorways to Poetry by Rockwell Kent

A Wanderer's Songby John Masefield

A wind's in the heart of me, a fire's in my heels,
I am tired of brick and stone and rumbling wagon-wheels;
I hunger for the sea's edge, the limit of the land,
Where the wild old Atlantic is shouting on the sand.

Oh I'll be going, leaving the noises of the street,
To where a lifting foresail-foot is yanking at the sheet;
To a windy, tossing anchorage where yawls and ketches ride,
Oh I'l be going, going, until I meet the tide.

And first I'll hear the sea-wind, the mewing of the gulls,
The clucking, sucking of the sea about the rusty hulls,
The songs at the capstan at the hooker warping out,
And then the heart of me'll know I'm there or thereabout.

Oh I am sick of brick and stone, the heart of me is sick,
For windy green, unquiet sea, the realm of Moby Dick;
And I'll be going, going, from the roaring of the wheels,
For a wind's in the heart of me, a fire's in my heels.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Distant Piping

Spiritual Journey Thursday posts have definitely been sporadic. This except from The Wind in the Willows conveys such awe and wonder in the face of "a holy Other," as C.S. Lewis would describe it. It's well worth taking a moment to read and then taking a few more moments to let is soak into your skin.

"The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", frontispiece to a 1913 edition by Paul Bransom The Wind in the Willows (c1913) Graheme, K., New York : Scribner. Public Domain,

Rat and Mole respond to the call of "a holy Other," (in this case the god Pan).

Then a change began slowly to declare itself. The horizon became clearer, field and tree came more into sight, and somehow with a different look; the mystery began to drop away from them. A bird piped suddenly, and was still; and a light breeze sprang up and set the reeds and bulrushes rustling. Rat, who was in the stern of the boat, while Mole sculled, sat up suddenly and listened with a passionate intentness. Mole, who with gentle strokes was just keeping the boat moving while he scanned the banks with care, looked at him with curiosity.

'It's gone!' sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again. 'So beautiful and strange and new. Since it was to end so soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing in me that is pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever. No! There it is again!' he cried, alert once more. Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound.

'Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,' he said presently. 'O Mole! the beauty of it! The merry bubble and joy, the thin, clear, happy call of the distant piping! Such music I never dreamed of, and the call in it is stronger even than the music is sweet! Row on, Mole, row! For the music and the call must be for us.'

The Mole, greatly wondering, obeyed. 'I hear nothing myself,' he said, 'but the wind playing in the reeds and rushes and osiers.'

The Rat never answered, if indeed he heard. Rapt, transported, trembling, he was possessed in all his senses by this new divine thing that caught up his helpless soul and swung and dandled it, a powerless but happy infant in a strong sustaining grasp.

In silence Mole rowed steadily, and soon they came to a point where the river divided, a long backwater branching off to one side. With a slight movement of his head Rat, who had long dropped the rudder-lines, directed the rower to take the backwater. The creeping tide of light gained and gained, and now they could see the colour of the flowers that gemmed the water's edge.

'Clearer and nearer still,' cried the Rat joyously. 'Now you must surely hear it! Ah—at last—I see you do!'

Breathless and transfixed the Mole stopped rowing as the liquid run of that glad piping broke on him like a wave, caught him up, and possessed him utterly. He saw the tears on his comrade's cheeks, and bowed his head and understood. For a space they hung there, brushed by the purple loose-strife that fringed the bank; then the clear imperious summons that marched hand-in-hand with the intoxicating melody imposed its will on Mole, and mechanically he bent to his oars again. And the light grew steadily stronger, but no birds sang as they were wont to do at the approach of dawn; and but for the heavenly music all was marvellously still.


Slowly, but with no doubt or hesitation whatever, and in something of a solemn expectancy, the two animals passed through the broken tumultuous water and moored their boat at the flowery margin of the island. In silence they landed, and pushed through the blossom and scented herbage and undergrowth that led up to the level ground, till they stood on a little lawn of a marvellous green, set round with Nature's own orchard-trees—crab-apple, wild cherry, and sloe.

'This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. 'Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!'

Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror—indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy—but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.

Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

'Rat!' he found breath to whisper, shaking. 'Are you afraid?'

'Afraid?' murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. 'Afraid! Of HIM? O, never, never! And yet—and yet—O, Mole, I am afraid!'

Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Light in the Larches

Larch Trees in the Northern Cascades. Photo by Bill Devlin.

Margaret Simon is our host today for the Poetry Friday Roundup, so stop over at Reflections on the Teche and enjoy the offerings.

My "One Little Word" for this year is shine. I keep my eye open for shiny reminders to allow what's on the inside to slip out through the cracked places of my clay pot. I'm feeling quite shiny as I share today's poem with you.

I've mentioned several times this year my readings in Sarah Arthur's devotional collection, Between Midnight and Dawn, published by Paraclete Press. I've found so many new poets to love in her pages.  Toward the end of the book, which I worked my way through on a weekly basis, I found this beautiful, shining poem by Paul J. Willis. Paul is an English professor at Westmont College and former Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara, California.

When I contacted Paul for permission to use the poem, he told me it was written during his term as artist-in-residence at Northern Cascades National Park. Having never heard of such residency programs, I went in search of information. Some of you lovely poets may be interested. Click here for information and a map of which parks have residency programs. This link will take you to more poems written by artists-in-residence.

One more thing. I had never seen a larch tree. Actually, I'd never even heard of a larch tree. None of those here in the Deep South, so a bit more searching led me to discover that it's a deciduous conifer. Now we have lots of pine cones around here and lots of pine needles falling to the ground, but never bare pine trees, unless they are seriously dying. I am totally mystified by a conifer that turns yellow and loses all its leaves. It sounds beautiful, and one day I want to see them in the Northern Cascades.

Now, enjoy this very lovely poem.


     (Laryx lyallis)

A few weeks after my mother died,
I dreamed that she was waiting for me
in a ravine of spring-green larches.
There was no worry in her eyes, and
she sat there with her knees drawn up,
content to be in the filtered sunlight.
Funny, because she never lived
among larch trees--my mom grew up
on an orange grove and raised us
in the Douglas fir. I do not live
among them either, apart from my rare
visits to the North Cascades. But when
I'm there, as now I am, sitting barefoot
on Cutthroat Pass among amber larches
bathing every bowl and basin,
I have a sense that she's okay,
and that I am too, born to witness what
I can within this green and golden world
which still persists, with or without us,
but mostly with us, I've come to believe.
Things and people pass away--
but that's when they become themselves.
There's a new heaven, a new earth,
around and about us--and not much
different from the better parts of the old.
We don't live there very often,
but when we do, eternity
ignites in a moment, light in the larches
that shines. And shines.

© 2014, Paul J. Willis. Used with the author's permission.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016



Yes, that's what I said.

I'm trying my best to find a way to approach what feels like a very large project without getting overwhelmed, flipping out and taking refuge in dark chocolate and multiple episodes of NCIS.

Today's effort was to produce a timeline within which I can fit incidents, voices, and poems.


My track record for long, big projects is not exactly stellar, but this one is one I really want to figure out. So...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Riding on the Wind

It's Poetry Friday and I'm trying to get back on track. After traveling for ten days and teaching at a yoga training and writing a month worth of poems a day (my first time for managing such a feat), I'm finally coming back to some equilibrium!

Violet Nesdoly is hosting Poetry Friday at her blog. Stop by and enjoy.

There were moments in the last month when I felt the astonishing freshness of walking into a strong wind. You know how it feels when the press of air is so fierce, you can stand still and lean into it and not fall flat on your face? And then there were moments when I felt like a fallen leaf blown helter skelter with no ability to determine its own course.

During the month, I re-read this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I love the power of this picture of the falcon riding on the current of air.

Photo by Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Windhover
by Gerard Manly Hopkins

             To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
       dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
       Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
      As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
      Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
      Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

      No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
     Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

Click here for a beautiful reading of the poem.