The Summer Day

February 13, 2021

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

“The only joy in the world is to begin.”

January 9, 2021

“No one wants to stay a beginner. We all want to get better. But even as our skills improve, and our knowledge and experience grow, what I hope to encourage is the preservation, or even cultivation, of that spirit of the novice: the naive optimism, the hypervigilant alertness that comes with novelty and insecurity, the willingness to look foolish, and the permission to ask obvious questions – the unencumbered beginner’s mind.”

~Tom Vanderbilt, “The joys of being an absolute beginner—for life”

Lost and Found

August 24, 2020
“And when he has had his fill of ancient poets and students and the infinite dialectic that is literature and art, when his heart is filled with wanderlust, he chooses a traveling companion, fills a small pack with essentials, and walks off into the mid-May dawn, into the geography of the soul that makes the journey itself a home.”

–Sam Hamill, from his introduction to the writings of Matsuo Basho, Japanese poet (1644-1694)

Italian (on) Ice

July 29, 2020

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Seven, that’s a magic number

February 12, 2020

The people at the BBC who brought you “Planet Earth”, “Blue Planet” and “Life” have absolutely, marvelously, awesomely done it again.


“You already understand.”

December 2, 2019

I recently heard a clip of Joni Mitchell’s song, “Both Sides Now”, and am haunted by the melody and her voice, but most of all by the lyrics, which are just brilliant. They are not only about the magic of youthful fantasy and the disillusionment that comes with maturity, but also about how confusing, even incomprehensible, life can be.

But then, too, I recall the guidance of Seung Sahn, about how the mind is not meant to understand (or “know”) life. We know life by living it; and in doing so, we know it perfectly and completely.

Both Sides Now
(by Joni Mitchell)

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

“Oh, what then?”

July 3, 2019

Soen-sa said, “Let me ask you this: If you could do anything your heart desired, what would you want to do most of all?

“Get enlightened.”

“And after you get enlightened, what will you do then?”

RIP Mary Oliver

March 29, 2019
Last Days

Things are
     changing; things are starting to
          spin, snap, fly off into
               the blue sleeve of the long
                    afternoon. Oh and ooh
come whistling out of the perished mouth
     of the grass, as things
turn soft, boil back
     into substance and hue. As everything,
          forgetting its own enchantment, whispers:
               I too love oblivion why not it is full
                    of second chances. Now,
hiss the bright curls of the leaves. Now!
     booms the muscle of the wind.

~Mary Oliver


“Is it not enough, this blessed sip of life?”

February 19, 2019


How many wonderful moments must you experience before you declare your life wonderful? Ten thousand? A dozen? One? And how many of those must you be able to remember? The same number? Fewer? None? Does it matter whether you can recall it, that wonderful moment? Or just that it happened?

“Teach us to sit still and not sit still”

February 11, 2019

If you seek, how is that different from pursuing sound and form?
If you don’t seek, how are you different from earth, wood or stone?
You must seek without seeking.

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