A Small Thing

After a long trip away I did the laundry
and went outside to hang the clothes up to dry,
only to find that a pair of oak titmice
had made a nest next to the clothesline,
which is on the side part of the porch,
around the corner from the front door.

Anytime someone goes out that way
Papa or Mama Titmouse stands bravely
on the back of a patio chair
ready to defend the nest
against all comers.
I could not find it in me to hang the clothes.

This morning I came out to meditate
in my usual place on the porch
and Papa Bird flew around
in tight complicated circles
on the ground at my feet
indicating I suppose
that I was too close for comfort
and should slowly back away.

So I can’t use the clothesline
or sit in my usual chair
or even go out the front door
until the baby titmice
have fledged.

When you think about the vastness
of what needs to be done
about climate change
and mass extinction of species
and how badly human beings
treat other human beings
it seems perhaps ridiculous
that I have organized
my whole domestic routine
around a family of little birds.

And yet my heart will not permit me
to do any differently.

It is a small thing
but it is something
I can do.

When Humans Are Just Too Awful For Words

It is not that I don’t think about evil—
I do.  Often.

It is more that I will not let it have the last word.

Horrible things happen
in every part of this world
every day, and
if I allowed myself to feel all the pain there is
I would be paralyzed
and that would do no one
any good
at all.

So I choose a different way.

I know I cannot solve everything—
save the children from sexual slavery
get clean water to every person
remove all the plastic from the oceans
and somehow get rid of this strutting emperor
who dismisses reports of his nakedness
as fake news
while inciting acts so heinous
that we will be ashamed for generations to come—
and it is not that I do not feel angry.

It is more that
I prefer to think about the way,
every spring, even in dry years,
the bright poppies bloom
on the green hills
under the blue sky,
and the shore birds fly up
in vast murmurations,
flashing first white and then gray
and then silver
in the shafts of sunlight
that pierce the soft spring clouds.

It is more that
I prefer to think about the way
the children are rising up in the streets
to remind their elders of their proper work
which is not to sit and wring our hands
and feel helpless,
but to act
and to create
new ways of doing everything.

Life is more powerful than evil
and we are part of it
and must act on our own behalf.

“No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless,”
said Dorothy Day,
“There is too much work to do.”

Think of how much work it is
and how hard
for a baby bird to hatch from an egg;

Think of how much work it is
and how hard
for a tree to grow through a boulder;

And yet they do it all the time.

If the flowers can bloom
and the children can rise up

If the birds can hatch and then they can fly
and if trees can grow through stone

then, certainly—
certainly!—
we have the strength
to overcome evil.
To outgrow it,
to create something different
and more interesting.

Let us hatch
and let us fly
and let us grow
and let us bloom
and together let us
create something beautiful
and new.

 

 

 

 

The Beating Heart of Love

Up on the hill
against the sunset
I saw some dark ragged thing
–a clump of leaves?–
twirling down from the sky

Before my eyes could adjust
and identify the shape

it broke apart
and two acorn woodpeckers
flew up together.

I replayed the scene in my mind
and understood that what I had taken
for leaves was, in fact,
feathers.

Two birds joined together and fell,
in a mad twirl,
toward the ground.

At the end,
they might have crashed.

For some animals,
love does end badly.
We have all heard
the cautionary tale
of the black widow.

But these birds did not crash.

They joined together
in a twirling fall toward the earth,
and then they rose up in joy.

May the beating heart of love
give us all
such courage
and such joy.

 

Let Us Take It Back

At my house
the wind whispers in the pines
rustles through the oaks and cedars
and sets the chimes gently ringing.

A zebra swallowtail floats over raspberry plants.

A blue and black striped dragonfly
darts above the clover
where a thousand bees hum.

A pale blue damselfly lands
on a bright orange marigold.

A tiny California newt
no bigger than my pinky finger
makes its slow little way
among the stones.

A million insects whiz by
in a million different directions
hummingbirds sip from the feeders
and ravens fly overhead
their wings iridescent in the sun.

Frogs and crickets sing their longing for mates
lizards and squirrels madly chase their own kind
hawks shriek and jays argue;
all is green, green, green
against sky of blue, blue, blue.

Down by the river
the air is full of the fragrance of
California buckeye blossoms
and spice bush flowers
and a billion billion green leaves
each a different shape and size
each a factory, photosynthesizing
each one growing toward the light.

The songs of robins, grosbeaks,
tanagers, and towhees
echo through the trees
over the sound of the river
swollen with snowmelt
roaring down the canyon
and the smaller trickle of the streams
flowing down to the river.

At the sides of the trail
green mosses ferns and grasses
are adorned with wildflowers
of every color:
larkspur and yarrow
paintbrush and monkeyflower
Ithuriel’s spear and blue-eyed grass.

This world is so beautiful
that I almost can’t stand it
but somehow I find I can
and I weep
for those who do not even see it.

I weep for their terrible loss
of which they are not aware
because their hearts are so tiny
or so burned or so poisoned or so closed
and I weep for the power we have given them
to destroy all that is sacred and beautiful.

Beloveds—
let us take it back.
That is all we must do to save this world.
Let us take
our power
back.

Sometimes it is Necessary

Sometimes it is necessary
to lie on your back
upon the face of the earth
and look up at the sky.

There might be clouds
or there might not.
There might be a bird
or a whole flock of birds
or there might not.

What is important is looking up.

Today I watched wisps of cirrus clouds moving fast
across a field of ultramarine blue
framed all around by the tops of trees:

a pine, sighing in the breeze
the cone shapes of cedars and firs
bare branches of oaks in the spaces between.

All winter long I have lain on my back
and watched the trees move against the sky,
wanting to know what they were writing there.

Today there were leaf buds on the oaks.

(March 2016)