How to Be a Poet
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
~ Wendell Berry
There are many variations of herons, including bitterns and egrets. Storks and cranes should not be confused with them. Herons are part of a group of birds called “waders.” It is a bird of the marshlands and shallow waters. All waders have similar physical characteristics — long, thin legs, long necks, and sharp bills. These physical characteristics are important to understand for those who have a heron as a totem.
Legs enable animals and people to move about on the earth. They are symbols of balance, and they represent an ability to progress and evolve. Also the longer the legs, the deeper the water the heron will feed in. The deeper life can be explored. The long thin legs of the heron reflect that you don’t need great massive pillars to remain stable, but you must be able to stand on your own. This is especially significant for those with a totem of the great blue heron, as it is a lone hunter.
When it feeds, it stands in the water, reflecting a connection to the earth — while implying the exploration of other dimensions on the earth (water element). It is important for anyone with a heron totem to explore various activities and dimensions of earth life. On the surface, this may seem a form of dabbling, but those with heron totems are wonderfully successful at being the traditional “jack of all trades.”
This ability enables them to follow their own path. Most people will never be able to live the way heron people do. It is not a structured way, and does not seem to have stability and security to it. It is, though, just a matter of perspective. There is security in heron medicine, for it gives the ability to do a variety of tasks. If one way doesn’t work, then another will. This heron people seem to inherently know.
~ Ted Andrews, Animal Speak
White-tailed deer, particularly the doe, remind me of my mother. There are stories about that here on this blog, somewhere, and on my old blog. The stories relate to her illness (cancer) and death, but they end with comfort. Deer medicine. A feeling that Mom is somehow there when I need her. Or maybe it’s just the reminder of her that is there when I need her. In either case, it is a form of medicine for the heart, for the soul.
The Great Blue Heron, however, often reminds me of myself, as if Heron is there to teach me about something if only I’d pay attention. I’ve always felt that way about them. I have no physical resemblances to a heron. I’m short, my legs are not long and thin. But I do dabble and have been referred to, from time to time, as a “jack of all trades” (which, if you know the full saying, you realize means you are “master of none”). I appreciate other dabblers, those willing to explore whatever captures their attention, to go down different paths that sometimes few others are willing to hike.
One day last week while M and I were eating our lunch, three Great Blue Herons came by to visit the pond and do a little fishing. One would land while another sat up in a tree for a few minutes before flying down to chase off the heron in the water. Just as the heron in the water was flying off, another came by and sat in a tree before repeating the entire procedure. This activity was probably a discussion about territory and fishing rights. I’m not sure who won the dispute. Maybe they came up with a timeshare agreement.
Today an egret and a great blue heron were sharing the pond. The heron tried to get in the egret’s personal space but the egret just kept walking, as if to remind the heron that we are practicing physical distancing right now and he should get with the program. The heron seemed surprised that the egret didn’t fly off, and then appeared to shrug in a birdlike way while going about his business, moving in the opposite direction. Last time I looked, they were both still out there, fishing different sides of the pond.
Today is day something of the 40-day self-care challenge. Day 30, I think. How are you? Seriously, how are you? I am genuinely interested. I hope you are well. I know there are some going through some really hard times, dealing with some very deep grief. I am thinking of you, holding you in my heart and thoughts.
I don’t know if counting the days serves any real purpose now. It seems to me that this is an activity (or group of activities, in my case) that needs to be kept up on a regular basis, preferably every day. For the record, I did a HIIT workout this morning followed by my yoga and meditation practices. A friend recommended the CD Songs From the Bardo, and I listened to that this morning. It made my meditation very… interesting. It is a guided journey through the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Here is the Smithsonian’s description of it:
Songs from the Bardo begins with a bell ringing out once, twice, three times, as a ritualistic chant emerges from the dense silence. The collaborative composition by avant-garde icon Laurie Anderson, Tibetan multi-instrumentalist Tenzin Choegyal, and composer and activist Jesse Paris Smith is a guided journey through the visionary text of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, unfolding in an 80-minute ebb and flow of sound and words. Songs from the Bardo is a transporting experience, meant to draw the listener into the present moment and provide a framework for inner exploration. Anderson, Choegyal, and Smith fuse modern compositional techniques with the mystique of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy to make these visionary traditions more accessible to a new generation of listeners and to reveal the ancient wisdoms contained within.
~ Smithsonian Folk Ways recordings
It was a tad bit agitating at first, to listen to a meditation about dying. That changed eventually, to something almost soothing. I was reminded of a small part of Wendell Berry’s Sabbaths, 1979, IV:
Ruin is in place here:
The dead leaves rotting on the ground,
The live leaves in the air
Are gathered in a single dance
That turns them round and round.
The fox cub trots his almost pathless path
As silent as his absence.
These passings resurrect
A joy without defect,
The life that steps and sings in ways of death.
Do I seem a little morbid today? I don’t mean to be. Just contemplating life, death, the universe, and everything. Perhaps it’s the weather. It’s raining again. Tomorrow, they say, it will still be raining. Spring is like that. April showers, May flowers, as the poems and songs go. Earth, water, fire, and air combining in a resurrection of leaves and flowers, some digging themselves up out of the ground to reach the light and air.
Thank you so much for stopping by today and visiting with me. There won’t be much to see at sunset this evening, but if it’s not raining, I will go out to the dock to see what’s happening. Maybe I’ll meet some ducks, another heron, a river otter, or the bald eagles who like to fish the creek. Sunset is scheduled for 7:44 PM. You’re welcome to join me if you wish. A rain coat and wellies will probably be a good idea.
Be safe, be well, be kind. ♥♥♥
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,371) Dogwood blossoms (bracts). They always look so delicate and graceful. 1,372) A Zoom birthday party for the Little Wookie. Yesterday was his birthday. I thought it might be sad to celebrate via the internet, but it wasn’t. He was so very excited to see both sets of grandparents along with some of his aunts and uncles and cousins. His excitement ruled the day. We were all smiles, every single one of us, watching him as he welcomed us, blew out his birthday candles, and opened his gifts. Everything excited him. He took his time, appreciating every bit of it. 1,373) Drawing balloons for birthday parties. 1,374) A slow, relaxing kind of rainy day. 1,375) Just being. Thank you.