To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat
of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or
forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?
Behold, I say—behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings
of this gritty earth gift.
Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets
are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are
For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.
And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs.
The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you, my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.
Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.
It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe
~ Mary Oliver (you can read the rest of this poem here).
It’s not that I don’t appreciate summer: I do. I love it deeply, from the first rich flush of hawthorn blossoms to the last fading mauves of August heather. I love the green and the growing, the treasures of the hedgerows, and the always astonishing abundance of the land which surrounds me. It’s just that I love autumn and winter more. Something opens up in me then – something soft and deep and glowing – which is far too shy to expose itself to the inexhaustible light of summer.
~ Sharon Blackie, The Enchanted Life
To slow down is to be taken into the soul of things.
~ Terry Tempest Williams
In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.
~ Pico Iyer
Desire paths speak of possibility. All animal paths are desire paths; so were the first roads, shaped by nothing more than a common urge to join one place to another. The poets Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts write that desire paths “begin over time, imperceptibly, gathering definition as people slowly recognise and legitimise the footfall of their peers.” It’s been suggested that fifteen journeys are all that’s required to begin a fresh way, to introduce new shapes to the built environments we live in. Where the designed way is often straight and rectilinear, the desire path bends and flows. It offers grace rather than instruction.
Paved roads show us where we ought to go, but desire paths are made when we step off the road and let our hearts decide the way. They seek out the most direct connection between where we are and where we wish to be. Worn by the pressure of passing feet, they’re declarations of a kind: there is another way.
~ David Farrier, from the article Desire Paths on Emergence Magazine
The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.
— Henry D. Thoreau
Without attention, the human sense of wonder and the holy will stir occasionally, but to become a steady flame it must be tended.
~ Huston Smith
Understanding is not conceptual, and therefore cannot be passed on. It is an immediate experience, and immediate experience can only be talked about (very inadequately), never shared. Nobody can actually feel another’s pain or grief, another’s love or joy or hunger. And similarly nobody can experience another’s understanding of a given event or situation… We must always remember that knowledge of understanding is not the same thing as the understanding, which is the raw material of that knowledge. It is as different from understanding as the doctor’s prescription for penicillin is different from penicillin.
Understanding is not inherited, nor can it be laboriously acquired. It is something which, when circumstances are favorable, comes to us, so to say, of its own accord. All of us are knowers, all the time; it is only occasionally and in spite of ourselves that we understand the mystery of given reality.
~ Aldous Huxley