Searching for spring all day, I never saw it,
straw sandals treading everywhere
among the clouds, along the banks.
Coming home, I laughed, catching
the plum blossom’s scent:
spring at each branch tip, already perfect.
~ unknown zen nun from the Song Dynasty (trans. by Sam Hammill and J.P. Seaton, The Poetry of Zen)
We can no longer hear the voice of the rivers, the mountains, or the sea. The trees and meadows are no longer intimate modes of spirit presence. The world about us has become an ‘it’ rather than a ‘thou.’
~ Thomas Berry
What is needed is a new pattern of rapport with the planet. Here we come to the critical transformation needed in the emotional, aesthetic, spiritual, and religious orders of life. Only a change that profound in human consciousness can remedy the deep cultural pathology manifest in such destructive behavior. Such change is not possible, however, so long as we fail to appreciate the planet that provides us with a world abundant in the volume and variety of food for our nourishment, a world exquisite in supplying beauty of form, sweetness of taste, delicate fragrances for our enjoyment, and exciting challenges for us to overcome with skill and action. The poets and artists can help restore this sense of rapport with the natural world. It is this renewed sense of reciprocity with nature, in all of its complexity and remarkable beauty, that can help provide the psychic and spiritual energies necessary for the work ahead.
~ Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe
We have little needs and we have deeper needs.
We have fallen into the mistake of living from our little needs til we have almost lost our deeper needs in a kind of madness. Let us prepare now for the death of our present little life and the re-emergence in a bigger life in touch with the moving cosmos. It is a question practically of relationship. We must get back into relation, vivid and nourishing relationship to the cosmos and the universe. The way is through daily ritual and re-awakening. We must once more practice the rituals of dawn and noon and sunset, the ritual of kindling fire and pouring water, the ritual of the first breath and the last. To these rituals we must return or we must evolve them to suit our needs. For the truth is we are perishing for the lack of fulfillment of our greater needs. We are cut off from the great sources of our inward nourishment and renewal, sources which flow eternally in the universe.
Vitally, the human race is dying. It is like a great uprooted tree with its roots in the air. We must plant ourselves again in the universe.
~ D. H. Lawrence
The Bright Field
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receeding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
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