Wild & Precious Life

a collection of beautiful words…..

One Tree by Philip Metres

They wanted to tear down the tulip tree, our neighbors, last year. It throws a shadow over their vegetable patch, the only tree in our backyard. We said no. Now they’ve hired someone to chainsaw an arm—the crux on our side of the fence—and my wife, in tousled hair and morning sweat, marches to stop the carnage, mid-limb. It reminds her of her childhood home, a shady place to hide. She recites her litany of no, returns. Minutes later, the neighbors emerge. The worker points to our unblinded window. I want to say, it’s not me, slide out of view behind a wall of cupboards, ominous breakfast table, steam of tea, our two young daughters now alone. I want no trouble. Must I fight for my wife’s desire for yellow blooms when my neighbors’ tomatoes will stunt and blight in shade? Always the same story: two people, one tree, not enough land or light or love. Like the baby brought to Solomon, someone must give. Dear neighbor, it’s not me. Bloom-shadowed, light-deprived, they lower the chainsaw again.

Excerpt from the Waves by Virginia Woolf

Thus I visited each of my friends in turn, trying, with fumbling fingers, to prise open their locked caskets. I went from one to the other holding my sorrow—no, not my sorrow but the incomprehensible nature of this our life—for their inspection. Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends, I to my own heart, I to seek among phrases and fragments something unbroken…

Wonder Woman by Ada Limón

“Standing at the swell of the muddy Mississippi

after the urgent care doctor had just said, Well,

sometimes shit happens, I fell fast and hard

for New Orleans all over again. Pain pills swirling

in the purse along with a spell for later. It’s taken

a while for me to admit, I am in a raging battle

with my body, a spinal column thirty-five degrees

bent, vertigo that comes and goes like a DC Comics

villain nobody can kill. Invisible pain is both

a blessing and a curse. You always look so happy,

said a stranger once as I shifted to my good side

grinning. But that day, alone on the riverbank,

brass blaring from the Steamboat Natchez,

out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl, maybe half my age,

dressed, for no apparent reason, as Wonder Woman.

She strutted by in all her strength and glory, invincible,

eternal, and when I stood to clap (because who wouldn’t have),

she bowed and posed like she knew I needed a myth—

a woman, by a river, indestructible.”

Essay by Jeannette Encinias

Listening is an act of love. An art form. A skill that you can cultivate and practice.

Listening is a gift of silence, of learning, of putting to bed your hungry words so that you can scoop up the voice of another person and hold it in the space between your life and theirs.

What an intimacy this can be. Your ears astute, a person’s story heard, a thread to bind you in a window of time.

Have you felt that before? I have. It’s divine.

Our world is noisy. It’s getting noisier by the day. Peace and quiet often seem out of reach. People feel unheard, left out, alone. The shouting is getting louder. The fences are growing taller. We have created a world where only the voices we are comfortable hearing can be heard and we grow narrow by this apathy. We dismiss each other. We turn our backs. We create an echo chamber that cages us all.

Listening well is a way to untether yourself from this madness. A way to move toward love and a more expansive understanding. A way to grow up and grow wise.

Listening is not passive. It requires your breath and your presence. You must call on your patience and your strength. Listening asks more from you than talking ever will.

Talking is easy and we know it.

But can you be curious and open without shutting the doors of your mind too quickly? Can you sense the fear that lives inside of us all? The love and the longing as well? Can you breathe into the beating heart and expanding lungs? Can you remember that we all have blood and bones and one day none of that at all?

Can you skip a beat? Can you skip two?

There are times to make your voice heard. There are years when your story must be told and when your silence is not a gift. Shout it then. Write it. Paint it. Sing it. Let no one and nothing stop you. And then there are times to prop up those ears and lift your chin. Offer up your beautiful attention.

Just listen.

As we move into the rest of this truly breathtaking year and into the rest of our lives, can you study the art of listening? Can you shake up the talking vs. listening ratio? Can you let this listening strengthen you and not get the best of you? Can you become more than you ever were before?

These are questions I ask myself and so here I offer them to you.

Mark Nepo

Living is a conversation with no end, a dance with no steps, a song with no words, a reason too big for any mind.

No matter how we turn or are turned, the magnificence follows….

Dalai Lama

The suffering is what makes you appreciate the joy. The path to joy, like sadness, did not lead away from suffering and adversity but through it.

Excerpt from The Strangeness of Grief by V.S. Naipaul

We are never finished with grief. It is part of the fabric of living. It is always waiting to happen. Love makes memories and life precious; the grief that comes to us is proportionate to that love and is inescapable.

Ten Years Later by David Whyte

When the mind is clear
and the surface of the now still,
now swaying water

slaps against
the rolling kayak,

I find myself near darkness,
paddling again to Yellow Island.

Every spring wildflowers
cover the grey rocks.

Every year the sea breeze
ruffles the cold and lovely pearls
hidden in the center of the flowers

as if remembering them
by touch alone.

A calm and lonely, trembling beauty
that frightened me in youth.

Now their loneliness
feels familiar, one small thing
I’ve learned these years,

how to be alone,
and at the edge of aloneness
how to be found by the world.

Innocence is what we allow
to be gifted back to us
once we’ve given ourselves away.

There is one world only,
the one to which we gave ourselves
utterly, and to which one day

we are blessed to return.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What lies behind us, and what lies before us are but tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass by Mary Oliver

1.
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.

2.
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 thrillingly gluttonous.

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.

3.
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 praising.
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 still another.

4.
Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.

And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

5.
We do one thing or another; we stay the same or we change.
Congratulations if you have changed.

6.
Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some fabulous reason?

And if you have not been enchanted by this adventure—your life—
what would do for you?

7.
What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements, though with difficulty

I mean the ones that are thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the ush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world