Monday, August 31, 2015

soul toward light

Always Homing Now Soul Toward Light

by Lorna Goodison

Always homing now soul toward light,
want like wings beating
against the hold-back of dark.

Above the face of yet another city
bright with bright points of seduction
I hover, and know from having been there
that the lights of cities go under,
their brilliance is not what
this soul is after.
Night swallows the sunset now
the lips of the horizon come together and there is in all this drake sky
only one thin line of glow.
When the lips close finally
it will seem (be warned)
it will seem like the dark has won.
But it is only the interim
before the true shining comes.
Light is close sometimes,
it seems to burnish my limbs some nights.
And for wanting it so
I'm a child then
who must sleep with some
small part of light
from a connection above
my head.
Surround us while we sleep, light
light in rings marrying me to
To me I say, fold the dark dresses
of your youth
let the silver run like comets'
tails through your hair.
For me, I know, the light in me
does not want to be hidden anymore,

(from Selected Poems, by Lorna Goodison)

Lorna Goodison is a Jamaican poet, who teaches in Michigan. In the 90s, she taught at University of Toronto and published Travelling Mercies with McClelland and Stewart, the same year my book Against Paradise came out with them. The four poets from that season gave a reading and I was too busy freaking out about my own to enjoy anyone else's but I do remember how splendid Goodison's was. She seemed larger than life and I was this small, shy nobody from Western Canada in Toronto for the first time by myself.

The first stanza of the poem above....I just want to read it over and over.

I've linked to articles and posts on the On Being blog numerous times here, and this week there is a particularly lovely one. Please read, "The Monk Manifesto: Seven Principles for Living with Deep Intention" by Christine Valters Paintner.

The Monk Manifesto 
  1. I commit to finding moments each day for silence and solitude, to make space for another voice to be heard, and to resist a culture of noise and constant stimulation.
  2. I commit to radical acts of hospitality by welcoming the stranger both without and within. I recognize that when I make space inside my heart for the unclaimed parts of myself, I cultivate compassion and the ability to accept those places in others.
  3. I commit to cultivating community by finding kindred spirits along the path, soul friends with whom I can share my deepest longings, and mentors who can offer guidance and wisdom for the journey.
  4. I commit to cultivating awareness of my kinship with creation and a healthy asceticism by discerning my use of energy and things, letting go of what does not help nature to flourish.
  5. I commit to bringing myself fully present to the work I do, whether paid or unpaid, holding a heart of gratitude for the ability to express my gifts in the world in meaningful ways.
  6. I commit to rhythms of rest and renewal through the regular practice of Sabbath and resist a culture of busyness that measures my worth by what I do.
  7. I commit to a lifetime of ongoing conversion and transformation, recognizing that I am always on a journey with both gifts and limitations.

And so I've been reading the manifesto above, along with another On Being post by Parker Palmer, titled Breathe in My Life, Breathe Out my Gratitude.

In it, he quotes this Wendell Berry poem:

Sabbaths - 1993, I

No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And you have become a sort of tree
standing over a grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.

These are the questions that matter: how to become more generous toward each day? How to point soul toward light? How to continually transform?

Also:  How to soar?

Well, since there is no going back, let's think about sweet things.

The sweet light at the end of summer.

Since taking this next photo, all the poppies have bloomed and leaned into the sun, and swayed in the breezes, and breathed in life, and then dropped each petal, reluctantly, helplessly, gracefully.

More sweet things. From the Italian Centre Shop. My pick was the chocolate hazelnut square - which tasted as good as it looks.

One afternoon this past week I made myself a cup of oolong tea, and took it outside and drank it in the sun with half of the chocolate dessert and chatted with Chloe who was drawing. I wrote a little in my diary. Read some of my recent short essays to try to get back into that mindset, that groove. I even wrote a little something this past week and have a few more ideas for something else I want to work on in September.

Summer is strange, I always feel strange in summer, because I go for weeks where I'm not really writing anything. Life intervenes. Which is good and even healthy, but at the same time I don't quite feel like myself. I feel off-kilter, or that I'm walking on the path beside the path I ought to be on, and maybe am on. (There's a Star Trek TNG episode, if I recall, that illustrates this feeling).

Summer, I keep thinking, has a lot in common with Christmas. It's nice and lovely and all that, but you have to beat back those thoughts that everyone else seems to be having a better time than you are. Going on better, longer, fancier vacations. Bonding in fantastic ways with their family. Their gardens are prettier and better weeded than yours. Everyone else is more popular than you are and their families are from some sort of storybook. The land of barbecues and cottages and road trips and the notion of getting away from it all are enviable, I suppose. Thanks to Facebook, maybe, we end up envying things we don't even want and have never yearned for.

What I'm really craving, now, at the end of August, is a little silence and solitude. So I'll be taking the Monk's Manifesto to heart, and trying to apply this:

I commit to finding moments each day for silence and solitude, to make space for another voice to be heard, and to resist a culture of noise and constant stimulation.

In honour of National Dog Day last week (yes, a real thing) Chloe and I had Ace pose for some photos on our morning walk.

He works for biscuits, which will explain this next shot:

The weeds are going to seed about now.

I've been trying to get a decent shot of the pro dog walker out in the field for a while.

And now back to our backyard - the tallest sunflower is taking a bow.

And Chloe held some flowers for me. Each summer a slightly different bouquet from the yard.

And lastly, stopping a moment to smell the flowers.....


  1. The slow thoughtfulness here touches and moves, thank you.

  2. Beautiful words and images. I will be thinking about this question all day- how do I become more generous toward each day?

  3. Thank you Shawna. This resonates and speaks to me very deeply. And, such beautiful images and words....

  4. Such a beautiful post---both the words and the photos. How can you know the words for the inner whisperings of my soul when I cannot even find them. Tis magical. I too will be pondering how to become more generous toward each day.

  5. Thank you everyone for leaving your words - that means a lot! xo S.

  6. I feel the same way about summer and your comparison to Christmas is spot on. (however, I don't waste my time envying those who display their glorious vacations or perfect family get-togethers because I know that no matter what, their lives are not's what they don't say :) ) By the end of August I start feeling the need for quiet and stretches of alone time. Your photos are so beautiful, as always. I love those poppies and those delicious looking pastries...and I still wish I could borrow Chloe for some hand shots.

    1. Very wise - envy is a wasted thing isn't it? And you're exactly right - no has a perfect life, for sure. CAn't believe it's now September 1st! Wow.


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