Monday, June 6, 2016

keep quiet and secret

maybe a damned good night's sleep will bring me back
to a gentle sanity.
But at the moment, I look about this room and, like 
myself, it's all in disarray: things fallen 
out of place, cluttered, jumbled, lost, knocked 
over and I can't put it straight, don't
want to.

perhaps living through these petty days will get us ready for the dangerous ones.

- Charles Bukowski

My dear,
Find what you love and let it kill you.
Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness.
Let it kill you and let it devour your remains.

For all things will kill you, both slowly 
and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.

-  Charles Bukowski

My dears,

I write to you from a gentle sanity. Sleepless nights this past week, but also, some deep thinking on what those things are that I love.

Thinking of soul change, of reaffirmations, of setting fire to my own life.

Light, where is the light? Light the fire, if you have desire! thunder rushing wind, nothingness. Black night, black stone. Don't let your whole life go by in the dark. 

Evidently the only way to find the path is to set fire to my own life.

- Tagore

(translated by Robert Bly)

"Keep quiet and secret with soul-work."

"Be more deeply courageous.
Change your soul."

- Attar

This deep need to stay with the soul-work, to go the places where there is secret light. To stay quiet and secret myself.

Sometimes, When the Light

by Lisel Mueller

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood

and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows

or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,

you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

The way words repeat in these random findlings: dangerous, secret, light, soul.

I'm travelling by soul-light, that music.

This next passage is from a conversation with Krista Tippett and Sylvia Boorstein. I'm sure I quote so often from the On Being site that I'm in danger of losing all my readers to it. Perhaps it would be quicker if you all just went there :) Nevertheless, here is what she has to say about 'the amazingness of people' and how the wonders of the world help balance the suffering.

Sometimes the pain of the world seems incomprehensible and unbearable to me. And I think if there’s anything that balances it, it’s wonder at the world, the amazingness of people, how resilient they are, how people will take care of others they don’t know. If somebody falls or someone’s in trouble in a public place, people take care of them. Human beings have that ability. I don’t think they have to learn it. They don’t have to have lessons. I think we’re a companionable species, for the most part. 
So to be able to look at human beings and say, life is amazing. The sun came up in the exact right place this morning. Celebrate seasons and birthdays and holy days. Here we are again, at another time in another season, and there’s that great cosmos out there to look at. Our ancestors looked at the same stars. I keep in myself a sense of amazement. I tell my grandchildren, “Look at this moon. It’s a three-day moon. It’s the best moon. It’s better than a two-day moon. It’s my favorite moon.” And if I show that to them, they begin to think, “Oh, it’s my favorite moon, a three-day moon.” These are balances. When the Buddha taught about needing to see the suffering in the world so that we could respond with compassion, he also talked about the preciousness of life and the need to take care of it.

Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.

- Erasmus

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.

- by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I was outside drinking a glass of ice water with lemon on Saturday morning and re-reading John O'Donahue's book, Beauty. Which I've read many times, but on this particular reading, here is what struck me:

"There is a kindness in beauty which can inform and bless a lesser force adjacent to it. It has been shown, for instance, that when there are two harps tuned to the same frequency in a room, one a large harp, and the other smaller, if a chord is struck in the bigger harp it fills and infuses the little harp with the grandeur and beauty of its resonance and brings it into tuneful harmony. Then, the little harp sounds out its own tune it its own voice."

Give light. Show your soul. You've heard these things here before.

What beauty, what frequency will you attune yourself to in your life, so that you may bless and inform others? Likely you are already giving light, showing your soul. How to give more? This is what I've been asking myself of late, in spite of being ridiculously tired, and feeling generally quite spent. How to balance this with the need to keep quiet and secret.

The following are excerpts from a book, The Music of Silence:

Prayer is not sending in an order and expecting it to be fulfilled. Prayer is attuning yourself to the life of the world, to love, the force that moves the sun and the moon and the stars.

- Br. David Steindl-Rast

If we add up all the time we have spent in our life getting things over with, it may turn out to be half our lives. The monastic attitude is to begin deliberately and to do anything we do with an even, stately pace and with wholehearted attention. This is how master artisans, weavers, experienced farmers, and other sage laborers work. That way even difficult tasks can be done leisurely and with joy, for their own sake. And then they become life-giving.... We pray that God may guide our actions. When we do our work in this way, then everything becomes a prayer

- David Steindl-Rast

The point of passing time in solitude is to strip yourself bare, to discover what is essential and true. When you are stripped down to this point, you see how little you amount to. But that little is what God is interested in.

- Phyllis Rose

One of the things he liked most about the hermitage was the silence. "Silence is my music now." He could pick up the small sounds of insects and animals. Sometimes when the wind was strong, it blew the sound of the traffic to him. He liked to think of all the people going on with their lives and to think of himself as in a sense staying where he was for their sakes, "like a lighthouse keeper."

- Phyllis Rose

More words: attune, silence, love.

And yes, this goal: to strip bare, to see how little I amount to. A good little. I hope.

This one, too: to work at an even, stately pace.

Very pleased this week to see our rhododendron plant emerge. They're not something you see often in our zone 3 gardening world. Years ago when we were planting our front yard we came across one at a greenhouse that had been designed for our climate. Still, we were sceptical and every year are plainly delighted that it's survived another Edmonton winter.

It was a good week for dog walks. 

And for backyard bokeh.

Lots of good birdwatching.

A good week also for photographing shadows.

And then. The rhododendrons opened. That miracle.

The early morning light made getting up to write more palatable.

For those with allergies.....tis the season:

We walked to the foresty place in the next neighbourhood over. All around the perimeter of the trees were wild roses. These delicate, strong, bright flowers.

The favourite tree is in full leaf.

Last things. 

Pro Secco. I always say yes to pro secco. And Rob found some small bottles of it for me that are perfect for Friday after work. 

This was from last year, but still lovely. An Italian teacher's summer assignment for his students. 

Poetry as a substitute for medication. (It's worked for me lo these many years). 

Wishing you all calm things in the week ahead, a stately pace, a gentle sanity, and that you may be attuned to your life. 

- Shawna



  1. A great post, Shawna, worthy of being read slowly again so that every quote can be absorbed more deeply. Especially liked the juxtaposition of the Bukowski quotes with the lovely, peaceful photos of the yellow cup.

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  3. LOVE love Bukowski quotes, and that first one sums up how I have been feeling lately.
    Your post was full of calm and quiet and Beauty.

  4. Beautiful sharing, writing, and photography, my friend. I am enjoying my coffee and honoring your artful blog this morning, xo.

  5. I'm right there with Angie, sipping my coffee and soaking up all this beauty! Bukowski never disappoints. Poetry is a wonderful form of meditation for me...along with a nice glass of Pro Secco :)

  6. I love OnBeing, but they don't have your gorgeous images! Beautiful!

  7. You had me at pro secco . . .
    This was a timely piece for me. Thanks.

  8. Thank you Shawna. My mind and my soul say thank you, again and again and again and every week :) xx

  9. Such a lovely post...the quotes so wonderful. I will have to look up this Bukowski. His words are very moving...
    Your photo's are quite lovely and well thought out. It is my first visit but I will come again...
    What a great start to the week.


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