– WINDOWS TO THE HERE AND NOW –
We are surrounded by beauty all the time, for we’re lucky enough to live on Earth. Mindfulness—paying attention intentionally and in the present moment—helps us see and enjoy that beauty.
Paying attention and appreciating the beauty that surrounds us is also the first step in writing poetry.
The following is a collection of my poems decribing moments of surprise,
and scenes and stories that revealed a world beneath appearances.
Hiking in the hills above San Felipe
I heard a song.
It was a mountain
stream singing as it skipped
over rocks, danced around boulders
and raced with butterflies.
I followed along,
sometimes on the footpath above
sometimes on the sandy patch below
till we slowed down.
The song gurgled
into a cement pond
and disappeared into an iron pipe
to go flush toilets in the town.
THE OTHER SHORE
The sky is a blank page
and my mind is writing words on it
as I sit by the lake
this Sunday afternoon.
Three ducks come flying in
they chase the words away
waking me to the sound of the waves
and the feel of the wind on my skin.
The water’s high this spring,
and the trees on the other shore
look like they are growing out of the water
In a little clearing I see a white cottage
snug in the bosom of nature
looking idyllic like a vision of paradise.
Now, I wake up once more
this time to the beauty around me
Why does paradise
always appear to be
elsewhere? The sun is warm here
there’s one in the sky
and a sprinkling of others on the waves.
Two kids run in front of me playing
as their parents stand watching—
love and beauty are just as present here
as I imagined them to be
on the other shore.
IN THE GARDEN
On a sunny day in spring
Eve was in the garden
enjoying Earth’s beauty
with birds as company.
One robin in particular
in tweets quite spectacular
said over and over:
‘Let your self glow
and through all nature flow,
You are the source of life
and not just Adam’s wife.’
‘Birds really talk!’
Eve mused to herself
And she thought of the story
some guy had made up
about her and a serpent.
‘That snake was scripted
This robin speaks from the heart…
Let others listen to snakes
I’ll listen to birds’, she smiled to herself,
‘They speak of flowers and sunshine,
and they speak my truth.’
Hiking this morning, I chase away thoughts
as I chase away flies
Some sneak up on quiet wings
others announce themselves with violins
most occupy my attention just for a while
and disappear on their own—
a few have painful stings.
Here, one breath brings a perfume of flowers
another the green smell of grass and leaves
and now an odour of decay—
I’m stepping on damp leaves
and then, ah, a smell of spruce like incense.
I breathe like a bear now, and notice as I walk
each lungful has a different aroma.
But there’s a limit to my newfound smarts
as there are many no-name smells
that tell the bear their stories
but keep me in the dark
on this morning’s walk.
listening to the roar of the waves
and stepping on clouds, roses, and sunsets
A skilful hand made art
out of whatever was around—
stones, wind, the song of the sea.
I too have been shaped
by waves of time
rubbed against others
over and over.
There are also clouds
roses, and sunsets in my heart.
I hear the stones murmur
as the sea grinds them into sand
with wave after wave—
as I continue my walk
Six pelicans are flying in formation
They turn right and left together
I imagine some kind of a pelican community.
I see a father and son sitting on a bench
I imagine a happy family.
A couple is walking in front of me
Hand in hand. I see them in love
Living together happily.
The pelicans soon scatter to feed alone
The father is battling for custody
The couple just met this morning
On this Mexican beach
And will soon go their different ways
Leaving me alone with my fantasies.
A STREET SCENE IN ECUADOR
A wailing choir like children crying
I turn and look
and see a truck
with the occasional pigtail and snout
The pigs had not expected this.
Their caring owners, in a sudden change of mood
packed them tight till their bones cracked
now nobody’s listening to their agony
nobody’s even bothering to look.
We like human stories
like that of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark.
His story happened a long time ago—
I was still in High School I think.
And what was his problem exactly?
I forget. But the screams from that truck
are in my ears still.
Like the oak tree in the woods
Like the daisy on the path
Like the swallow dancing in the air
Be yourself, be yourself
Like the sun that warms us all
Be yourself, your true self.
Let the traffic speed away
Let the others have their say
Let the children be themselves and play
Be yourself, be yourself
Like the Earth that holds us all
Be yourself, your true self.
Mind your spirit all day long
Let your talk be like a song
Let your walk be like a dance
Be yourself, be yourself
Like the moon that lights up the night
Be yourself, your true self.
Live like the linden tree—
it lives not for itself alone, but also
for bees that thrive on its nectar
and birds that nest on its shady boughs.
Bloom like the linden tree
with joy not only your own
but that of the endless dawn.
The words of the rose:
bright red petals.
The spirit of the rose:
a beauty that inspires.
The heart of the rose:
a bowl of nectar
oneness of being and doing.
ST. LAWRENCE RIVER
The mighty St. Lawrence flows
in my kitchen sink. The same water
gave birth to nymphs, sirens
Botticelli’s Venus, the loon’s cry
and the transparent wings of the dragonfly.
I open the tap with reverence:
Perhaps the next drop that comes out
once moistened a dinosaur’s snout
or rose up to the sky on invisible wings
to become a cloud.
The sailor controls the boat
not the wind. The sailor
knows the wind.
Sail through a relationship
as your lover
is also the wind.
Sail through life—
ride the winds
with a hand on the rudder.
THE HEART HAS WINGS
Enjoy the wind, enjoy the sunshine
Enjoy the waves, ride them like a seabird.
Fill your lungs with the blue sky
fill your eyes with the bright sun
The heart has wings
Open them and fly.
Children’s castles, lovers’ footprints
Starfish drying in agony
As the surf wipes clean the beach.
Let your breath wipe also away yesterday’s words
This morning’s thoughts
And the tightness that remains of them
Till there’s only this moment’s freshness.
SUNDAY IN THE PARK
“Love thy neighbour…”
You must be kidding!
He has other concerns,
Family, golf, work,
I’m no more than a distraction for him.
“Love thy brother…”
How? I do not see him often;
The ten years between us were long as a century,
I was no more than a distraction for him either.
“There’s something missing in this old rhetoric”
I muse, something like,
“Love thy lover, and love thy children,
Love them well, with all your heart.”
And this Sunday in the park
That’s the only love in sight
As couples saunter hand in hand,
And children run with delight.
I do not see the moon
from my window tonight
only the cloudy sky
luminous like the early dawn
This milky light, suffusing all
is the moon without the moon.
There are other moons
I do not see from my room—
and mother bears—
all those who ever held
a dear one to their bosom
and her heart in their own.
It is their light
that makes the world bright—
and that light travels
Noah had a heart big as the sky
with room for all beings—he didn’t
pick and choose.
In his ark the lions sat like royalty
stealing furtive glances toward the gazelles
The rabbits stopped bolting
though they still looked right and left
and the chickens scampered
up on the elephant’s back
at the sight of the sly-walking fox.
Noah held each creature with a love
that redeems and no blood was shed—
so says the story.
The rainbow his emblem
the dove his messenger
he did not favour any colour
any creature over any other.
And after a year he let them go
just like he had let them in
they were his heart’s treasure,
not his investment in commodities.
A HOUSE THAT BREATHES AND BLOOMS
With love in my heart I see flowers in your eyes
The sun shines bright in the moon at night.
I see people with roots, people with fur
People with feathers as my roommates
In a house of light, a house of song
A house that breathes and blooms.
A river we don’t see—
As we pet the fur and hear the purr—
the cat river flows through our houses
and streets, and unless dammed by a vet
becomes a waterfall cascading
through the landscape spraying, straying
and spawning little streams. Then
it flows peacefully, nurturing
the little streams with the milk
of kindness, teaching us
a simple lesson:
kindness is also wild,
and wildness, also kind.
FLOWERS FOR SQUIRREL
You live in nature’s house
with the sun for a lamp, and a cloud
for a lampshade.
You are lean with the work of life
while I go to the gym for a workout.
You get the weather report first-hand
while I watch a second-hand version
you live nature’s vision.
TO A CHICKADEE
You’ve been singing
for so long—
yet we still don’t understand.
We do not understand the joy
of being so light you can fly
or the fun of finding a red berry
on a green platter,
and audiological analysis
isn’t yielding any clues either.
ABOVE SAN FELIPE, OAXACA
The donkey is carrying another bundle of wood
it has no use for
for reasons it does not understand
yet it does this all day.
It does not see or care
that after each trip
there are fewer trees in the hills—
it’s just one of those things.
I know how it feels
I know the bubble in which it lives—
not only it, but the guy
with the big stick, following behind.
SIGHTSEEING IN MACHU PICHU
I went to Machu Pichu to see the ruins
but what caught my eye
was a lama grazing and pooping
and grazing some more,
its sense organs—eyes, ears, nose, taste buds—
all at the front end
its attention all on the grass it’s eating—
there were no eyes at the rear where
the poop came out. The lama didn’t care
or even see where its waste went
it only saw what satisfied its hunger.
Are we all that different?
The snowstorm this evening
is a visual feast. I watch it like a movie
from the comfort of my sofa.
I live in a perpetual spring
in the house or in the car it’s the same thing
The weather report is just “interesting”.
The snow’s different up a tree: not just white
and fluffy but also cold and bleak—
the snow the birds know has a sting.
I’ve arrived, I’m home here
for thousands of years now
and been walking on the grass
hand in hand with you
smelling the sweet air
hearing small birds sing
with joy in my heart.
Each moment is a window
and each moment I arrive
barefoot under a tree
singing my song to you
and whoever’s around me,
flowers, trees, the moon, the sea.
I’ve been here before
or someone just like me
and been watching deer eat grass,
strawberries and thyme
I’m the one who’s been
this way a thousand times
and I’m here, now, once more.
We are taking care of the dog
taking care of the cat
and taking good care
of the fish in the tank
but the Earth is sick
and not getting better.
We are taking care of the house
taking care of the yard
and taking good care
of the cars in the garage
but the Earth is still sick
and not getting any better.
We are taking care of each other
and taking care of the children
and the children are taking loving care
of the stuffed animals in the playpen
but the Earth is still sick
and still not getting better.
Eating a handful of strawberries
I don’t want to taste anything else
from strawberry heaven I don’t wish to part.
A plum is its own heaven, a different one
I am there when I slowly savour a bite
and lose myself in its deep, rich flavour.
You give me a taste of heaven too
and the blue jay I crossed this morning
as it played in a puddle in the sun.
These heavens are the only ones I know
and they are all here on Earth.
The past left us Swaziland and Ireland
but now we long for Peaceland.
It left us Pakistan and Afghanistan
but now we long for Ecostan.
It left us flags of competing colours
but now we long for a rainbow flag—
a graceful arc holding all in its embrace.
The past left us a Holy Land contentious
and sectarian, but now we long for
a Loving-Kindness-Land over the whole Earth.
The past left us traditions
that favoured one people over another
one gender over another, and one species
over all others
but now we have a vision
of an Earth without such division.
The past lingers on, with its strange aroma—
a mix of perfume and the stink of rotting corpses.
The present beckons to us
to start over again
using our hearts for a compass.
COLOURS OF NATURE
Blue, blue, blue,
Blue in the sky
Red, red, red,
Red in my heart
Green in the hills,
Gold in the sunset
nature takes the colours
of here and now—
dressed in the shades of the rainbow
flows as a mountain stream
or sparkles with jewels
in a velvet dress at night,
Burns in a blaze at dawn,
or celebrates the fall
in a yellow gown.
THE GARDEN IS NOW
The Garden is now,
the Garden is here,
in our backyard,
or nearer still,
Now has no end,
Here has no walls.
In Eden’s choir
all have a voice
in the key of life
the Garden’s for all,
big medium and small,
not just for Adam and Eve
and their dog.
Eden is now,
Eden is here
in someone’s eyes
whose heart is clear
singing a song
ears cannot hear.
WORDS GROW BIGGER
Words grow bigger as I meditate on them:
“Breath” expands to take in trees and the sun
“Sand”—eons of pounding surf
howling wind, and grinding pebbles
and “Gecko,” the whole of evolution.
Words—now each about the size
of the Earth—no longer fit
into grammar, they have a life of their own.
We have so much energy, so much dedication
for ball games on television
So much love and care
for perfect lawns, for goldfish
for cats and dogs, for Santa
yet our planet is sick for lack of love
and dying for lack of care.
“We become human by being born
by singing the Earth’s song
fathoming the ocean’s dream,
and getting tipsy on sunlight”
tweets the thrush
to the rosebush
who answers back
with a most delightful bloom.
CHARACTERS WITHOUT AN OWNER
The fearful one, the contemptuous one
the impatient one and the know-it-all
had a cosy home here and had a ball.
Now they live in the doghouse
where they whimper and scowl.
Those characters are ghosts now
without a body since I let them go
though I still hear them sometimes
but how they manage to speak
I don’t know.
Somewhere between running and flying
so delightfully flowing…
I ride on streets
painted with branches and leaves
and flow through the scenery
decorated with houses, dogs,
and my favourite willow tree.
Walking is a joy—in the woods
on sandy beaches and mountain paths
feeling the earth with bare feet
smelling its smells, and keeping nature
But on my bike, perspective speeds up:
a tiny tree
grows as I ride closer,
only to disappear, and houses change size
I’m still waking up from a dream
of a boyhood lived in a shoebox
the kind you throw away
when you get home from the store.
Except I kept it. My life
had to fit in that box.
As I walk farther away from it
the shoebox looks smaller every day
and I wonder at the moans and groans
still coming from it today.
I prospected for gold in the bush
panned it in cool mountain streams
and melted it down to fashion ornaments
in homage to your charms.
I dug for diamonds in dark tunnels
tumbled them till the crystals shone
and chiselled them just right
to reflect your beauty’s light.
I dove with sharks in cold waters
so I could offer you a string of pearls
and trekked in far hills for amber
to reflect the honey in your eyes.
I offered you the Taj Mahal
sang your praises in song and poetry
all this and more I did lovingly
with my brothers through the ages
as I saw nature’s grace
reflected in your face.
A VALENTINE’S DAY POEM
The majestic mountains
rising above the plains know
the wind and the snow
but not the sea, the play of the dolphin
the soft caress of seaweed
or the colours of slippery fish
swimming through currents and tides
with glassy eyes.
Without knowing you,
I would be as ignorant as the mountains
are of the sea, ignorant of half the world
made of the same elements as me
but woven oh, so differently. . .
Today choirs of poplar trees
sing backup vocals to birds and cicadas
under a sapphire sky.
Soon, autumn leaves
and later in winter, snow flakes
will float down lazily.
Then, jewels of raindrops
will land with a ping
to signal the coming of spring.
breathing in a presence
Chickens strutting like royalty
and aiming each peck accurately
with eyes bottomless
vats of liquid energy
you are parts of my community.
The field of sunflowers
all facing the same way
and the field of daisies
facing every which way
you too are parts of my community.
The glowing meadow
with the intoxicating fragrance
the delicate, tall white clover
and the elderberry bush
You are also parts of my community.
Beings I do not see
under the deep blue sea
and seagulls measuring the sky
past the lacy mountain-ash tree—
other parts of my community.
Your energy is also in me
your truth guides me
and your beauty inspires me.
A circle of rocks, the tallest crowned by a seagull
The sea shivering in patches of blue
and extending far till it joins the sky
The waves are singing, the sun glistening
and two cormorants skimming
the surface on their way to another bay—
I have been here, looking out and seeing this
for many lifetimes.
Only an occasional thought intrudes
to mark this day with its time stamp.
The crow is calling:
“Caw, caw, caw—
I caw therefore I am!”
“I caw a lot ‘cause
the more I caw
the more I am!”