On the Elusiveness of Time


Time never passes evenly. There are years that pass like days, hours that pass like weeks, months that expand and contract beyond the fluctuations allowed by the variance of a day.

(Of course, science would rob us of this marvel. Research says that our experience of time is linked to our experience of novelty: the newer an experience is, the longer our sensation of the time elapsed becomes. This is why time passes achingly interminably for the young and agonizingly quickly for the old.)

As for me, the days stretch like years, but the weeks rush by like minutes.

Only one thing remains constant: the sense that there never seems to be enough of this mercurial resource.

Sigh.

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On the Challenge of Surrender


There are lessons that we need to learn again and again. Some of them, the particularly galling ones, we need to relearn every single day.

~~~~~

I feel as if I’ve been here before. The blessing (and bane) of a blog is the opportunity it provides for the blog writer to realize how circular (how repetitive) her thoughts can be. I come back time and again to the same anxieties, the same fears, the same terrors, and (perhaps most terrifying of all) the same reassurances. Buddhism has an excellent word for this: samskara, or literally, imprint. Our experiences, feelings and thoughts leave impressions on our consciousness, impressions that when revisited time and again eventually become ruts so that our minds orbit the same constellation of concerns over, and over, and over again.

And because we’ve got our noses so close to the ground, we don’t notice how familiar the terrain is, how monotonous the landscape has become.

(So I’m mixing my metaphors. It’s a calculated risk.)

So, yes, here I am again, disliking where I am again, disliking the anxiety, disliking the risk, disliking the uncertainty, and disliking the utter absence of even a false assurance.

(All assurances are false, by the way. Not because they’re never true, but because the impermanent nature of reality means that they’re never true forever. And, to paraphrase an old Anne Murray song, if truth never lasts forever, what’s forever for?)

So what’s the lesson? The lesson that I learned (just yesterday it seemed) and now have to learn again?

Let go, and let go, and let go even of letting go.

At some point, I suppose it will have to get easier.

On the Pleasures of Crooker (Part 3)


SOMETIMES, I AM STARTLED OUT OF MYSELF,
By Barbara Crooker

like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.

On the Pleasures of Crooker (Part 2)


IN THE MIDDLE
By Barbara Crooker

of a life that’s as complicated as everyone else’s,
struggling for balance, juggling time.
The mantle clock that was my grandfather’s
has stopped at 9:20; we haven’t had time
to get it repaired. The brass pendulum is still,
the chimes don’t ring. One day you look out the window,
green summer, the next, and the leaves have already fallen,
and a grey sky lowers the horizon. Our children almost grown,
our parents gone, it happened so fast. Each day, we must learn
again how to love, between morning’s quick coffee
and evening’s slow return. Steam from a pot of soup rises,
mixing with the yeasty smell of baking bread. Our bodies
twine, and the big black dog pushes his great head between;
his tail is a metronome, 3/4 time. We’ll never get there,
Time is always ahead of us, running down the beach, urging
us on faster, faster, but sometimes we take off our watches,
sometimes we lie in the hammock, caught between the mesh
of rope and the net of stars, suspended, tangled up
in love, running out of time.

On the Pleasures of Crooker (Part 1)


ALL THAT IS GLORIOUS AROUND US
By Barbara Crooker

is not, for me, these grand vistas, sublime peaks, mist-filled
overlooks, towering clouds, but doing errands on a day
of driving rain, staying dry inside the silver skin of the car,
160,000 miles, still running just fine. Or later,
sitting in a café warmed by the steam
from white chicken chili, two cups of dark coffee,
watching the red and gold leaves race down the street,
confetti from autumn’s bright parade. And I think
of how my mother struggles to breathe, how few good days
she has now, how we never think about the glories
of breath, oxygen cascading down our throats to the lungs,
simple as the journey of water over a rock. It is the nature
of stone / to be satisfied / writes Mary Oliver, It is the nature
of water / to want to be somewhere else, rushing down
a rocky tor or high escarpment, the panoramic landscape
boundless behind it. But everything glorious is around
us already: black and blue graffiti shining in the rain’s
bright glaze, the small rainbows of oil on the pavement,
where the last car to park has left its mark on the glistening
street, this radiant world.

On the Pleasures of Wagoner (Part 3)


LOST
By David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you. 

On the Pleasures of Wagoner (Part 2)


This one definitely makes it to my list of all-time favorites.

GETTING THERE
By David Wagoner

You take a final step and, look, suddenly
You’re there. You’ve arrived
At the one place all your drudgery was aimed for:
This common ground
Where you stretch out, pressing your cheek to sandstone.
What did you want
To be? You’ll remember soon. You feel like tinder
Under a burning glass,
A luminous point of change. The sky is pulsing
Against the cracked horizon,
Holding it firm till the arrival of stars
In time with your heartbeats.
Like wind etching rock, you’ve made a lasting impression
On the self you were
By having come all this way through all this welter
Under your own power,
Though your traces on a map would make an unpromising
Meandering lifeline.
What have you learned so far? You’ll find out later,
Telling it haltingly
Like a dream, that lost traveler’s dream
Under the last hill
Where through the night you’ll take your time out of mind
To unburden yourself
Of elements along elementary paths
By the break of morning.
You’ve earned this worn-down, hard, incredible sight
Called Here and Now.
Now, what you make of it means everything,
Means starting over:
The life in your hands is neither here nor there
But getting there,
So you’re standing again and breathing, beginning another
Journey without regret
Forever, being your own unpeaceable kingdom,
The end of endings.