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England (I)

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What are years?

What Are Years?
By Marianne Moore

   What is our innocence,
what is our guilt? All are
   naked, none is safe. And whence
is courage: the unanswered question,
the resolute doubt,—
dumbly calling, deafly listening—that
in misfortune, even death,
      encourages others
      and in its defeat, stirs

   the soul to be strong? He
sees deep and is glad, who
   accedes to mortality
and in his imprisonment rises
upon himself as
the sea in a chasm, struggling to be
free and unable to be,
      in its surrendering
      finds its continuing.

   So he who strongly feels,
behaves. The very bird,
   grown taller as he sings, steels
his form straight up. Though he is captive,
his mighty singing
says, satisfaction is a lowly
thing, how pure a thing is joy.
      This is mortality,
      this is eternity.



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This Land

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Trying to be here

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"Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. 
The least we can do is try to be there.” 

"I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus."

(Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

         Today has been one of those days where an aching sense of loss pervades almost every moment. This week would have been my cousin's birthday week. She would have turned 27. This and another loss have made mornings particularly hard to bear. I keep running through memories in my head, reliving joy and always ending with loss. Memory is not much of a grace today.

      Yet, as always, I am constantly surprised and astounded at what grace is given to me.  We read and discussed Annie Dillard in class this morning, just fifteen minutes after I had broken down crying right outside the art building. We talked about the risk of learning how to see; the risk that comes because the world not only has deep beauty to show but also deep pain. Then we discussed the quote, "I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam." We asked what it means to put yourself in the path of light, as artists and writers. A challenging question, in both the literal and figurative sense of the phrase.

     So for the rest of the day, I tried (and am trying) to be as present as possible, not reliving memories, but rather seeing the present grace and beauty being performed around me. And it has been a beautiful day - not easy - but even now, as I'm sitting with a friend, listening to the wind through the citrus trees outside, I feel peace and gratitude.

“We don't know what's going on here. If these tremendous events are random combinations of matter run amok, the yield of millions of monkeys at millions of typewriters, then what is it in us, hammered out of those same typewriters, that they ignite? We don’t know. Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.” 


Juxtapositions: A Collection


Don't surrender your loneliness
So quickly.
Let it cut more

Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.


loneliness wraps his arms around me
and holds me close
so I can hear
the beating, the breathing, the knowing
of being alone
(in a crowded room)
when he finally lets me go
after a minute that felt an eternity
he kisses my forehead
and so I'm marked
with a sign that leaves me wondering -
how to see grace
in being alone?


Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
       Meanwhile, the world goes on
Meanwhile, the sun and clear pebbles of the rain
       are moving across the landscapes,
       over the prairies and the deep trees,
       the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile, the wild geese, high in clean blue air,
       are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
      the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
      over and over announcing your place
      in the family of things.

(Mary Oliver)


Alive within mystery

“I see that the life of this place is always emerging beyond expectation or prediction or typicality, that it is unique, given to the world minute by minute, only once, never to be repeated. And this is when I see that this life is a miracle, absolutely worth having, absolutely worth saving. 
We are alive within mystery, by miracle.” 

Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle


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