Author Archives: Jim

The same grace

Though it may appear that this wayward
stumbling is errant, choreographers
can see that it possesses the same grace
as a leaf fallen into concert with a steady
creek and its swerving currents of rapids.

Though the progress  of this thought
might sound to some like stuttering,
the listening blind know that it follows
the same pattern as rain streaming
in gusts against a windowpane at night.

. . . 

The twisting and weaving of a pea vine
intertwining with its invisible love
may appear to be without direction
or purpose, but students of tenacity
and sunlight know better.

. . .

Pattiann Rogers, Study from Right Angles
from Generations 

Click through to read the poem in full

Read the rest of this entry

Into the other

(I feel that this applies not only—though yes, deeply—to human connections, but also in subtler, perhaps more partial yet palpable ways to our presence with other species, landscapes, the earth and sky, and indeed, all creation)

ThomasmertonLONGTo love another as a person…we have to love him for what he is in himself, and not for what he is to us.  We have to love him for his own good, not for the good we get out of him.

And this is impossible unless we are capable of a love which “transforms” us, so to speak, into the other person, making us able to see things as he sees them, love what he loves, experience the deeper realities of his own life as if they were our own.

Without sacrifice, such a transformation is utterly impossible.  But unless we are capable of this kind of transformation “into the other” while remaining ourselves, we are not yet capable of a fully human existence.

Thomas Merton
from Disputed Questions

Image: Spirituality and Practice

 These thoughts were percolating as I wrote the previous post (scroll down).

Here you are

With no warning and no surprise, three sturdy wingbeats slide suddenly from on high.  Settling, now still.  Here you are.  Strong breast, speckled; eyes vigilant, crown aglow from low sun behind—avian apex of the valley.

A peripheral suggestion casually slips up the bank, into piñon shade.  Settling, now still.  Here you are.  Gorgeous coat in mottled sun; relaxed, feet front, head high—strong, sure morning sentinel of the valley.

Hawk perched alert in the center of the yard, until lifting surely back to its aerie.  Coyote lounging amidst the trees, now strolling languidly through shining gramma, poking into low boughs, and dropping back into the arroyo from whence it appeared.  In this way, into the quiet space at the heart of the solitude that I’ve chosen and cultivated, which has broadened and deepened with time, with attention, with care, here you are.  Spirit tangible. Palpable. Embodied. 

Gentle, rich presence: cool clear water soothing a valley’s parched heart. . . soft insistent breeze stirring each sun-seeking tendril. . . winter’s dazzling stars piercing the soul’s cold night.  The wind and water, sun and stars—ever arriving, never lingering.  Always touching, stirring, warming, lifting.

Annular eclipse 2012

And so I walk on, here in the outskirts of the heart of this all-living world. Carrying questions.  Keeping faith.  Reaching deep.  In the layers of wind whispering across the land, and this noontime moon-slice in soft blue sky, here you are.  As the search discovers its path, here you are.  Alongside flowing waters, here you are.  In the sharing of kindred souls, here you are.  In each breath and every touch, here you are.

Image: Colleen Pinski, Smithsonian Magazine

The voice used here addresses specific beings and/or or a divine realm
as a separate, though at times extended, “other.”
It occurs to me: perhaps it would be interesting
to revise it by changing “you are” to “I am,”
reflecting an expanded self-identity with the other,
and/or a fuller embodiment as or identification with
what’s being experienced.
Ah, such a coarse reversal doesn’t fully work
with the presence being explored here.
But the gesture is still worthwhile!

See the next post (above) for Merton’s musings on this theme.


Milan apartment tower goes green. Way green.

Vertical Forest Milan WEBA two-tower apartment complex in Milan is charting the way to a greener future for cities.  Each apartment is outfitted with a sturdy outside balcony which will host trees and shrubs.  The first trees are already being lifted into place, and once complete, “residents will retire to their apartments after a long day in the grit and grime and drift off to the sound of wind in the leaves—and muffled car horns.”  Nice!!

(Image: Stefano Boeri Architetti and  Marco Garofalo; more pics here)

Everything shimmering and golden and all that incredible soft light

Laurie Anderson wrote a loving, joyful letter to the local paper this week, offering an intimate glimpse of Lou Reed in his final days and moments; the rich companionship they shared sparkles from these words.  Sounds like a near-perfect death: immersed in natural beauty, in the company of his loving partner, reaching into and through the moment in the practice of his spiritual discipline.  Wonderful.

LaurieLouWEBTo our neighbors:

What a beautiful fall! Everything shimmering and golden and all that incredible soft light. Water surrounding us.

Lou and I have spent a lot of time here in the past few years, and even though we’re city people this is our spiritual home. Last week I promised Lou to get him out of the hospital and come home to Springs. And we made it!

Lou was a tai chi master and spent his last days here being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature. He died on Sunday morning looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician hands moving through the air.

Lou was a prince and a fighter and I know his songs of the pain and beauty in the world will fill many people with the incredible joy he felt for life. Long live the beauty that comes down and through and onto all of us.

– Laurie Anderson
his loving wife and eternal friend

PS: Laurie later wrote a longer, incredibly beautiful piece for Rolling Stone; don’t miss it!  Here’s a little taste:

We tried to understand and apply things our teacher Mingyur Rinpoche said – especially hard ones like, “You need to try to master the ability to feel sad without actually being sad.”

As meditators, we had prepared for this – how to move the energy up from the belly and into the heart and out through the head. I have never seen an expression as full of wonder as Lou’s as he died.

Tiny pufferfish crafts sandy “love circle” on the seafloor

Attracting a mate can be serious business—just ask a male elk or caribou, after a round of rack-jousting and head-butting—but it can also be all about beauty and care.  Consider this five-inch pufferfish swimming gently about, crafting a seven-foot mandala of love, an irresistible spawning ground.  

If the sheer wonder of the video isn’t enough for you, well, then go ahead and read about it.


Breathing Earth

Designer and data visualizer John Nelson thought it would be fun to stitch together a bunch of NASA’s “Visible Earth” images through the seasons.  Once he did, he realized: it’s breathing. “All of a sudden I see a thing with a heartbeat,” he says, “I didn’t expect to be so mesmerized. . . I can’t look away.”  (give it a bit of time to load all the frames, then it’ll run smoothly)


See John’s blog here, and a couple of good articles about this from NPR and Nat’l Geo.  All these links also include a view that shows the subtler dance of green across the southern hemisphere, and John’s page offers views in much larger sizes as well!

We turn around and say good morning to the night

It’s another restless night. . . as the hour eases past 3AM, I’m tossed gradually ashore on softly breaking waves of wakefulness, the dark night laced by lightning, the deep hours’ stillness shaken with thunder. By four, I sit in the quiet of the dark living room, tucked into the comfy chair next to the big front windows, cobwebs of late-night torpor stretched across the ceiling corners of my not-quite-awake mind, contemplating the churning sky, this living world, God.

lightningWEBThe valley and the trees around my yard are quick-lit for a second of each minute with the electric splash of brilliant directional light from bolts a mile or so away—and a handful of times, half that far, just beyond the nearby hills. The storm moves slowly past, and I become ever more present, eagerly attending to each moment’s turn on stage. After forty minutes, a couple of final blinding flickering bolts, out just beyond Thor’s—eyes widen to take in their fleeting hypnotic pulses, strange and sacred tendrils lingering, shimmering, sky and earth joined in ecstatic connection and release. . . retinal after-images shining for seconds more, slowly fading phantoms dancing across the dimly lit-world outside.

The sky flickers continue in the distance as the storm moves away east, its thunder lost across the miles; another far-off hot spot in the southwest flares now and then as well, while the almost-exactly-full-moon (5:18am) peeks out low in the west, and billowing clouds on the tattered rear edges of the storm are rimmed with its peaceful light.

As dawn approaches—the cloud-draped eastern horizon falling forward toward our ever-present, ever-giving home star—the greys begin to hint at green: contours of the hills around, piñons ringing the yard, gramma and purslaine blanketing the ground, all gaining in detail and color from one moment to the next. A gap appears overhead, opening to allow a bit of infinity to tumble down, four brilliant remnants of the vast night. The only denizens of the deep strong enough to shine through the gathering dawn: distant brilliant huge Rigel, and ancient swollen red Betelgeuse (a knee and shoulder of winter’s soaring hunter, Orion); Aldebaron, the fainter-red eye of the bull of Taurus; and shining brightest of all, the big brother of our solar family, Jupiter, shaper of the verdant destiny of our third rock, via its gravitational grace—holding a space for the inner-planet realm of solid worlds, protecting us from countless cosmic pinballs while letting enough through to seed this would-be Eden with the raw materials for life’s grand experiment. Thank you.

Sunrise terminator from space

And, after another half hour of earth-spin, this little valley—etched into the foothills of the southern Rockies, these regal ripples rising from the Great Plains—finds its way again to the prow of our spaceship earth. Always and everywhere, these last moments of morning twilight occur at the forward edge of the planet as it arcs patiently ’round the sun, seeking the season yet to come. . . and so here, now, this place once more bids adieu to the shadowed side of our turning ball, and encounters the gentle fresh dawning of a new day. Overhead, cloud puffs float by, a graceful broken quilt of many textures cast in shades of white-to-grey, suspended not far above these warming hills in a sky that has become a soft-blue miracle.

Images: Lightning, WTKR, Hampton Roads, VA; Earth, International Space Station Expedition 27, 2011

The year of comets begins

Astronomers entered 2013 with an unusual level of excitement about several comets that will be visible to the naked eye this year.  The first two are currently shining in southern hemisphere skies, one of which, Comet PanSTARRS, should remain visible as it moves into northern skies later this month.  Check in with AstroBob for updates as it continues to rise higher in our skies through March; as he notes, “On the 12th, a thin lunar crescent will shine just to the right of the comet (which) will it make finding this fuzzy visitor easy-peasy.”

Lemmonpanstarrs beletsky annotated 500WEB

These two are the opening acts for the year’s Main Event, which will unfold toward the end of the year.  Comet ISON may be spectacular, one of the brightest objects in the night sky, perhaps even visible in daylight; or, it may disintegrate as it makes its close passage by the sun.  Only time will tell!

UPDATE, 7/31/13: Comet ISON’s prospects are looking quite a bit more downbeat as it continues to make its way toward the inner solar system.  Ever since the beginning of the year, its brightness has remained constant, indicating that it may not have much material to melt off as it nears the sun. It still has a nice tail out there, but its lack of growth leads many astronomers to doubt a truly historic outburst is in store, even if it does survive its close encounter with the sun. Others suggest that we’ll know more by a month or so from now, after the comet crosses the “frost line” and ice begins sublimating off its body, which should trigger new brightening if the comet has it in it.  Stay tuned….

Image: Yuri Beletsky (ESO), from the Atacama desert in South America.

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