Autumn Light

Since moving to our cottage in Berkeley my favorite place to read is the corner seat of the couch, looking out of one of the south facing windows. From that seat I can gaze across a low, moss-grown rooftop over which a towering oak spreads its thick branches, rising higher than my sight can reach. The oak must be centuries old. Each evening as the Sun hangs low in the western sky, the leaves of the oak catch the beams of golden light, and small winged beings fly in the amethyst air between the branches. The tree shines in its majesty, echoing a time when such trees might have been the place of worship.

Autumn LeavesLooking across the mossy roof to the neighbors home, which has a cleverly-built deck railing constructed of former bicycle wheels, I can see leafy grape vines trailing along the railing and the awning of the first storey. All year I’ve watched these vines grow, mere sticks when we first arrived here in the heart of winter, growing pale green shoots and curling vines through the spring, and then a spreading glory of wide, rich verdant leaves covering every available surface. Autumn turned the leaves to flaming red, a deep crimson that draws the eye like the cloth of a royal garment. Just in the last few days these red leaves have begun to fall, some blowing even to the threshold of our doorstep. The magnolia in the next yard over is now withered yellow and brown. But in the spring I know it will once again burst to life with thick white and pale pink blossoms before the dense, green spring foliage replaces the flowers. I’ve watched nearly one full seasonal cycle from this seat, countless books open on my knees as I’ve done so.

Walking through my neighborhood late this afternoon the crisp fall air rattled the leaves overhead, a welcome alternative for the moment to the sound of the turning leaves of books. Fruit trees are heavy with figs, apples, and persimmons, while the branches of the plum and loquat—so abundant this spring and summer—await next year’s rejuvenation. This will always be my favorite time of year, when the world becomes misty and golden, and the overlapping worlds of inner and outer saturate my imagination with flowing images. A quietness is whispered in the autumn winds, a song not heard any other time of year.

The world is in chaos, but moments of peace can enter in. Perhaps they become more poignant to savor when held up against the dark mirror of the outer world. The Sun is setting now, and I light a candle to awaken the golden autumn light within the darkness.

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Incarnation

Bury me in my immanence,
These bones who hold me in,
Under flesh, underground,
Beneath gravity of skin.

What does it mean
To walk this Earth?
What does it mean
When these bodies come to birth?

Immersed in this flesh,
A mirror from below.
Songs echo from the deep
As the child learns to grow.

Each unfolding limb
A living fossil entwined:
The eye of the storm
In the whirlpools of the mind.

Stretch for the stars,
Bury your toes in the sand.
If I look in your eyes
Will you hold my hand?

What does it mean
To walk this Earth?
What does it mean
When these bodies come to birth?

Limber laughter enmeshed
In each step we take,
From these early paces
To final footpad ache.

Walk with me sister,
Walk with me son,
Tread this careful curve
Where multitude is One.

Sing with the clouds
As they cross the sky,
Breathe out all staleness
With a synchronized sigh.

I want to tread this path,
With you always by,
When we play, flow, and dance,
Hold council and cry.

What does it mean
To walk this Earth?
What does it mean
When these bodies come to birth?

Dance this Earth prayer
As long as we breathe,
Bury me in my immanence,
To find joy with all who grieve.

Earth and Sunrise

Psyche in Breath

“Breathing is our very first teaching—a silent teaching—in the way of interdependency, continuity, relationship, giving and receiving. Our first teaching is one of perfect integration, harmony, non-duality. Breathing comes naturally; it is so rudimentary that it requires no action of volition, no attention or thought. But, for that very reason, the wisdom of breathing is the most difficult, and the very last to be learned.”
– David Michael Levin[1]

Do not put a butterfly in a bell jar,
She is no rose.
No still whorl of petals,
No silent standing stem
To be gazed at from without,
To be denied an inner landscape
From within.

What is this translucent glass,
This invisible barring shield?
Does it keep her safe,
Preserve her from decay?
While a rose’s petals will fall,
A butterfly’s soul
Will not stay.

A life’s breath is finite
When thus closed in.
A life’s breath is finite
When one is shut in.
When all the air’s depleted
What new may
Begin?

Each wing beat a breath,
Each breath a wing beat
In her fluttering breast.
Count each beat,
Count each rest,
Count each moment,
For Self begins in breath.

Breathe deep, wingéd soul,
Sing your heartfelt song.
Expand this element
That you are,
Expand your heart
Beyond the confines
Of this bell jar.

Two images I see
When I say “glass blown”:
A shattering crash
Of splintered glass,
As air forces through
And you fly to the
Unknown.

Or softer yet, though dangerous
Nonetheless:
A warmth, a temperance
Melts the glass from within,
Melting out, melting forth,
Melting away
Oh, begin.

Each wing beat a breath,
Each breath a wing beat
In her fluttering breast.
Count each beat,
Count each rest,
Count each moment,
Now Self begins in breath.

Butterfly in Bell Jar

Work Cited

Levin, David Michael. “Logos and Psyche: A Hermeneutics of Breathing.” Research in Phenomenology 14 (1984): 121-147.


[1] David Michael Levin, “Logos and Psyche: A Hermeneutics of Breathing,” Research in Phenomenology 14 (1984): 129.

Great Hawk: Presence, Presence This

Hawk

Emotion held, a breath caught, dark feathered wing-tips,
All rush, all bustle, all anxiety—all suspended.
There is but you and me caught in the inhale of this moment.
Or are you me? Is this suspension nothing more than a pause
A breakdown of the barrier that lies between what I understand,
Between what I understand makes you be you
And makes me
Be?

Dark wings soar, cutting hawk shape from textured sky,
Yet when you appear that sky is no more: merely backdrop.
Gripped between razor claws, your prey—my attention—is caught,
Passing mere feet from this barrier I call skin
You land, you presence, you settle, you ignore, you own,
You own my focus, draw me in, alluring
Me to drop all my life in this moment
Simply
To watch.

Heart beat, heart beat, wing beat, breath,
Heart beat, wing beat, heart beat, breath.
The branch moves, the outside world closing out—
Am I within your envelope of tearing want
Or has that gateway closed?
You shred, you rip, what lies within your grasp,
Talons, razor beak, dark feathers etched with
Beauty, etched with
Death.

Two cries rupture this world into which I gaze alone,
Yet not alone, no more:
Ravens twain disrupt your reign
A pair, a couple, a bonded force, cry out
No!—Do not enter our sacred nest, for which we give our lives
Do not, be not, crisis cries—away, please God
What have you
Done?

Who do you hold between your claws?
How did it come to this? My heart
It beats with desperate want,
Presence, presence this—this moment, this hour,
These days are lost, all brought to focus now
Great hawk, whose heart do you devour
Please tell me, how did it come to
This?

Redwood Fog: A First Dip into Phenomenology

The sun’s warmth calls in the fog. The air feels heavy, the world enclosed around me. I can see the droplets of fog moving toward me; I breathe them in, swallow them; the drops cling to my hair, my eyelashes. The sky feels close. The sky does not exist.

As I step off the hard concrete of the sidewalk and onto the soft, leaf-strewn path, the world shifts. The density of the trees now surrounding me begin to block out the reality that I am in the heart of a thriving city. With each step I enter further into a quieter world. My footsteps are muffled and the ground has a certain give, almost an elasticity beneath my feet. Before me, on either side of the path, redwood after redwood stands in silent vigil. Their dark trunks seem quiet, but the further I walk the more I hear new sounds. A slight creaking in the upper, slimmer branches. The softest splattering of water drops on leaves, as the fog condenses on twig and leaf, descending in widening pearls of water. The smallest drops of water can nourish these trees as they drink in through both their roots and branches. The fog lies so heavily upon this city grove that it obscures the uppermost branches of the redwoods, making the height of the trees seem nearly infinite; they disappear long before they end.

As I move toward the heart of this small yet encompassing forest the landscape becomes darker, the few glimpses of light beyond the woods standing out more starkly than the tree trunks themselves. Walking up to one of the redwoods I lay my hand upon its bark. At first sight it seems to be so rough, split open with massive chasms as the tree has grown ever larger over the decades. Yet under my fingers I realize this bark is soft, the fibers feeling like unwoven fabric to my touch. The faintest trace of moss grows upon the outer surface of the bark, fading imperceptibly to the reddish-brown of the tree’s natural hue. Beneath my hand the tree feels so richly alive, yet so still, existing at a pace almost, but not quite, slower than I am capable of imagining.

Redwoods in Fog

As I turn my back to the tree and lean against it in full repose, I see a single leaf fall into my line of sight before settling anonymously upon the forest floor. The ground is everywhere strewn with brown leaves, a full covering that lets off a rich, fragrant scent; yet watching this single leaf fall I recognize that each of these leaves has made the journey from branch to floor in its own time and in its own way. Each one has a story, although perhaps few have a witness other than the tree that released it to the ground.

At last I separate myself from the tree on which I am leaning and continue through the woods to its edge. The pathway opens out; the pathway ends in rose blossoms.

To Have a Dream

I have a dream
I have dreams every night
I have a dream
But these dreams aren’t right
I have a dream

Filled with fear, pain, and death
They strangle my voice
Cut off my breath

I have a dream

Waking dreams are hopes
Visions of new dawns
Unbound from oppressing ropes

Whence is the source
Of this word, dream?
A dual-edged course
An image unseen

I have a dream
Where waking sleep blends
I have a dream
When suffering ends

For one moment upon one day
Each earthly voice is raised in song
Stopping work, ceasing play
Weaving rhythms short and long

The whale, songbird, wolf, and stone
Bear, fish, leaf, and sea
Vibrating Earth with each tone
Until Gaia’s voice bellows free
And the galaxies all hear her glee

In that moment she will be healed
By the hopeful song her children wield

I have a dream
I have dreams every night
I have a dream
But this one we may get right.

Dream of Disconnection

“We cannot make a blade of grass. Yet there is liable not to be a blade of grass in the future unless it is accepted, protected, and fostered by the human.”[1]
Thomas Berry

I had a dream a few nights ago, one which seemed to carry a deep and powerful meaning, bearing both my fears and hopes for the future of the earth and the future of humanity. I was aboard a spaceship, a translucent, streamline vessel made of glass and white metal. Despite its sterile futuristic qualities the ship was filled with growing plants, their green curling leaves contrasting the stark white of the craft. Six of us were on board, and each person seemed familiar although I could not now say who they were. They each had a particular characteristic that defined them, more of an archetypal person than a dynamically complex human being.

In the ship we were orbiting the earth, not too far from the ground, on a dark, murky night. We were above a vast, endless city, one that covered the entire surface of the earth. It was soiled by pollution and waste, with no growing thing in sight, not even a blade of grass.

The moon began to rise, enormous in the sky. Yet the lunar sphere was too enormous, and was quickly growing in our sight. It seemed that the gravity that had kept the moon at its precise distance from earth no longer operated, and now the moon was drifting over our horizon and through the earth’s atmosphere.

Suddenly we found ourselves in our ship hovering directly above the moon. Moments later we landed on it. For some reason we expected the surface to be hot, yet it was not. Instead the moon was dead dust, no longer luminous. It was no longer reflecting the sun’s light, and thus was cold. The cosmic connections had been broken.

Without the sun, we soon realized, nothing would photosynthesize on earth, and the last of the earth’s oxygen was quickly being used up. Our supply on board our ship would keep us alive far longer than those on the ground, but not indefinitely. Somehow, we had the vital, and time-limited task, of creating a way to perpetuate our supply without any support from earth. And if miraculously we succeeded in that, we would have to attempt the impossible task of reseeding the oxygenating process on earth.

To complete the task we landed the ship back on earth. One person on our crew wanted to leave to find something important in the city, and when she and I stepped outside we could feel the constraint in our breathing as the last of earth’s oxygen was being used up. We knew life was dying everywhere.

I do not know if we succeeded or not in our task.

Work Cited

Berry, Thomas. Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books. 2006.


[1] Thomas Berry, Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community (San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 2006), 21.

Ode to Venus

This poem was composed by the twelve women in my Women’s Venus Circle. Each woman wrote a single, ten-syllable line, which we each spontaneously read aloud when we felt it best fit the flow of the poem. In order of the lines, this poem was composed by Rebecca Farrar, Molly Johnstone, Erica Jones, Becca Tarnas, Elizabeth McAnally, Jessica Garfield-Kabbara, Lydia Harutoonian, Kerri Welch, Delia Shargel, Alexandra Heller, Annabelle Niebel Drda, and Teresa Adams.

In love and beauty we come together:
Clamshell of pink, my heart opens anew,
Curling waves line my heart’s divine life smiles,
Sweet ethereal songs overflowing,
Femininity rising from the sea.
Beloved, touch me in the womb of your night,
My virginity, blessed in love’s embrace,
Heart expanding, stretching thin, welcome pain,
Cupped in your lovely, mutilated hands.
Behold the goddess behind every face,
In your heart, echoes of infinite birth pain.
I love to walk under stars shining bright.

Jupiter and Hope

As I was walking through Golden Gate Park last night I began to feel arising in me a deep feeling of compassion, of heartfelt love and lament for all around me. It was the desire to cry and smile simultaneously. In the darkness of the park I saw through a gap in the trees the pure shining light of Jupiter. It was the only light in the sky, dazzling between between dappled purple clouds. I left the path to stand in the darkness of the trees. I had the feeling in my body of beginning a sacred journey, and wondered, only momentarily, if this might be the beginning of what it was like to have a spiritual emergence.

As I gazed with true love upon Jupiter it appeared to grow brighter as a communion seemed to be arising between us. As clouds passed over the planet it still managed to shine through radiantly. I was suddenly reminded of the moment in The Return of the King when Sam looks up at the smog covering the desolation of Mordor:

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach[1]

It suddenly dawned on me that part of the archetypal character of Jupiter is Hope. I had the sense I was looking directly at God and feeling Hope. The Shadow of our times, the great devastation of our Earth, will also pass in the end. There is always Hope. I felt the drive within me knowing one day we will succeed with the power of Hope.

Work Cited

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings, New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1954.


[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1954), 901.

Soul Twins

Dedicated to Matthew David Segall.

I met your soul as the first star was born,
Our memories written across time’s sky.
Our spirits, once whole, reincarnate torn,
But each life I find you I relearn to fly.

You’ve buried my corpse in wildflower fields,
I’ve felt your screams when you gave birth to me.
The fire in my breast, you melt my heart’s shields,
You conjure the breeze so I may fly free.

My northern tower, my cosmic twin,
Two winged souls seeing eye to eye.
Let me be your light shimmering within
When darkness blots out the celestial sky.

I must belong, in order to be true.
Sweet Eros, this Psyche belongs with you.

Photo by Matthew Segall