Feathers and the Line of Dawn

Some nights are meant for walking at the water’s edge.

This was one.  Unremarkable night in an unremarkable summer.  The tame ocean’s quiet lapping at the ancient rocks.  Night is a chrysalis, womb of comfort and constraint, tight apron of a possessive mother.  Across the bay, the city lights – the screams and grunts of the young and drunken, the  party scene: the masquerading seasons of man.

On this side of the bay, where the wave and soft, reflected light lap against the shore: an amazing sight. Birdies of the DuskA line of geese, going on and on into the distance: all sitting within a foot of the shore – either on the rocks or in the water.  And all these birds, as if obeying some silent schedule, were involved in the preparation for sleep.

Some were preening their feathers; others were snoozing already – heads tucked in under wings or buried in their own feathers.  Young geese were stationed directly behind their parents on the shore, heads tucked into feathers, obeying the timeless ritual that had been passed down energetically, genetically, effortlessly.  And obeyed without question, without rebellion or protest.

The young birds fell into line with the tradition of geese, without a hitch.  The effortlessness of their sleep.  Some of their elders stood in shallow water, head tucked under wing – asleep it seemed, yet acutely aware of every sound and movement in their periphery.  I sat on a bench and drank in the dusk.  The inky sky.  The watery lights of weary skyscrapers downtown, the quiet lapping of waves, whispers of passing lovers hand-in-hand, and the quiet, orderly, reassuring line of sleeping geese.  This sleeping line had a sweetness, resolve and dignity to it that cannot be described.  It was for my eyes only.  Others passed by – they saw it not.

And the screaming of the party-goers across the bay continued.  I was there with them: I was their father, their mother, the ground that caught them as they fell, the momentary decay of lightning and fireworks, as they celebrated – perhaps – their graduation into the adult world.  A world of screaming, grunting, joking, quiet farting, and falling in the night.  These are humans, we are humans; we – the crown of creation, we who inherit or disinherit the earth.  We who control and command the elements.  We who send a man to the moon and hold a scalpel over the unborn son.  We who know that all we know is pretense and we spend our lives on camoflauge, upholstery and makeup.

And the geese sleep peacefully in a line, with no born leader and no agenda for the dawn.

They live on, and we are long-gone.

Sleep in peace.

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The Burning Leaves of Autumn

Yesterday was a gentle walk in the woods.  September days are quiet, soft in their own right, messengers of times to come, days of change.

Sunny days in September are a double blessing: light and warmth without the intensity of August, yet the amazing colors of a turning seasons included, free of charge.

I carry a camera with me on many walks, watching and aware of those moments that hold a portrait, those moments where light, texture and form tell a short story worth acknowledging.  On this particular day, the woods were quiet and deep, shadowy and thoughtful.   Little photogenic content; merely a day for feeling the sweet earth and breathing in that mysterious oxygen.

Autumn Leaf in Temporary Glory

But one leaf caught my attention.   It was a single Maple leaf, bathed in a solitary beam of sunlight, against the shadowy background of evergreens.

Something about this leaf, the change of seasons, made me think about my own life and the changing of my own seasons.   It has occurred to me before, that what we see ‘outside’ in Nature, is often a reflection of our own self, our own life: our beauties, our strife, the wideness of our compassion, the blossoming of our own soul.

When you get past 50 – and you see your own body changing – these things take on new meaning.  We’ve all heard this, and we all know this.  Aging.  No one wants to be reminded of this inconvenient little clause built into the contract of human life.

the Crying and Dying of Summer ...

And it’s struck me before: why do we see such beauty in the aging of Nature, yet we see ugliness in the aging of humans?  We see the Cycles Of Everything – coming and going: seasons, jobs, relationships, homes, children, cars, friends, lovers.  And somewhere inside of us, we cling to our fabricated immortality of these things, and we suffer, we cry, we hurt … when these things change and move on.

There’s something in Nature that Gives.  And, relentlessly, IS.  We, anchored in all our “holdings”, our small-town religions we’ve fabricated, look through our tiny portals – from our unnatural world, into the natural world – and we breath a sigh of relief.  There’s something real out there.  There’s something out there that speaks of Life and Giving and the true Divine Plan of things.

Somehow, we’re all a part of that plan.  No one is exempt.

Why is it, that only later in life you see the inevitability of things?  There’s some measure of sobriety that’s gained from sensing deeply your own mortality – the mortality of life itself – and also the mortality of persons and things that you love, that you surround yourself with.

In the folly of my youth, I was surrounded by the folly of other youth.  I was not mentored by wisdom, by those steeped in self-knowledge, by ones who had seen deeper than the facade of life.  Perhaps this is a thing of the world, and world itself is coming of age.  The world itself is mortal, and this fragility and mortality is being spelled out graphically in front of all our eyes.  It will all go, and it will all change, even if this is enacted over eons of time.

But … our tiny little time?  Our sweet and short encounter with breath on this planet?  Our transparent skin, our falling hair, our disappearing resources, our ticking clock.

One day, our children may be taught to appreciate this – at an early age – from those who “get it”.  From those who see.   Until then, it’s up to us: our own thirst, our own knowing, our own seeing.  Our own understanding.

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The Ocean in You; The Ocean in Me

There is something about the Ocean.

For those of you who have lived its Bigness.   It breathes full. It contains many landscapes.  It births many dreams and consumes many sailors.   It is both entity and identity; moving in subtle mists and pounding in terrifying torrents.

the Ocean in You

We think this thing is “us” … we trust this thing knows us and supports us and favors us.  We tiptoe at its shore like skitterish little birds, playing it its arms, knowing that caresses and death are but a thin, red line.    Nature is our kitty-cat, but also our cougar, and never at a convenient time.

But, dangers and archetypes aside, the ocean is simply amazing.   To be near a body of water where the bigness of the ocean can be appreciated: sniffed in, savored, sipped – like a delightful wine – is indeed a gift.

The elements at play are huge, and remind us of our sweet insignificance.   Major elements, in major proportions.  The Sky: vast, spacious, open; a blue and pearl dome of cool, infinite and soothing dimensions.  The land: shore, sand, rock: sculptures of mortality and magnificence.  The immoveable that has been ground to dust.  The shifting sand that dances and disappears underfoot.  The unyielding high craggy cliffs that groan and crumble every million years with invisible voices to timeless ears.

The Ocean Itself

And the Ocean Itself.

That which is in us, that longs for and craves the solace of the eternal … strives to measure the infinite by the only little rulers we own.

And of these Little Rulers, the Biggest Little Rulers are the perceptions we carry of the Voice of Nature.  This Ocean, in its expanse, it’s blue-ness, its unrivaled contrasts of softness and violence, its lullabye sound, its caress on our skin … all this speaks to the deeper longings of us humans.  It becomes one of the most powerful facsimiles of the Infinite.   It speaks to the Soundless Sound within; the Deepest Depth within, the bravest Sailor in our skin.

We romance that sea, in both our calm and turbulent times.

Love of Waves

It is both serpent and sage.  The undulating deep and primal power, the soft mirror that shows radiance, compassion, reflection.  We, those tiny birds on its shore.  We, those delicate Dancers of Dust, on this shifting Stage of Sand.   The thing of immediate history, holder of memory, shaper of continents, tosser of tiny boats riding gigantic waves.

And all we can do is look.  Breathe.  Sigh.

Sit like seagulls on our old logs and wait for our ship to come in.

Bathe in the crashing, the roaring, the cold & foggy mornings, the ancient Egyptian sunsets, the tiny bits of shell and jewels that this monarch spits up on our shoes.

Another day in superb creation.

Another gift that we can open our eyes and see.

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I Quit TV

Yesterday, I quit watching TV.


I got this great “communications” package a few months back from one of our local magnanimous Communications Giants.  Phone, internet and TV all for a ridiculous price.  How kind of them.

It even includes a “Personal Video Recorder”, which hums incessantly in the background of my apartment.  Apparently, you can use this device to record the little gems you missed on the 500-channel universe, while you were too busy wasting your time with other distractions.

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Remembrance in the Naked Kingdom

This is Remembrance Day.

Sometimes called Armistice, this day commemorates the War Dead.

Through my progression of life, it has meant different things. As a child, it was simply a holiday from school; perhaps a day imbued with ritual dour parades and gatherings in the auditorium – something we all fidgeted and complained through, waiting impatiently for that half-day of freedom that followed.

Later in my adult life, it was a creative photo-op, a chance to watch human expression, a chance to take in the curious and fantastic actors in the Human Movie.

Now I watch it with different eyes. Now, that means – in a literal sense – that my body cells have been largely replaced over the past year, and indeed, these eyes are different eyes. But this also means that my perceptions, values, realities, neuronal network, has all transformed, evolved, shifted. I see and feel, not only the pulse, the longing, the full and empty cups inside of me, but the same in all the humans around me.

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A Discourse on the Heart

A couple of days ago I was visiting the campus of a just completed junior college not far from my home to see some people and as I was walking thru the buildings noticing all the brand new stuff that had been installed – furniture, windows, water fountains, stair railings, vending machines it struck me that every class room and office also had a shiny new computer. I started thinking about it – how ubiquitous computers have become in our lives. They’re basically another appliance like a refrigerator or a dishwasher, it occurred to me, but instead of keeping the milk cool or washing the dishes this appliance “thinks”.

heart is won

It also occurred to me that the computer
is essentially a model of our own brain – that we have invented it to enhance and enlarge what goes on inside our own noggin – we instruct it to remember, calculate, send and receive data and do a myriad of tasks quickly and accurately.

In fact the argument could be made that our mind too is a digital device. It operates by comparing and contrasting. There are always two things – life and death, yes and no, light and dark, day and night and of course all the shades of conditionality in between.


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