Being Nice

It’s possible I’m not as charming
as I was when I was younger.
Ingratiation used to be my modus operandi,
and being liked my way of weaving safety nets.
Now I work without a net,
since nets are illusions after all.
Someday, without a doubt, I’ll fall
as everybody does, so why not
fly and somersault and soar
according to my soul’s true nature?
So much time and effort spent
in weaving nets, not understanding
that the fall’s essential to the act.

I’ve been falling since I was born.
No amount of flapping will ever help.
So I gently softly glide and see
the wondrous sights spread out before me
and feel the wind against my skin.
Perhaps I’ll land and find myself
back to where I began it all.
To misquote the Bard,
“When the fall is all there is,
the manner of our falling matters.”

It’s not that I’m no longer nice,
whatever, “niceness” really is.
I have an intrinsic kindness, I am sure,
and would never seek to harm.
In fact, I’d like to do some good
as I glide down through the years.
It’s the facade of nice that now is crumbling,
revealing that it, instead of making me secure,
has walled out life and joy;
and kept at bay the deepest parts
of who I truly am.

So when the question rises up and asks,
“But do they still like me now?”
I remind myself that now I like me,
more than ever, and with that thought
I’m probably nicer to be around.

See it?

It’s going to take more, so much more,
than trying harder to make things work.
Noble efforts and courageous stands
have emotional appeal but will not bring us what we seek.

All forms of religion, government, economics, and education
must be compassionately given to hospice care.
New, unheard of, unthought of, undreamed of forms
are stirring within the womb,
pushing into the birth canal,
and needing room to grow,
space in which to bring new life.

What’s awaiting us,
there on the other side of thought,
is the “truly Real,”
I glimpse it, but faintly through the fog
of fears and hopes that swirl about.
There! I see it.
Now it’s gone.
And in its place the usual clutter
that claims dominion of my life.

What is the price of seeing?
Everything!
Am I willing to pay that price?
Not right now, please.
A few more days and years
of patching things together,
holding on to diversions
that keep the existential fears at bay.
Not willing to open fingers stiff
from clutching what cannot be held,
afraid to let illusions fade away.

The Piper must be paid at last
so why not pay him now?
I cannot think my way to joy;
cannot create it from the patterns in my mind.
I can only clear a space into which it can lightly settle,
and begin to shine and glow and radiate
its warmth into the cold dark places
my mind has built in order to feel safe.

I see it, there it is!
Oops, it slipped away.
It will come again, soon sometime
to stay.
Can you see it?

Surprise!

I want to be surprised today.
Surprise is the garden soil
from which joy arises.

Planning pushes wonder out of the way
and plants instead well-traveled ruts.
I see only what I expect to see
and hear only familiar sounds.
The world is what it’s always been,
and people behave as automatons,
saying and doing what they’ve
always said and done.

But surprise; that changes everything.
It hides in each and every moment,
yet I pass these moments with such speed
that surprise has no time
to jump out and yell its name.

I want to be aware today
of all the things I don’t expect.
What, this morning, will I see
I didn’t plan on seeing?
What sounds resound
I haven’t heard before?
What thoughts might come, unbidden,
and alter the very nature
of my life?

Some surprises, it is true,
are not what I would want to see.
But, strangely, these contain the paradox
of some unexpected thought.
Unpleasant intrusions force fresh ideas,
and birth creative actions.

Joy Itself is hidden in surprise.
A glass of cold water in the face
wakes me up and says, “Look here!”
I look, and wonder follows wonder
throughout the moments of my day.
I want to be surprised today.

Words

As someone who has spent his life with words,
I find it somewhat disconcerting
to write so little anymore.
Am I becoming dull in later years?
Have I run out of things to say?
Do I no longer care?
Or is it that I want to see, at last,
things are they are instead of thinking,
writing, words about them?

I stood this evening in the twilight
and sang my prayer songs to the six directions.
Black Butte in the east was just itself.
Mt. Eddy to the west simply stood against the sky.
To the north the pines were still
but I saw a Spotted Towhee hurry to his nest
amidst the manzanita, and earlier I saw
the first swallow of the spring
dart across the sky.
The cabin to the south I saw
without thinking that I lived there.
The stars above me framed my little life
and wrapped me in their quiet Mystery.
I stood on the earth with shadows all about me
and stopped, for just a moment,
all my thinking.

I came inside and wrote these words, but
they’re just words, and unless I see
the Thing Itself, they are a waste of time.
If I must write, let my words be arrows
piercing through the fabric of my worn-out thoughts
and letting light, and perhaps beauty,
shine through the holes, like stars, from places yet unseen
into a world yet to be discovered.

Certain Uncertainty

Thirty-two years of marriage
to the woman who fills my heart
with hope and joy and love.
We celebrate in Ashland, Oregon,
in spring with buds on every side,
a creek running down the rocks,
walks in Lithia Park with curious deer
and gracious people all around,
poking up their heads into the sun,
emerging from a long night
and blinking to see familiar things,
things we thought might not reappear.

My hope this spring is more cautious
than all the other years, but it remains intact.
The future is more mysterious and uncertain;
where I will live, what I will do,
how I might find my place in the Flow of things.
All my roads now seem to be those least traveled by.
It’s not the same old, same old, any more.
What came before has faint relation
to what’s coming next.
Old maps are folded up.
(remember folded maps?)
No moving blue dot upon a screen
can tell me where I am right now.

So I must look to Sources long believed,
but seldom really trusted.
Unseen Realities, Deeper Truths,
Ground of Being waiting patiently,
knowing all roads lead Its Way.
Certainty has always been an illusion,
powerful and dominant,
but ever failing at the last.
Navigating uncertain times is what life
is truly all about.