Tuesday, November 30, 2021



The first undeniable reality is that every living thing dies, and the second undeniable reality is that we suffer throughout our lives because we don’t understand death. The truth derived from these two points is the importance of clarifying the matter of birth and death. 
The third undeniable reality is that all of the thoughts and feelings that arise in my head simply arise haphazardly, by chance. And the conclusion we can derive from that is not to hold on to all that comes up in our head. 
That is what we are doing when we sit zazen. 

—Kosho Uchiyama


Monday, November 29, 2021

take nothing for the journey



Whatever way you put it, I am here only because my world is here. When I took my first breath, my world was born with me. When I die, my world dies with me. In other words, I wasn't born into a world that was already here before me, nor do I live simply as one individual among millions of other individuals, nor do I leave everything behind to live on after me. 
People live thinking of themselves as members of a group or society. However, this isn't really true. Actually, I bring my own world into existence, live it out, and take it with me when I die. 


—Kosho Uchiyama


Sunday, November 28, 2021

this one




I am not I.

I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,

whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;

who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives gently, when I hate,

who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.

—Juan Ramón Jiménez

.  .  .

We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree 

Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now…

—T.S. Eliot 


Saturday, November 27, 2021

death is a threshold


Me: Hey God.

God: Hey John.

Me: Grief keeps sneaking up on me.

God: That’s because grief is like a ninja.

Me: When will it leave me alone?

God: Hopefully never.

Me: Um. What?!

God: To grieve means that you have loved. Grieving is one of the truest human experiences that you will ever participate in. It often arrives without warning - like a late day summer storm - obscuring the sun and drenching you in a downpour. It’s a gift, isn’t it?

Me: Uh, no.

God: Grab a pen and write the following four things down:

1) Grief can come and go as it pleases. You gave it a key to your house at the exact moment you gave your heart to somebody else.

2) Bereavement is the debt you must pay for having loved. There is no getting over the loss of a beloved who is now resting in the arms of endless love. Grief has no expiration date. Despite the passing of time, the phantom pain of mourning is always one memory away from returning.

3) Of all the emotions you face, grief is the by-far stickiest. It gets all over everything. Like peanut butter, grief sticks to the roof of your soul.

4) Grief is like an
afternoon thunderstorm
in late July.

It’s the storm
that’s always waiting
on the edges
of your most sunny
days to roll
across the horizon
and right over you.

The ghosts of your loved
ones who have died
are the clouds.

The webbed lightning
Illuminating the
dark canvas sky is
their reminder to you
that life is just a
a brilliant temporary flash
of time.

It’s a reminder
to live now.
to be bold.
to be electric.

The pounding rain isn’t your tears.
It’s the hope of eternal life that falls
on you.

It’s that downpour of hope that will
help you grow deep roots in love and faith.

The gale winds
of these storms are
the messages from
those you have
lost to death that
are whispering
to you through the pines
the following psalm:

“It’s okay, my love. Eternity is holding me. Death isn’t an end. Death is a threshold. I’m still here. I never left. Love doesn’t die. Love doesn’t die. I remain. There is no afterlife. There is only life. I’m here with you. Love doesn’t die.”

Me: Okay…great…now I’m crying.

God: I’m proud of your tears of grief.

Me: You are?

God: Yes- because it’s proof that you have loved.

Me: Well, I’ve got all sorts of proof pouring down my face right now…

God: It’s all such an adventure!!

—John Roedel


Friday, November 26, 2021

what the dead can do



Thursday, November 25, 2021

I Want to Say ”…


Before I’m lost to time and the midwest
I want to say I was here
I loved the half light all winter
I want you to know before I leave
that I liked the towns living along the back of the Mississippi
I loved the large heron filling the sky
the slender white egret at the edge of the shore
I came to love my life here
fell in love with the color grey
the unending turn of seasons

Let me say
I loved Hill City
the bench in front of the tavern
the small hill to the lake
I loved the morning frost on the bell at New Albin
and the money I made as a poet
I was thankful for the white night
the sky of so many wet summers
Before I leave this world of my friends
I want to tell you I loved the rain on large store windows
had more croissants here in Minneapolis
than the French do in Lyons
I read the poets of the midwest
their hard crusts of bread dark goat cheese
and was nourished not hungry where they lived
I ate at the edges of state lines and boundaries
Know I loved the cold tap of bare branches against the windows
know there there will not be your peonies in spring
wherever I go
the electric petunias
and your orange zinnias

Natalie Goldberg


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

hope for the guest



Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!

Think… and think… while you are alive.
What you call “salvation" belongs to the time
before death.
If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?

The idea that the soul will rejoin with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten—
that is all fantasy.

What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the
City of Death.

If you make love with the divine now, in the next
life you will have the face of satisfied desire.
So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
Believe in the Great Sound!

Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for,
it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that
does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.

Robert Bly version


Monday, November 22, 2021

at least




If nothing saves us from death, at least love should save us from life.

—Pablo Neruda


Sunday, November 21, 2021

may your heart fly ...



The lily-perfumed wings of love
Will lay the dust of all your grief.
Patience my heart, and struggle on.
For when love binds,
It binds you to the tyranny of a racing steed,
And when love scatters,
It flings the soul-like fragments of the stars
Out of the ambergris scented woods.

Love makes of each moment an eternity
And tends the garden of the heart's desire.
When love mocks, ruby tears fall heavy as pomegranates
And when love looks, it sees your deepest mystery.

Love seeks out the tears of hidden hearts
And turns not from the Lovers of the Dawn.
Is there a remedy for the pain of love?
Or is it too unbearable for thought?

One taste of the medicine
And you will realize just how sick you have been.
Those who plead in the defense of love
In love's judgement shall find grace
And to that court, Hafiz
May your heart fly...



Saturday, November 20, 2021

from Gravity's Rainbow



Everything science has taught me— and continues to teach me— strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.

—Thomas Pynchon


Friday, November 19, 2021

nothing's a gift



Nothing's a gift, it's all on loan.
I'm drowning in debts up to my ears.
I'll have to pay for myself
with my self,
give up my life for my life.

Here's how it's arranged:
The heart can be repossessed,
the liver, too,
and each single finger and toe.

Too late to tear up the terms,
my debts will be repaid,
and I'll be fleeced,
or, more precisely, flayed.

I move about the planet
in a crush of other debtors.
some are saddled with the burden
of paying off their wings.
Others must, willy-nilly,
account for every leaf.

Every tissue in us lies
on the debit side.
Not a tentacle or tendril
is for keeps.

The inventory, infinitely detailed,
implies we'll be left
not just empty-handed
but handless too.

I can't remember
where, when, and why
I let someone open
this account in my name.

We call the protest against this
the soul.
And it's the only item
not included on the list.

—Wislawa Szymborska


Thursday, November 18, 2021

this one




I am not I.

I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,

whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;

who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives gently, when I hate,

who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.

—Juan Ramón Jiménez

.   .   .

We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree 

Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now…

—T.S. Eliot 


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

fire of beauty


Unto the deep the deep heart goes,
It lays its sadness nigh the breast:
Only the Mighty Mother knows
The wounds that quiver unconfessed.
It seeks a deeper silence still;
It folds itself around with peace,
Where thoughts alike of good or ill
In quietness unfostered cease.

It feels in the unwounding vast
For comfort for its hopes and fears:
The Mighty Mother bows at last;
She listens to her children's tears.

Where the last anguish deepens -- there
The fire of beauty smites through pain:
A glory moves amid despair,
The Mother takes her child again. 

—A. E. (George William Russell)


Monday, November 15, 2021

dear one




If you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you - you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.

—C. S. Lewis


Sunday, November 14, 2021

Little Sleep’s Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight, excerpt



you cling to me hard,
as if clinging could save us.
I think you think I will never die,
I think I exude to you the
permanence of smoke or stars,
even as my broken arms heal
themselves around you.

—Galway Kinnell


Friday, November 12, 2021

the first night



The worst thing about death must be
the first night.

—Juan Ramón Jiménez


Before I opened you, Jiménez,
it never occurred to me that day and night
would continue to circle each other in the ring of death,

but now you have me wondering
if there will also be a sun and a moon
and will the dead gather to watch them rise and set

then repair, each soul alone,
to some ghastly equivalent of a bed.
Or will the first night be the only night,

a darkness for which we have no other name?
How feeble our vocabulary in the face of death,
How impossible to write it down.

This is where language will stop,
the horse we have ridden all our lives
rearing up at the edge of a dizzying cliff.

The word that was in the beginning
and the word that was made flesh—
those and all the other words will cease.

Even now, reading you on this trellised porch,
how can I describe a sun that will shine after death?
But it is enough to frighten me

into paying more attention to the world’s day-moon,
to sunlight bright on water
or fragmented in a grove of trees,

and to look more closely here at these small leaves,
these sentinel thorns,
whose employment it is to guard the rose.

—Billy Collins


Thursday, November 11, 2021

from '640'



I could not die — with You —
For One must wait
To shut the Other’s Gaze down —
You — could not —
—Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

note to self



If man is a bubble, all the more so is an old man. 
My eightieth year warns me to pack my bags before I set out on the journey from life.

—Marcus Tenerentius Varro 
116 BC – 27 BC
(Who lived another decade.)


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

there is another way



There is another way to 
enter an apple: 
a worm’s way.  

The small, round door 
closes behind her. The world 
and all its necessities 
ripen around her like a room.  

In the sweet marrow of a bone, 
the maggot does not remember 
the wingspread 
of the mother, the green 
shine of her body, nor even 
the last breath of the dying deer.  

I, too, have forgotten 
how I came here, breathing 
this sweet wind, drinking rain, 
encased by the limits 
of what I can imagine 
and by a husk of stars. 

—Pat Schneider 


Monday, November 8, 2021

rush naked



A lover looks at creek water and wants to be that quick
to fall, to kneel, then all

the way down in full prostration. A lover wants to die of
his love like a man with

dropsy who knows that water will kill him, but he can't deny
his thrist. A lover loves

death, which is God's way of helping us evolve from mineral
to vegetable to animal, the one

incorporating the others. Then animal becomes Adam, and the
next will take us beyond what

we can imagine, into the mystery to which we are all returning.
Don't fear death. Spill your

jug in the river! Your attributes disappear, but the essence
moves on. Your shame and fear

are like felt layers covering coldness. Throw them off, and
rush naked into the joy of death.

Mathnawi III: 3884-89
Coleman Barks version

Gregory Colbert

Sunday, November 7, 2021

travelling together




If we are separated I will 
try to wait for you 
on your side of things 

your side of the wall and the water 
and of the light moving at its own speed 
even on leaves that we have seen 
I will wait on one side 

while a side is there 

—W.S. Merwin


Saturday, November 6, 2021

this only



A valley and above it forests in autumn colors.
A voyager arrives, a map leads him there.

Or perhaps memory. Once long ago in the sun,
When snow first fell, riding this way
He felt joy, strong, without reason,
Joy of the eyes. Everything was the rhythm
Of shifting trees, of a bird in flight,
Of a train on the viaduct, a feast in motion.

He returns years later, has no demands.
He wants only one, most precious thing:
To see, purely and simply, without name,
Without expectations, fears, or hopes,
At the edge where there is no I or not-I.

—Czeslaw Milosz


Friday, November 5, 2021

lights out


I have come to the borders of sleep, 
The unfathomable deep 
Forest where all must lose 
Their way, however straight, 
Or winding, soon or late; 
They cannot choose.
Many a road and track 
That, since the dawn's first crack, 
Up to the forest brink, 
Deceived the travellers, 
Suddenly now blurs, 
And in they sink.

Here love ends, 
Despair, ambition ends, 
All pleasure and all trouble, 
Although most sweet or bitter, 
Here ends in sleep that is sweeter 
Than tasks most noble.

There is not any book 
Or face of dearest look 
That I would not turn from now 
To go into the unknown 
I must enter and leave alone 
I know not how.

The tall forest towers; 
Its cloudy foliage lowers 
Ahead, shelf above shelf; 
Its silence I hear and obey 
That I may lose my way 
And myself.

—Edward Thomas 


Monday, November 1, 2021

the gods envy us




The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed.

You will never be lovelier than you are now. 
We will never be here again.

The Iliad