Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Unchanging change - losing and finding

Written in the autumn a couple of years ago (I have written a fair number of reflections on this lovely place - the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary - a sanctuary indeed).
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Coming today to the garden

I am seeing change in motion

the seeming solidity
of massed trees and leaves

becomes translucent, now veil upon veil
of golden and green.

My gaze slips through
to the steep hill banks
on the hillside, still
massed and brilliant.

Gold flecks fall and fall
leisurely, separately,
tens at a time

to patter down through
pellucid air -

like manna, like divine
coming into matter.

And here, farther in,
more trees bared

reveal the ordinary
earth and oncoming winter.

Yesterday's bold and brilliant blue

is softened by skeins of cloud.

Change in motion -

beyond our grasp.

Two days ago,
down the brilliant color
of the river valley

the family came canoeing

just when I was here -
snapping pictures of beauty -

their lives were overturned
bythe freak canoe accident

pinning little Rosa in the water.

That evening, as their inconsolable
grief took hold, unknown
yet to us,

in the darkened Quaker meetinghouse
our atheist, god-seeking poet
read out his poem

about children on the water -

like leaves -

"They could be yours."

What he meant to say,
is hearts are breaking

hearts embracing
intolerable pain
of each other.

Soon, the golden mass before me
will be empty,

the veils of beauty on beauty
that lifted me
from sorrow, that seemed to
know it,

and answer with steadfastness,

soon will be no more
than a memory
a handful of photos, flattened

and falsely still.

(Squirrel comes gazing and
gazing at me;
fly lights
upon the page.)

I came to interrogate the garden -

the presumed power of order
and renewal behind it -

and my own unvoiced question:

How do I live?

Stripped to its bark
and bare earth

(as I know it will be)

how can I endure my life?

Today, I said I would come here
to open myself to whatever

might be softly spoken
in the wind.

And now, in this hollow tucked away
at the back of the garden,

I sit - the light can fill it
now most of the leaves are gone.

In front of me a gold-green maple
still holds its leaves -

soon, they'll all drop down
a ball dress shrugged off
at the weary end
of the festival.

Squirrels rustle around me -

unalarmed by my stillness.

A chant comes to mind
(perhaps willed for comfort
perhaps in answer):

"All I ask of you
Is forever to remember me
As loving you.

All I ask of you
Is forever to remember me
As loving you.

"Ishq Allah
Mahabud Lillah
Ishq Allah
Mahabud Lillah."

As the infant looks trustingly
at the parents
who adore their child,

I will gaze at this world
and dare to receive
the laughing affection
of the world smiling back,

they eyes of my heart gazing back.

There is no separation.

Though the sun sinks, the leaves fall,
the squirrels take long naps,

though my energy ebbs,
the brightness of my mind
dims and stutters,

You gaze at me still
and hold me in unchanging affection.

Now, always and everywhere,
as fears of loss and failure
fill my mind with whispers:

may I lay them down
let them go -
wafting in the unchanging change -
leaving me simply here

in the spaciousness of light

companionship of squirrels

digging through fallen leaves.


Mary Ellen said...

I learned the chant some years ago at an academic conference (the one and only of this sort) dedicated to spirituality in higher education, sponsored by an organization called Blue Sky Associates, which I believe only lasted a short while. More recently, surfing the Web for the spelling of the words I had learned phonetically, I came upon an explanation of how two chants got joined into one. Here are the links:

Ishq Allah Mahabud Líllah

“The Spirit is at once The Lover, The Beloved and Love Itself.“

Mel said...

This is incredibly beautiful...a beautiful testament to the healing power of Nature. To find peace within Her arms, is to know the greatest sense of calm.....well, for me, anyway.

Thank you so much for sharing this.....

Mary Ellen said...

Thanks - this particular public wildflower garden is billed as a "sanctuary" - for birds and nature,ostensibly, but it's really a sanctuary for people. That reminds me - I should go spend some time there today! I've got some raw places that don't have clarity and need some help embracing.