开心

Come to each day with open heart and mind
Invite events that challenge you to grow.
What might these be? — impossible to know.
Don’t try to guess what marvels you may find.

Regard the Universe as though for you
Alone its special lessons were designed.
Permit your precious ores to be refined;
Have faith that what you don’t yet know is true.

Appear before each person that you meet
As to your special guru, wise and kind,
But also mischievous, with easy laugh—
It’s your rigidities he must defeat.

And what you can’t let go, others will find
Someday, in o’ergrown fields, your epigraph.

— JJM

* The title 开心, literally “open heart”, is a word most often translated as “happiness”.

Ho Tai Statue

At Peace

Every man is followed by a shadow which is his death—dark, featureless and mute. And for every man there is a place where his shadow is clarified and is made his reflection, where his face is mirrored in the ground. He sees his source and his destiny, and they are acceptable to him. He becomes the follower of what pursued him. What hounded his track becomes his companion.

That is the myth of my search and my return.

_________________________

I have been walking in the woods and have lain down on the ground to rest. It is the middle of October and around me, all through the woods, the leaves are quietly sifting down. The newly fallen leaves make a dry comfortable bed, and I lie easy, coming to rest with myself as I seem to do nowadays only when I am in the woods.

And now a leaf, spiraling down in wild flight, lands on my shirt front at about the third button down below the collar. At first I am bemused and mystified by the coincidence—that the leaf should have been so hung, weighted and shaped, so ready to fall, so nudged loose and slanted by the breeze, as to fall where I, by the same delicacy of circumstance, happened to be lying. The event, among all its ramifying causes and considerations, and finally its mysteries, begins to take on the magnitude of history. Portent begins to dwell in it.

And suddenly I apprehend in it the dark proposal of the ground. Under the fallen leaf my breastbone burns with imminent decay. Other leaves fall. My body begins its long shudder into humus. I feel my substance escape me, carried into the mold by beetles and worms. Days, winds, seasons pass over me as I sink under the leaves. For a time only sight is left me, a passive awareness of the sky overhead, birds crossing, the mazed interreaching of the treetops, the leaves falling—and then that, too, sinks away. It is acceptable to me, and I am at peace.

When I move to go, it is as though I rise up out of the world.

Wendell Berry, A Native Hill, written in 1962 when he was 28 years old

Set to music by Gavin Bryars, sung by The Crossing under leadership of Donald Nally, part of a new album

Correspondences

Nature’s a temple where each living column,
At times, gives forth vague words. There Man advances
Through forest-groves of symbols, strange and solemn,
Who follow him with their familiar glances.

As long-drawn echoes mingle and transfuse
Till in a deep, dark unison they swoon,
Vast as the night or as the vault of noon —
So are commingled perfumes, sounds, and hues.

There can be perfumes cool as children’s flesh,
Like fiddIes, sweet, like meadows greenly fresh.
Rich, complex, and triumphant, others roll

With the vast range of all non-finite things —
Amber, musk, incense, benjamin, each sings
The transports of the senses and the soul.

Charles Baudelaire celebrates his 200th birthday today.
This poem translated by Roy Campbell.

Correspondances

La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers.

Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.

II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d’enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
— Et d’autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,

Ayant l’expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l’ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l’encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l’esprit et des sens.

Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Childhood

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
                      Hath had elsewhere its setting,
                         And cometh from afar:
                      Not in entire forgetfulness,
                      And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
                      From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
                      Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
                      He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
                      Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
                      And by the vision splendid
                      Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

— William Wordsworth was born this day in 1770

Out of Water

A new embroidery of flowers, canary color,
dots the grass already dotty
with aster-white and clover.

I warn, “They won’t last, out of water.”
The children pick some anyway.

In or out of  water
children don’t last either.

I watch them as they pick.
Still free of  what’s next
and what was yesterday
they pick today.

Marie Ponsot would have been 100 years old today. She almost made it.

water flowers

Language floods the mud; mind makes a cast of words;   
it precipitates, mercurial, like T’ang discourse
riding the tidal constant of its source.

The transformative potential in overcoming fear of death

Foretold in ancient prophesies of Thoth,
We face a time when all we know must cease.
There’s nothing like confronting death for growth
And learning to sustain one’s heart in peace.

To know that death is not a final end
Casts human tragedy in different light.
The urgency disperses; we transcend
Our need to rescue and our need to fight.

Then even murder, if the world’s a stage,
Is but a crime within the soul’s romance,
Its evil writ large on a novel’s page,
Enacted by two dancers in one dance.

So, be forewarned: we’ll all be letting go;
And play your part as you enjoy the show.

— JJM, Easter Sunday

An Adieu

Sorrow, quit me for a while!
    Wintry days are over;
Hope again, with April smile,
    Violets sows and clover.

Pleasure follows in her path,
    Love itself flies after,
And the brook a music hath
    Sweet as childhood’s laughter.

Not a bird upon the bough
    Can repress its rapture,
Not a bud that blossoms now
    But doth beauty capture.

Sorrow, thou art Winter’s mate,
    Spring cannot regret thee;
Yet, ah, yet—my friend of late—
    I shall not forget thee!

— Florence Coates

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