burning the old year

Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, Faith looks up

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

How will you spend the next few days?  Looking back, looking around.  Or . . . looking up?  “So much of any year is flammable,” as the poet below most beautifully expresses.  And if I looked around at my own work spaces, at all the baskets I’ve crammed with notes and slips of paper saved, photographs sent to me by someone wanting me to remember a moment we shared, in all of that what I suppose I’m keeping most is not the things themselves, but love and hope and the promise of good things to come.

 

Burning the Old Year

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

 

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

 

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

 

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

[dot_recommends]    Email This Post

desired things

beach,cool,happiness,photography-8fd419a1ed0e99f92530ba9018554ad6_h

Be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by your serenity, make others more tranquil.  Serenity is contagious. ~Satchidananda

This is a simple little poem for sharing.  The Latin word in its title translated means desired things.  It starts out a little rough, gets heavy with didactic advice about midway through, but trust me.  It’s a little bit of lovely in the end.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

MAX EHRMANN, 1927

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories [and poetry] are the thing we need most in the world. ~ Philip Pullman

 

[dot_recommends]    Email This Post

i prefer people who leap

But what is Hope? Nothing but the paint on the face of Existence. The least touch of truth rubs it off, and then we see what a hollow-cheeked harlot we have got hold of.

~ Lord Byron, letter to Thomas Moore, 28 October 1815

Barrett Meeks wandering around Brooklyn like Leopold Bloom, but instead of a kidney in his pocket, he’s got a memory on his mind, a vision of a light in the evening sky.  A celestial light revealed only to him, a beacon of some hazy hope he never quite grasps.  This is why I was so frustrated with Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen.  I haven’t been able to pen my frustrations for myriad reasons for the characters in the book seem so pathetic and the story so unsatisfying.  Creative, witty, thoughtful, urbane, and each ingloriously cresting their youth.  Ah, the middle age narrative.  The stifled yawn at life and the tepid look around, is there nothing more than this?  It’s so depressing, but so real.  Who wants to trudge through that cold snow?!

I think I would have liked this book better if the promised transcendence were resolved or at least hinted at, but the story wanders toward an unsatisfactory conclusion.  Any hope the characters reach for is compromised.  Like the shabby Bushwick apartment they live in, they only manage cheap attempts to feel more at home in the world.  Barrett can only bring himself to creep into the back of a dimly lit church.  His brother Tyler wants to go out into the storm; he wants a certain clarity that comes from feeling naked in the snow, but he can only bring himself to the window ledge.  It’s all a flirtation with jumping.  No one leaps.  And I just love people who leap is all.  Cunningham’s story is about searching for authentic, transcendent experiences, but his characters are self-absorbed, indecisive, and utterly hopeless — and they wonder why they aren’t successful.  They struggle to retain any optimism they have left and hope for them becomes “a cheap jester’s cap.”  Who has time to wear it anymore?  Cunningham is fond of these despairing characters clutching breathlessly after beauty and truth, but at least Peter from Cunningham’s previous novel By Nightfall actually dares go after them.  Yeah, it’s all an illusory quest and sure, his hope is dashed in that novel, too, but that narrative ends with a sense that he’s learned something profound in the process.

It’s hard to read a story like this, characters like these, because while I most certainly identify with their cosmic pain and carry similar questions in all my pockets, yawning and looking around just the same as they do, I can’t imagine living one day without hope.  Even when I find myself in deep holes, I’m always looking up for the light and clawing my way back into its grace and comfort.  Perhaps my ready rope is gratitude and faith and an awareness of our interconnectedness, of an eternal loving divine presence . . . the colors, dear Byron, that never rub off.

Hope knows no fear. Hope dares to blossom even inside the abysmal abyss. Hope secretly feeds and strengthens promise.

~ Sri Chinmoy

 

If you liked this post, you might also like these: On Gravity and What Grounds You | Happiness, It’s Only a Day Away | Thinking About Michael Cunningham’s New Book?

hopeisanchor

[dot_recommends]    Email This Post