The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element, the black sleek heads of
seals bouncing like half submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves,
an ox to a heavy cart, who pull like water buffalo,
with massive patience, who strain in the mud and
the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done,
again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge in the task,
who go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and
pass the bags along, who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm when the food must come in
or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums but you know
they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
– John O’Donohue
For too many days now I have not
written of the sea, nor the rivers,
nor the shifting currents
we find between the islands.
For too many nights now I have not
imagined the salmon
threading the dark streams
of reflected stars,
nor have I dreamt of his longing
nor the lithe swing of his tail toward dawn.
I have not given myself
to the depth to which he goes,
to the cargoes of crystal water,
cold with salt, nor the enormous plains
of ocean swaying beneath the moon.
I have not felt the lifted arms of the ocean
opening its white hands on the seashore,
nor the salted wind, whole and healthy
filling the chest with living air.
I have not heard those waves
fallen out of heaven onto earth,
nor the tumult of sound and the satisfaction
of a thousand miles of ocean
giving up its strength on the sand.
But now I have spoken of that great sea,
the ocean of longing shifts through me,
the blessed inner star of navigation
moves in the dark sky above
and I am ready like the young salmon
to leave this river, blessed with hunger
for a great journey on the drawing tide.
– David Whyte
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
– Reiner Maria Rilke, transl. Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows
Book of Hours, I 59
I awoke this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
thinking for a moment
it was one day
like any other.
But the veil had gone
from my darkened heart
and I thought
it must have been the quiet
candlelight that filled my room,
it must have been the first
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,
it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.
And I thought
this is the good day
you could meet your love,
this is the black day
someone close to you
This is the day you realize
how easily the thread is broken
between this world and the next
and I found myself
sitting up in the quiet pathway
of light, the tawny
close grained cedar
burning round me like fire
and all the angels of this housely heaven
ascending through the first roof of light
the sun has made.
This is the bright home
in which I live, this is where
I ask my friends to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.
This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.
There is no house
like the house of belonging.