Monday, 12 October 2009

How Big Is Now?

A murder of crows is taking off from a guard tower of the great wall. Now they're riding the up-draft above a narrow, forested side valley below where I stand on the next tower. Their distinctive cries to each other are all that break the silence of this isolated morning hike. They're saying, "there is only now."

At three a.m. the same morning I had awoken to the newly-risen moon, newly bathing everything in sight in a washed out glow. The kind of glow that says, "I'm rewarding you for being the only soul awake late enough to witness this." To witness the glowing wall stretching out and up before us, the glowing mountains around us, the small village to our left, and the Buddhist temple in front. A glow that said, "there is only now." How many Chinese soldiers have stood on the wall before and had the same experience? Under went the same emotions? In virtue of the fact that we share similar wiring.

I could fit the universe into that moment. I could have fit all the stars in the night sky and the billion billion others into that single moment, because, what is size? How big does a thing have to be to matter? There could be universes inside of atoms (literally). And our universe could be perched on a wart on the tail end of a moor hen.

"There is only now." Is the power of that human truth what connects us, across cultures and across time?

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The Airplane Meal

You're cruising at 30,000 feet, high above the Atlantic.  You're sitting next to your one true love but otherwise you're alone with your thoughts.  When a smily lady offers you an airplane meal.  Only one choice necessary: chicken or vegetarian.  After a moments introspection, you go with the vegetarian pasta, simply because yourself is in the mood for pasta rather than chicken.  (You relish the clear feeling of being aware of your inner life and wonder if some carbohydrate deficiency is supervened upon by your current mood).  NOW.  There's nowhere to be, nothing to do (you emptied your tank just before they started serving dinner.  Nice.), all you have is time and fresh taste buds.  Your attention lingers on every detail of the food.  The slight rubberiness of the microwaved pasta; the emergent flavor of its tomato-based sauce.  Where were those tomatoes raised?  The butteriness of the crackers and the smoothness of the cheese you spread on them.  The saltiness of the butter on your sweetish dinner roll, and the pleasure the butter brings.  If you were a fly would the butter be delicious in the same way?  You wonder if the wooded spork they've supplied is any better for the environment than a plastic one would have been.  It's certainly a more interesting texture.  Between bites, a deliberate sip from your complimentary glass of wine.  It's flavor and body elucidated with each lingering swallow.  The flight attendant is surprised when she comes to collect your rubbish but finds you are still working on your meal as if it were your last.  Maybe she doesn't understand the joy of paying attention.

Haiku for England

My tired eyes just caught
The shadow of a robin
Cross the bathroom floor.

Anonymous hills
Pass and pass and pass by us
On our Oxford train.

Outer space feels close
Watching the moon and black sea
From England’s south coast.

Where a white duck swam
Through half-submerged tree branches
I stopped for a while.

A thickening mist
In the tall, darkening woods
Boldens my dusk run.

Why should that dark crow,
That haggard bag of feathers,
Seem a wise old sage.

Bare attention

There is a tiny river of water streaking down the window pane in front of me as it rains outside. Parts of it are orangish in the glow of a street lamp.  It has a certain miniature shape and essence.  The more I stare the more its details emerge.  The more I get to know it the more beautiful it seems.  The longer I watch it the more the nuances of my experience come into focus, the more honest I feel, the more mysterious this experience is.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Haiku written in Utah this past December

Both take each poem individually and take the whole as a set.  I know Haiku is pretty nerdy, or at the very least, quite middle schooly, but I love it--partly for its power as something simple to magnify an experience.  When we try to focus on too much, something is lost.  And when you only have 17 syllables to use, you pick them very carefully.

I know my writing is mediocre at best but I hope these below at least capture a feeling of what it's like to be on the Wasatch front in the winter.  

White, hulking mountains,
Lit up by a late half moon,
Stop me in the street.

Chasing the half moon,
The sun slowly brings to life
A sleepy valley.

The haze that enshrouds
Salt Lake valley is best seen
From its wild mountains

Something in the brush
Scared off my tree of dining
Finches. Was it me?

An icy, clear stream
Rests between the warmed north slope
And the cool white south.

Paper white aspens,
Just stand still the front yard,
At home in the snow.