Reflections and notes on the relationship of art to nature and of nature to art from along Warwoman Creek, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Katuah Province of Turtle Island, where the light, the dark, the seasons, the time of deep past, deep present and deep future all mix in alchemal mists to reveal and hide and transform these slopes, shaded coves, bright rivers, deep forests and me, and together sustain me and my art.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

FIRST SNOW!














In the early hours of this morning it snowed!

For those living farther north this is commonplace, but for us living on the southernmost prow of the Blue Ridge (a finger of the Appalachian chain), it's a chancy thing. Each late fall we prognosticate on its likely hood during the coming winter, measure the black section on "wooly worms" in prophecy, consult the Farmer's Almanac. But we never know. We've had many snow-less winters, but on the other hand older residents can tell of 24+" snows that isolated every one for weeks in these steep sloped mountains and narrow valleys.

This first snow always brings out the child in us. The older among us can mutter that this can get quickly tiresome and make life difficult, but even their eyes brighten at this first snow. Surely it has this power exactly because it does conjure up the child in us, and reminds even the crusty curmudgeon that the child still lives somewhere inside each of us. But I think it is not just the innocence we associate with childhood, but the child's ability to see things newly. To witness first snow is to be reminded that we can still see things newly, and that what we call "the world" is a spectacular experience of transformation. First snow is proof of this.

So, a poem I've been waiting so long to post here:

OH, SNOW!

Oh, snow! clean
like forgetting, fresh
like remembering

- Laurence Holden, 2/27/08

Snow makes the world new. And as it does, it affects how we see ourselves. We in reply feel freshened. And this very real conversation reflects something that the 8th Century Zen master Kukei pointed to in "Singing Images of Fire":


"A hand moves, and the fire's whirling takes different
shapes.
...all things change when we do.
The first word, ah, blossoms into all others.
Each of them is true."

(trans. by Jane Hirschfield)

Thus, this morning I can say in reply:

First snow!
when all things change,
so do I.

First snow, or first word,
they each blossom into all the others.
Each of them is true.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A POEM FOR WINTER SOLSTICE

WHAT’S NEEDED

What’s needed
is water
and dark

moving to a time
as slow as roots

in a well

where silvered fish
swim

in a dream
of knowing

not caught
but foreseen.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

READINGS

One reads the morning sky in the manner of deciphering its pattern of form and movement so to chart the possibilities for one's own outer and inner day. The wind out of the east, low clouds and the feel of moisture in the air means the likelihood of rain, and that means no work possible in the vegetable garden if it's summer, no cutting firewood if it's winter, and so that opens up the possibility of inner immersion in work in the studio or up in the study.

Or, wandering through the woods I notice the track of a deer, and begin to read its story - how big a deer, male or female (if the back feet make tracks outside of the line of the front it's more likely to be a female I think), was it going fast or slow, was it heading single-mindedly toward some goal, or was it wandering (and therefore probably lazily grazing its way along - what's been nipped along its path?), how old (this morning? - the crumbled, heaved up edges moist and not dried out, or yesterday or last week - the edges dry and cracked - but has it been raining for several days keeping the track fresh for many days?).

Or, at the grocery store I am intently searching for something I've run out of, and happen into an old friend not seen for months. Our eyes meet and I read their face - the flicker of an eyelid, the cant of the head, the movement of the eyes - whether they meet me directly, or shift away in discomfort; the corners of the mouth either beginning to stretch into a smile or set in defense of something, reading the signs of well being, or not, of welcome, or not, of embarrassment, or the reaction traced there to my asking "how have you been?"

Or, I am standing on the front porch with the morning's first cup of tea in hand, waiting to address the new sun coming up over the trees to splash across the field below the house with radiant greens, and waiting too for how that makes me feel - comforted, confirmed, even positive about what I might accomplish this day.

Or, I'm in the studio, stirring paint, and stirring my perception, trying to read the nascent shape forming there into actuality - a smudge into the turning edge that catches the light just so,  

Readings. And then there are the books. They are readings not much different than the ones above, in either breadth, depth, variety, or method. I am not a careless reader, but I do so in much the same way that I read other "sign" - the morning sky, an animal's track, some one's face, or a painting.

I've read much in my 64 years, a little of it valuable and a lot of it forgettable. Over the last 17 years it has narrowed mostly to reading over and over again the ones I know to be valuable because it has become increasingly hard to find new books that actually refresh and nourish - that encourage me to experience life in new and nourishing ways. The list of the ones I reread is short but rich -

Lewis Hyde's The Gift which I return to to be reminded of the true commerce of art
McLean's A River Runs Through It
Harry Middleton's On the Spine of Time ( both the carefully lucid parts and those when he slips into mere glibness - I've come to love his feet of clay as I would  a friend's and don't much judge him for it)
John Haines' The Stars, The Snow, The Fire
Nelson's The Island Within
Paulsen's Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass
Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams
John Inglis Hall's Fishing a Highland Stream
Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets (its elagaic quality every bit as forlorn as Samuel Barber's "Adagio"
Robert Bly's translations of Rilke's poems
Gary Snyder's A Place in Space
Christopher Camuto's Another Country

I have read all of these many times. I once came to the end of Camuto's Another Country and without hesitation simply turned to the first page and began again. It was like a really good painting in the way it continually nourished and revealed itself to me. Some of its enduring significance lies in its layering of stories - his personal narrative telling upon tales from the past that in turn tell upon stories of language, myth and culture, and that in turn upon a listening to what the land can tell us. On a few days, when my life seems exhausted of content, purpose, direction, or possibility, I turn to it for solace, and bathing myself in the rhythms of his thoughts and words, I find life turn brighter, and for me (I'm a painter after all) incandescent. And of course to say that its significance lies in its layering is to admit that what I look for in reading signs in the morning sky, a deer's track, a face in the crowd, or in a book, is the intricate layering of life itself that is true.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Slate Article: Do You See a Pattern?

Sometimes, as if by accident, some one doing the good work of trying to live in respect to the land and its people, gets recognized by the media. Christopher Alexander's four volume book The Nature of Order(2002) is a wonder of building healthy relationships with each other, ourselves, and nature. He understands that when we recognize a form that appeals to us that we are actually recognizing an inner kinship between us, an echo of our "I" in them. This is a different twist on Neo-Platonism and Alexander teases out, recognizes, and then honors the underlying relationships between who we are and what the world around us is. This is a bit of very old perennial wisdom found in many indigenous cultures. And he accomplishes this in our cultural context by taking us through very common every day human experiences that can be applied with nails and a hammer to grasp the luminous quality of our lives. Simple, really.

A dear friend in art, Margaret Davis, just sent me this article from Slate
By Witold Rybczynski about Christopher Alexander receiving the Vincent Scully Prize, and is a good review of Alexander's contribution to architecture.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

THE MOUNTAIN PASSAGES CYCLE - NOTES ON THE RECENT PAINTINGS




"The Singer Sings, and the Mountains Move Like Fishes," 2009
acrylic on polyester fabric, 60"h. x 72"w.

 "The Singer Sings, and the Mountains Move Like Fishes" is a recent painting from a series of works I began in 2005 called "the Mountain Passages Cycle,"

Passage is the act of passing, specifically movement from one place to another, sometimes a change of progress from one process or condition to another. Permission, right, or a chance to pass is often required. Passage is also a way or means of passing, as in a journey, especially by water; a voyage, and passage is that which happens or takes place between persons.

  In all these senses, paintings have always presented passages to me - imagined, proposed, hoped for, sometimes prayed for. They have always offered openings, permissions, journeys, all proffering passage from one process or condition to another.

  If the Spanish poet Machado was right, that we who pass on, even a little, walk, like Jesus, on the water, then artists and their work offer one partial exception - we artists and our work leave tracks of both where we’ve come from and, because of the imaginative intercourse a work of art summons us to, they point to where we’re all going.

  But paintings are quite still, aren’t they? Exactly! Paintings and the seeing and meanings they summon us to to present an endless quest going nowhere in space or time but only deeper into the presence. There is grace in this. It is the grace of knowing that our consciousness and the light are always arriving in the world together. And in this momentary stillness there is a  great Hello!

It was my sixtieth year when I started this series.  It was the year I moved to this secluded hollow along Warwoman Creek in the North Georgia Mountains. It was the month of April, Kawani in Cherokee - the Cherokee moon of reviving rivers and re-emerging medicinal plants. A season to take stock, to relent and to let go, and then to recover the deeper language of rhythms and patterns woven into the fabric of all those years. A time to really paint what I see (as the saying goes by painters), but now to acknowledge that seeing as a gift of presence as much as an act of perception, of coming into Being, not just observing.

   Presence, present, to be present - these are all entangled for me now. The massive northern shoulder of Rainy Mountain slopes down to meet the flood plain just behind my studio. From late fall to early Spring it is a massive shadowed cloak that descends, and from Spring to Fall it is a bright green lit body. It is not present as a picture. It hovers dramatically between being just some of the furniture of the world and startlingly something else: something protean, powerful and energetic, something drawing my own presence into its circle, always shouldering against where I am, against what I see and what I feel. Then one morning I step outside the studio to see that Rainy Mountain has dissolved - the mists that live in these mountains have taken it for their own form of presence- an expression of the world making and remaking itself, a process of re-becoming, like ocean waves that rise and then refold into one another. Even in the seeming millennial immutability of this land, some aspect, some dimension, breathes. The very ineffability makes possible the expansive reality of the land around me. It is a great gift to witness

Monday, November 9, 2009

TAKE ME TO THE RIVER: A CHATTOOGA RIVER POETRY HIKE

October 24, 2009: Georgia Forest Watch sponsored hike (with poetry) to the Chattooga River in Rabun County, Georgia. Thanks to Brooks Franklin and Maureen Keating for organizing and leading this walk.






Poetry is the tongue of our nature spirit.

I am going to tell you some poems here
poems about rivers
about edges and currents,
immersion and emergence
of coming and going

We’ve come here each flowing
out of the rivers of our own pasts
And today we’ve come together
through pine and laurel,
oak and hickory, poplar and hemlock
out of time and its river
to this clear and present edge of here and now.

It is a river liquid and mercurial
alive and breathing
the great snake of it sliding by us
elastic, connective, extensive
the pattern of it made new in every moment.

Am I talking about the river, or of us?

The film maker Jean Luc-Godard says “ Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret selves.”
I reply - Nature attracts us by what it reveals of our most secret selves.
I say the river draws us to her by what she reveals of our own secret flowing selves.



We are not lost here:

            LOST   by David Wagoner

            "Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
            Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
            And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
            Must ask permission to know it and be known.
            The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
            I have made this place around you,
            If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
            No two trees are the same to Raven.
            No two branches are the same to Wren.
            If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
            You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
            Where you are. You must let it find you. "



A RIVER RUNS THROUGH THIS
(written for you today)

A river runs through this
Blacksnake sliding under Jewelweed
flushing Robin surprising Blue Jay
screeching over mirror striding Water Spider
reflecting wheeling Red Tailed Hawk calling:
where are you where are you to Lizard
scrambling across old barn wood parched in the sun
gliding over Otter slipping from rock into water
flashing by Golden Shiner scurrying toward Sculpin
nuzzling mud beneath silver racing Gilt Darter
darting past Bloodroot stemming into whitened flower
from the moss blanketed bank shouldering
into the stream as rainbowing Kingfisher
alights and makes the heart stop
and the river runs through it.

A river runs through this
a poem where I am swimming around you
composing dreams about rivers
to all of you swimming about me
who are dreaming poems about yourselves
and I am coming to a place and don’t have the words
and someone else tells me the next one
and so it goes, generous,
the swimming and the dreaming and the telling
and the river runs through it

you and me,
this river runs through us.


                TRINITY

                1.
                This stream
                is right here somewhere where I am ten
                and running naked under the old oaks
                along Trinity River.

                2.
                And this one
                flows in my blood
                with a generosity I can
                in no way account for now.

                3.
                And this one
                like a breath is slow
                and long, smooth and deep,
                even and balanced by that other,
                the heart still flung open.





Honor Woodard’s poem (7/14/09)

"the river flows
threads drift on the surface
what lies beneath
who knows
the river carries on
and carries with it
all things within
going down
toward the sea
all things answering
gravity’s pull
fighting or flowing
in the current
all things answer
gravity’s pull
and the river flows on
to the sea"




            GOING TO THE WATER
            by Jeff Davis from his book: NatureS

            The water falls the rain
            falls and breaks
            the order of words
            to penetrate
            thought's interstices
            and wash the rivulets
            and the mind
            thinking of them
            clear again, a moment,
            to the Unknown:

            Down stream
            another juncture of
            water to
            waters
            uncover the
            cold rock, strip
            dirt off down to nets
            of roots hold laurel,
            oak, and hemlock
            tight and live:

            Leaves drop in
            and are carried off,
            limbs are taken off to rot:

            And the water leaves
            what holds
            deep to what
            the strong earth
            itself
            through all
            uplift and turmoil
            does not unfold.


(for more on Jeff Davis' poetry go to: Jeff Davis


 James Dickey’s
INSIDE THE RIVER

Dark, deeply. A red.
All levels moving
A given surface.
Break this. Step down.
Follow your right
Foot nakedly in
To another body.
Put on the river
Like a fleeing coat,
A garment of motion,
Tremendous, immortal.
Find a still root


To hold you in it.
Let the flowing create
A new, inner being;
As the source in the mountain
Gives water in pulses,
These can be felt at
The heart of the current.
And here it is only
One wandering step
Forth, to the sea.
Your freed hair floating
Out of your brain,


Wait for a coming
And swimming idea.
Live like the dead
In their flying feeling.
Loom as a ghost
When life pours through it.
Crouch in the secret
Released underground
With the earth of the fields
All around you, gone
Into purposeful grains
That stream like dust


In a holy hallway.
Weight more changed
Than that of one
Now being born,
Let go the root.
Move with the world
As the deep dead move,
Opposed to nothing.
Release. Enter the sea
Like a winding wind.
No. Rise. Draw breath.
Sing. See no one.

As we came down the trail, did you notice the springs
squeezing out of rock, slipping over granite slabs
flushing into clattering branches under laurel
knotting strand by strand through stands of hemlock
weaving into creeks that become the River?





               

               ON A DAY, STILL

                On a day still
                as sleeping cats, among
                a stand of pines, one cracks
                near its base and falls
                against another.

                No fault
                of weather or storm,
                just a failing within -
                a fissure running six feet up
                and all the tissue there
                collapsing like a knee blown out.

                In a moment
                drawn out so long
                it too is stilled,
                the broken one leans
                against another

                as if it stumbled
                in some crowd going to a game

                and the others
                not taking notice, but
                kindly accept to offer
                a shoulder to a stranger.

                One against another,
                no one speaking -
                sometimes it’s all we’ve got,
                each of the other.

                Six months later,
                coming down the trail
                this moment is still here
                and now, lifted out of a spring
                as a handful of water
                is lifted out of time.


Listen!
Do you hear that bird?





       














  LESSON #1: HOW TO LISTEN TO A BIRD SING

            Take off all
            your clothed and
            clammy thoughts.

            Sit awhile.

            Make nothing up
            between the intervals of silence,
            but listen to them.

            Between each breath
            is a song you’ve forgotten,
            is always calling us
            to gather to this wild
            and shocking world.

            This music happens to us
            before we can ever think about it

            this song happens in us
            before we can ever say it’s impossible

            to listen before we speak
            of nothing or everything.



These mountains are daily wrapped in mystery and fact:
the light, the dark, the round of seasons,
the time of deep past, deep present, deep future -

these all speak to us,
the mists alternately hiding and revealing -
the steep slopes, the shaded coves, the bright rivers,
our lives and our work.

We have to come to the river. The Cherokee who lived here would come many mornings “Going to Water”  (“a-ma Da ye si  ” in Cherokee). It was a daily sacred cleansing and purifying ritual.


                DAWN

                          Dawn,
                with lighted fingers
                stitches a delicate thread
                an amber line of ridge against the night

                        - then begins
                to hem
                the greening march of trees 
                down along the still dark creek

                        - and begins
                to mend
                out of what might have been
                this day together

                         - once again
                such prescient
                marvelous
                needlework!

                        - surely sewn
                we together
                out of wonder
                this world.




                OUR BREATHS EACH TIME

                Our breaths each time
                reach out and come back.

                They must so love the world
                they always go back
                for more.

                Or perhaps I’ve gotten this
                all wrong. This breath’s
                not ours at all, but the world’s.

                The world’s searching deep
                into our opened chest
                and then pulling back
                for more.

                This tide,
                in its gravity of care
                is drawing us on forever.






This river, these mountains, we’ve come to think of them these days as all so fragile.  Some of this reflects our very human fears about our own fragility. But some of it is very real. You only have to look north a few hundred miles to see them removing the tops of whole mountains for the coal, or see the plans for cutting an interstate highway through the mountains of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. You only have to look at our own county here, Rabun. Here hundreds of citizens worked on a comprehensive plan to insure the quality of life for our children and grandchildren, but the County Commission could only see trees (and certainly there were enough of them) and profits to be made on real estate. So they put it in a drawer.

Perhaps we can’t save this river and these mountains without first saving ourselves in some way.  John Muir said, when they wanted to flood Hech-Hechy in the Yosemite, that “What is dollared can’t be saved.” I think it will take something else.  Some way to re-inhabit this world by coming to it with open hands in respect.

            WHAT THEY WANTED

            The teacher asked them
            to draw what they wanted.

            The commissioner's son drew streets,
            paved and straight and bright.

            The developer's son drew signs
            covering the hillsides with crisp dollar bills.

            The lakehouse owner's son drew mansions
            in a shimmering necklace around the lake.

            The environmentalist's son drew a river
            bobbing with kayaks and laughter.

            The carpenter's son drew houses,
            board upon board, high enough to reach the sun.

            The fatherless daughter drew just one
            great mountain, like two hands

            joined in prayer,
            opening in praise.


            LISTEN!

            Listen!
            Will the world be still
            after we depart?
            Will there be cold? Will there be sweetness?
            Will the birds still talk about
            what we never learned to hear?

            Or will it all be forgotten, or forgiven,
            or will it just be still?

            Listen!
            Our children are coming and we are going.
            It’s late, but listen!
            If we fail to listen
            and then to tell them,

            the rivers and the mountains
            will stop breathing in
            their fullness. They’ll stop whispering
            their care and advice, and there will be nothing

            for our children to hear
            but their nightmares.


                WILL YOU BE THE ONE?
                    for Honor and Robinette

                Will you be the one
                to leave a sign in the ground
                for those who come after to find
                that we too lived

                and loved, cried and died,
                fighting with ourselves and each other
                to the end of us

                and that one of the least of us
                left this coin.


This last year my dear neighbor Honor Woodard taught me to appreciate how dreams are not part of some separate world. Each week we used to meet in a dream circle to tell our dreams. Often when it came my turn I would say “I had this poem to tell you” not realizing I had replaced the word “dream” with “poem”. Honor would point this out, and gradually I came to embrace this porous sense of what the world is made of, and that we are made of -(the same old star stuff as everything else?)





            WE ARE ALWAYS DREAMING

            We are always dreaming,
            the good life, the bad life,
            the life not lived.

            In our ceremonies
            we mark our bodies
            with the signs of our dreams:
            flames and crosses and circles.

            Wearing our dream marks
            we carry our whole lives
            into the country of our days.

            We must do this - keep it up,
            this dreaming into our waking country,
            keep it going, keep it safe,
            even into the desert of our selves.





                WHAT’S NEEDED

                What’s needed
                is water
                and dark

                moving to a time
                as slow as roots

                in a well

                where slivered fish
                swim

                in a dream
                of knowing

                not caught
                but foreseen.


HOW TO LIVE A LIFE ON THE RIVER:

Reach out
beyond yourself so far
you have to let go
of the shore.

Gather in what happens here.

Then pull back
against the undertow
sit on the beach
and examine your hands.

Most days
you will only be left
with broken pieces of shell, flecks of mica,
the sands of rock and time

But sometimes
you will be left with fiery bits
of starlight.

These are yours.

So enter a river,
a poem, a church, a conversation
anywhere. Swim around
listen for the resonance
in the waves, for the motion
in the current.

Let each filament of river
weave into your breath.

Then say what happens here.
Know that we all are listening.

A river, a poem, a church, a conversation
even a breath
it’s all a great river. I’ll meet you there.













Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NOTES ON READING MY POEMS AT HONOR WOODARD'S EXHIBIT, OCT. 3, 2009

Honor and I have come to show and tell you messages from our mountain community. Both Honor and I agree with the naturalist John Muir that “going to the mountains is coming home”

The paintings your see around you of Honor’s and the poems I’m going to tell you are all about that coming home. It’s not easy, coming home:






*


WE ARE ALL

We are all vagabonds
on this earth, wanderers
with hungry hearts

looking for a home
we never had.

At night we gather
to distant fires
of scavenged wood and brush

stir the ashes there
and seek answers in the stars.

In ceremony
we mark our faces
with our dream of want -

flames and crosses and circles.

And we carry this into all our days
even into the desert of our lives

dreaming into each new country
our home again.

- Laurence, 9/09


Paintings and poems share something important -
a concentrated form of paying attention.
Paying attention to what is!
And what is is both moving and still
Paintings are still and yet move in our minds, our thoughts and feelings.
Poems are always moving in our minds, and thoughts and feelings
and yet form pooling echoes of the still and eternal present.
Paintings and poems - two sides of the same coin



As Honor puts it:

“we come together
in the middle
your shade of green and mine
not sure which way is up
at times your green is on top
sometimes mine is the sky
sometimes the red is river
others a hilltop
ablaze in the late sun
still others, a river of blood
that takes a bit of you and a bit
of me with it to the ocean.
sometimes, though, it is
a beautiful, shining light, that
draws us both near.”

Poems and paintings are grown not made
No hammer or nail will oblige.
What’s needed is water and silence
seeing and listening
moving to a time as slow as roots.


WHAT’S NEEDED?

What’s needed
is water
and dark

moving to a time
as slow as roots

in a well

where slivered fish
swim

in a dream
of knowing

not caught
but foreseen.


SEEING, CREATING
- to be read to my students in drawing class

Seeing, creating,
it is an endless quest
for it is going nowhere in space or time
but only deeper into the presence.
There is grace in this.

It is the grace of knowing
that our consciousness and the light
are always arriving in the world
together.
Hello!




SPIRIT SALSA
- for Lynn

Come and dance
you and me
come and go

around and back
and come again
all the patterns flying

there is no you
there is no I

and we two are
but a fold in time.

Come!

and dance between
all the patterns making
and unmaking

you and me now

step again
with me now
into this always

changing
moving
desiring

and then just there
and then
where it calls us back

into the circle
where letting go
is holding on

to where
the meaning always is
moving on
to a desire

that brings to life
and the dance between

you and me
always making
come and go.

My love!
Come and dance with me!


We are sorely in need of these messages that art can show and tell us.
The glaciers are melting and the seas are rising... and there’s not much time.




LISTEN!

Listen!
Will the world be still
after we depart?
Will there be cold? Will there be sweetness?
Will the birds still talk about
what we never learned to hear?

Or will it all be forgotten, or forgiven,
or will it just be still?

Listen!
Our children are coming and we are going.
It’s late, but listen!
If we fail to listen
and then to tell them,

the rivers and the mountains
will stop breathing in
their fullness. They’ll stop whispering
their care and advice, and there will be nothing

for our children to hear
but their nightmares.


As social anthropologist Mircea Eliade once noted “Properly speaking, there is no longer any world, there are only fragments of a shattered universe.” (The Sacred and the Profane, p.23-24)

We artists say NO! we won’t live like this. And so we seek to remember the wholeness of this world, to recall for us all what Thoreau and John Muir said “This IS the first morning of Creation.”

Any one who has seen the Hawaii volcano Kilauea spilling molten lava into the sea (or seen a film of it) can have no doubt that creation is today and this morning, just as it is up behind my house where Green Gap Branch issues out from under a rock just below the Bartram Trail.

Jonathan Bate in his book The Song of the Earth (2000) exploring the role of poetry in our changing concepts of nature writes “As the solidity of things is replaced by the evanescence of commodities, so the poets [and artists] must stand in for the ancient Roman “lares”, those everyday gods who guarded hearth and home. On another level, as the realm of nature - the wilderness, the forest, that which is untouched by the human, the Being that is not set upon - has diminished almost to vanishing - point with the march of modernity, of technology and consumerism, so a refuge for nature, for the letting-be of Being, must be found in poetry [and art]” (The Song of the Earth (2000) ( p.264”

But it’s hard to stand on a mountain side in Rabun County and believe that anything is coming apart, or is made of fragments.



FINGER WEAVINGS
- a poem to be read by two voices

(male voice): (female voice):

in afternoon light
I walked in late winter woods
all stripped to bone
I stopped to sit and smoke
and sort the jigsawed pieces
of a splintered life
the mountain’s flank
swathed in an amber caul of light
in the quiet I thought I felt
something being offered
stitching at a wound of light
and dark,
pulling at the threads
of the living and the dead.
I thought to say
thank you
to something being given
knitting
through leaf litter,
bark and sky,
a land of gatherings
in this quiet.
In this quiet it’s dangerous
giving voice to wish
as a sailing hawk far off
calls
then catches and lifts on the wind
a word said
can’t ever be taken back
inside
jointing, feathering,
fitting flesh to air,
air to flesh
beware
what you wish, for
it could have consequences
the horizon is already
mountain saying sky,
the sky already
saying mountain
instead I cast
a pinch of tobacco
everything else
is already offering
this to that
and that to this


(now both voices together):

in the simple speech of respect

we are sewn together.
we are sewn together.


These mountains are daily wrapped in mystery and fact:
the light, the dark, the round of seasons,
the time of deep past, deep present, deep future -

these all speak to us,
the mists alternately hiding and revealing
the steep slopes, the shaded coves, the bright rivers,
our lives and our work.











BREACHING

I wake
from submarine dreams
and breach the morning
in the blue lake light
of dawn.

Afloat on my back
I watch the sun come up
and turn the whole room
to peach

the sweetness drawing
from one world to the next.


DAWN

Dawn,
with lighted fingers
stitches a delicate thread
an amber line of ridge against the night

- then begins
to hem
the greening march of trees
down along the still dark creek

- and begins
to mend
out of what might have been
this day together

- once again
such prescient
marvelous
needlework!

- surely sewn
we together
out of wonder
this world.


ON A DAY, STILL

On a day still
as sleeping cats, among
a stand of pines, one cracks
near its base and falls
against another.

No fault
of weather or storm,
just a failing within -
a fissure running six feet up
and all the tissue there
collapsing like a knee blown out.

In a moment
drawn out so long
it too is stilled,
the broken one leans
against another

as if it stumbled
in some crowd going to a game

and the others
not taking notice, but
kindly accept to offer
a shoulder to a stranger.

One against another,
no one speaking -
sometimes it’s all we’ve got,
each of the other.

Six months later,
coming down the trail
this moment is still here

and now, lifted out of a spring
as a handful of water
is lifted out of time.




OH, SNOW!

Oh, snow! clean
like forgetting, fresh
like remembering.



WINTER SPRINGS

Winter
springs, silent
seepages,

from cracks
in great mountains,
weepings

from some far
away ocean
of time.



SPLITTING

a chunk of wood
on the chopping block

three wedges sledge gloves
all that’s wanted

a steep swing then
steel on steel
a bell rings

then thwack
and the timber opens
like a book

within grey covers
the scent of summer last
yellow

and a sweet secret
revealed to me

the tree long gone
the breath in it

still here
all that’s needed


OUR BREATHS EACH TIME

Our breaths each time
reach out and come back.

They must so love the world
they always go back
for more.

Or perhaps I’ve gotten this
all wrong. This breath’s
not ours at all, but the world’s.

The world’s searching deep
into our opened chest
and then pulling back
for more.

This tide,
in its gravity of care
is drawing us on forever.


These days the glaciers are melting and the seas are rising, and the animals and plants are going. But along the steep escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains springs squeeze out of rock, flush into clattering branches, knot together strand by strand from the strength of these mountains. Nevertheless, these mountains are ravaged, scarred and wounded, not by that, but by us. First it was the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Ani-Yunwiya,"the principle people" the Cherokee. Then it was the lumbering. Then it was lumbering's aftermath - the floods that flushed away essential topsoil. Now it's real estate.


WILL YOU BE THE ONE?
for Honor and Robinette

Will you be the one
to leave a sign in the ground
for those who come after to find
that we too lived

and loved, cried and died,
fighting with ourselves and each other
to the end of us

and that one of the least of us
left this coin.


WHAT THEY WANTED

The teacher asked them
to draw what they wanted.

The commissioner's son drew streets,
paved and straight and bright.

The developer's son drew signs
covering the hillsides with crisp dollar bills.

The lakehouse owner's son drew mansions
in a shimmering necklace around the lake.

The environmentalist's son drew a river
bobbing with kayaks and laughter.

The carpenter's son drew houses,
board upon board, high enough to reach the sun.

The fatherless daughter drew just one
great mountain, like two hands

joined in prayer,
opening in praise.


CALLINGS

Hawk calls:
where are you?
don’t forget me.
don’t forget me.

Crow calls:
call, call, call.
aha!
call all.
aha!

a slight and unseen bird calls:
Squeak!
speak, speak, speak.
don’t be silent!


We all need to go home, and there to listen and to speak:

DRIVING HOME

Driving home, eastward
out of the seething traffic,
out to the bitter end of it,

out past the houses
where indigent souls feed on bread
coming up through tar and stones,

Out past the farms and fields
where cedar on wasted ground
accedes to groves of poplar.

out where the road rises
to loaves of hills leavening in the sun
and the eye lifts to the blue of mountains.

Up slope then into a forest of oak and hickory,
the daylight broken and splintered
and dancing with shadows.

Up to ridge top, ragged and scoured,
slipping over its divide unseen and
unregretted, to rejoin ourselves

down the farther shadowed folded thigh of this
into the sweetening breath of hemlock,
into the tumbling chatter of Becky Branch,

turn after turn unwinding,
shedding my skin of what we’ve known
down between the saltiness of rock, the sourness of root,

into a darkening cleft
secret as being.
Just going to earth, just going home.

Eastward then, out into the valley,
brightening, breached and unfolding,
- just a little farther


beyond what we’ve known and owned,
just beyond the border,
home to what we’ll become:

nothing more than root, salt, earth,
a breath given up to wind,
nothing less than always yearning eastward.


WE ARE ALWAYS DREAMING

We are always dreaming,
the good life, the bad life,
the life not lived.

In our ceremonies
we mark our bodies
with the signs of our dreams:
flames and crosses and circles.

Wearing our dream marks
we carry our whole lives
into the country of our days.

We must do this - keep it up,
this dreaming into our waking country,
keep it going, keep it safe,
even into the desert of our selves.


THIS WAY, THIS STONE

This way I’m shaping
this stone small
as a bird’s egg makes

in the palm of my hand
a nest for what an eye sees
and can imagine

the smooth and rough of it
this way against that
of what might be

a shape gathered up
just here drawing out
and dying just there

the feel between the grain
of all such things as stones
and hands and dreams.

The rough self
the smooth self
the still self

the unknown self
drops like an egg
into a well of wonder.


LESSON #1: HOW TO LISTEN TO A BIRD SING

Take off all
your clothed and
clammy thoughts.

Sit awhile.

Make nothing up
between the intervals of silence,
but listen to them.

Between each breath
is a song you’ve forgotten,
is always calling us
to gather to this wild
and shocking world.

This music happens to us
before we can ever think about it

this song happens in us
before we can ever say it’s impossible

to listen before we speak
of nothing or everything.


LAST THOUGHTS ON TESTIMONY
“R├╝hman, das ists!” - Rilke

After the catechisms,
after all the acolyte years,
after hearing the preacher scream on the radio:
“...from the Thank-God-Almighty-
Atlanta Highway-Church of Redemption,”
I think God wants only singing.

She wants only that there be singing!

It doesn’t matter who does it.
If I don’t, some one else will.
For God only wants
there to be singing.

-His only true gift to me.


* For information on Honor Woodard's paintings shown here
go to: silvermoonfrog.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What's Needed

What's needed
is water
and dark

moving to a time
as slow as roots

in a well

where silvered fish
swim

in a dream
of knowing

not caught
but foreseen.