Where does inspiration lie? Everywhere!
This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Stirring, not Churning

Stirring together ingredients from the last few days, I feel a new light dawning--one I've been avoiding--about the never-ending beauty of life
     My creative insides churn with the immensity of many world and personal events, and though this input separates into curds and whey, it does not become butter or cheese.  No longer an active teacher in a ministry with teenagers, I write, but my output stops short of nourishing myself or others.  I have been writing and reading "as if [my] life depended on it"—and it does.  My life also depends on engagement in weekly and daily worship with both a Quaker meeting and a Buds of Jesus group.
     Reading, writing and worshipping have been keeping me alive and on the edge of possibility in a way that seemed a luxury before retirement: tempting me to let go of control and follow new Light.    What I thought of as dessert is becoming the main meal; what I bought ready-made is changing to raw materials for my own cooking, what was one endless churning may become butter, better yet, olive oil, and best, unnecessary.
Raw material #1:  From this morning’s Daily Good, the words of 25-year-old Nipun Mehta in "The Spirit of Service" resonate with me.  I am not involved in service right now but selfishly attending to my own needs.   Mehta wrote exuberantly about experiences that caused his own enlightenment and led to his life in service.  The entire reading is composed of parable after parable.  These words are in the center of the lengthy essay:

          You're always hunting, hunting, hunting, and it just never ends. And then there's money. People always criticize others chasing money. But you can start chasing inspiration. You can have this spiritual currency. Oh, well, I want to be in this state. I want to feel this way. I want to feel this. I want to have this and that. And it's all the same thing. Right? You're just hunting.
          How many people ever say, "I have arrived. This is a moment I've been waiting for all my life," or "This is a moment that's a culmination of all my life, all my experiences and this is it. I am here."

Raw Material #2:  Looking for a poem to use in my upcoming Midweek Motif on prescience at Poets United, I read and reread several Mary Oliver poems.  Her poems help me rest.  They fill me with joy.  I have always felt these poems were teaching me to see trees in the forests, individuals among the species that brighten each day.  But yesterday I began to see them differently.  Every poem became a way to enter the beauty of life.  Oliver does not deny the disturbance of world and personal events—she takes us, for an instant, on a walk with her into what also exists, what is constantly accessible.  I read greedily, with great thirst to go where she is leading over and over again. Here are only two:

At Blackwater Pond by Mary Oliver

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled 
after a night of rain. 
I dip my cupped hands. I drink 
a long time. It tastes 
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold 
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them 
deep inside me, whispering 
oh what is that beautiful thing 
that just happened?

Egrets by Mary Oliver

Where the path closed
down and over,
through the scumbled leaves,
fallen branches,
through the knotted catbrier,
I kept going. Finally
I could not
save my arms
from thorns; soon
the mosquitoes
smelled me, hot
and wounded, and came
wheeling and whining.
And that’s how I came
to the edge of the pond:
black and empty
except for a spindle
of bleached reeds
at the far shore
which, as I looked,
wrinkled suddenly
into three egrets – - -
a shower
of white fire!
Even half-asleep they had
such faith in the world
that had made them – - -
tilting through the water,
unruffled, sure,
by the laws
of their faith not logic,
they opened their wings
softly and stepped
over every dark thing.

You can find Mary Oliver's books at Beacon Press, and in many locations on the web and in print journals. 

 Raw Material #3: On Tuesday evenings I sit down in Worship with 5-6 others who hunger for God.  We are buddies of Jesus though not all Quakers.  Not all Quakers experience Jesus as central.  I myself am a Jewish-Pagan-Christian Quaker—an odd combination in historical order that I will address another time.  I call us Buds of Jesus because we are all friends of Jesus in one way or another and because we are like flowers not fully opened.   Lately we have been considering “Longing” as a desirable state of being, one to embrace rather than to solve.  Like the Samaritan Woman at the Well in the Bible (John 4), we consider how we quench our thirst.  This Tuesday one of the group brought in a selection from the spiritual poetry of Hafiz:

The Danger by Hafiz

Love seems easy in a circle of friends,
But it's difficult, difficult.

Morning air through the window, the taste of it,
with every moment camel bells leaving the caravanserai.

This is how we wake, with winespills
On the prayer rug, and even the tavernmaster
is loading up. My life has gone
From willfullness to disrepute,
And I won't conceal, either, the joy
That led me out toward laughter.

Mountainous ocean, a moon hidden behind clouds,
The terror of being drawn under.

How can someone with a light shoulder-pack
Walking the beach know how a night sea-journey is?

Hafiz! Stay in the dangerous life that's yours.
THERE you'll meet the face
That dissolves fear.

This essay will be continued ….  ingredient  #3 cont., #4 Kinship, #5 writing poetic origins and manifestos for a dVerse Poets Pub Prompt, and #6 arranging a collection of my work to publish.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Turn Turn Turn

I miss you Pete Seeger.
May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014

"Turn Turn Turn" (to Everything There Is a Season) was adapted from the book of Ecclesiastes (3:1) by Pete Seeger in 1959. In 1965 The Byrds recording went to #1 on the Billboard 100.


by Pete Seeger

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven

The 5 extra verses he sang were written by his wife Toshi in the early 1950s when their children were small.   Here they are as I heard them on this video:
A time of work, a time for play
A time of night, a time for day
A time to sleep, a time to wake
A time for candles on the cake


A time to dress, a time to eat
A time to sit and rest your feet
A time to teach. a time to learn
A time for all to take their turn


A time to cry and make a fuss
A time to leave and catch the bus
A time for quiet, a time to talk
A time to run and a time to walk


A time to get, a time to give
A time to remember, a time to forgive
A time to hug, a time to kiss
A time to close your eyes and wish


A time for dirt, a time for soap
A time for tears, a time for hope
A time for fall, a time for spring
A time to hear the robin's sing

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven

(It is not too Late ...)

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Creator of Inwardness

Today The Paris Review posted A Creator of Inwardness, a fine remembrance of Susan Sontag, born today in 1933.  I quote:
I wouldn’t be the person I am, I wouldn’t understand what I understand, were it not for certain books. I’m thinking of the great question of nineteenth-century Russian literature: how should one live? A novel worth reading is an education of the heart. It enlarges your sense of human possibility, of what human nature is, of what happens in the world. It’s a creator of inwardness.
—Susan Sontag, 
The Art of Fiction No. 143

Elsewhere she wrote:

“My library is an archive of longings.” 

― Susan Sontag

This has been true for me, too.  Inwardness, desire and compassionin all of their complexitiesgrew in me through reading.


    Life was cushioned and dull until she 
entered books' portals and lived other lives 
besides her own—
     Dangerous dreaming time
in parallel universes she half
recognized in déjà vu dizziness—
    Naked characters dilemma-driven
at crossroads of life and death wrestling
with logic and emotion. 
     She listened whole-heartedly,
eavesdropping on mysteries of silence
that perplexed her in the everyday
with books shut and eyes on parents, pets,
teachers and classmates—
     She closed and hugged her novel
recognizing in nature each life as
a closed book with covers and inward
     She, too, designed a cover to protect
her inner spaciousness, growing like a tree
or iceberg greater beneath the surface.

Copyright © 2014 by S.L.Chast

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Madiba Poem by 11-year-old Botlhale Boikanyo

Here is one of the three reasons I stick with Facebook: friends spontaneously pass forward what moves them.  This amazing video came to me via poet Kay Davies who blogs at An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel.  She got it from Femi Oke who I see at Upworthy where she introduces herself: 
I’m an Al Jazeera journalist and broadcaster who’d love to show you around the globe. No passport needed because I’m going to curate the world for you. I’ll even let you keep your shoes on and drink 16 oz. sodas while following me on Facebook and Twitter.
From these social network beginnings, The Madiba Poem arrived here.  Later this year, I will use it for a poem prompt at Poets United where I have recently joined the creative team.  You could begin your poem now, as poet Botlhale Boikanyo or her poem or her performance or Nelson Mandela or any part of it inspires you.

Look at her smile
performing her poem
loving Mandiba's story.
Listen to her voice
turning two languages
into rivers that flow
into the human sea
part of which is me.
I want to rush out the door
with a magic marker
to write everywhere
Witness God Here.
God is Here, where
each of us stands.
Let us greet God here.