The bushes are rounded, the water drained from the coiled garden hoses. The witches and scarecrows have moved into the dark basement, while the pilgrim couple watches the neighborhood from the front porch. The first snow fell before the leaves fell, and now the leaves have fallen, too. I raked mounds of big yellow sweet gum leaves from the gutter and across the sidewalk onto the lawn, as Dad wished, so he could vacuum them up with the riding mower. But the piles of leaves were much too deep for the mower. Advancing along the sidewalk, I raked the leaves into a neat windrow, as if for bailing, like hay, and each sweep of leaves onto the windrow rustled with the sound of small waves cresting and falling to lap gently at wet sand on a beach. I could hear the ocean in the raking of five-pointed leaves. The truth is, I expect God to bless me. I believe in his generosity. I believe in his intention to enrich my life, even if with adversity. I believe he will bless every human being with exactly those blessings that human needs in each moment for that human’s spiritual progress to the extent of that human’s willingness and ability to receive. The arrival of providence does not bring an accompanying ease, but rather an urgent invitation to be more than we have been. I believe that as I search for opportunities to enrich the lives of others, those opportunities will be provided, enriching my life in return. I believe God wants me and my children and all his human children to succeed, and will help us as we allow. Success, of course, as he defines, not as I define. He may bless me with hardship (he will bless me with hardship) just as he will bless me to grow through and heal from hardship, improving and ennobling in the process. I am learning that God is trustworthy. And I am learning, so slowly, to listen to his voice as he instructs me and guides me to love and to forgive and to serve. I hear his voice in the raking windrows of sweetgum leaves. And I left plenty of loose leaves to be sucked up by the lawn mower Dad managed to clamber onto and ride triumphantly and humbly across the lawn for the last time this year.
One meaning of the term “halter broke” indicates the condition of a horse after its mind and spirit have been broken such that when the horse is wearing a halter, the horse will not move from the spot where its halter hangs to the ground, unless led. As you read my poem Halter Broke, consider the ways in which you may have allowed yourself to be conditioned to the point of paralysis. Ponder what you can do to free yourself, so that you remember who you really are, so that you realize you are free to become who you choose to become. Whether it be through religion, spirituality, meditation, learning, prayer, forgiveness, or poetry–come to an understanding of what holds you back from achieving your full potential, both as an individual and as a member of your larger community. You can do it.
He stands at the scene,
at the very spot,
of his instruction.
While the tail lies coiled,
the lead rope’s head lunges
up to its stranglehold.
He stands in his space
sun-parched, thirst unsated,
though the trough sparkles
nearby under noon.
This is his place:
he will move
only when invited,
Drooped and down.
I went to bed early one evening, overcome by fatigue, stress, over-stimulation, and worry. But I could not sleep for all the ambient sounds that my ears so perfectly picked out. Instead of sleeping, I scrawled out this poem. Was it really sleep that I needed? Or did I need the ability in the moment to find joy and wonder in all that surrounded me? Did the ear plugs help or hinder my state of being? Let me know what you think.
Bulbous beetle sees
my nightstand light
and bounces his exoskeleton
against the vertical trampoline
of the window screen,
bounces three times,
his lace wings rasping like
sheets of stiff cellophane;
he can’t enter into my room
to reach the light he longs for,
and we both are the better for it.
Incorporeal sounds sail through—
a filly whinnying over his weaning,
a puppy straining and yapping
at her collar and leash,
our cat defending her kittens
against the neighbor’s surly tom,
children screaming delightedly
as they run at night in the grass,
only to bicker over turns
on the round trampoline—
they all drift in
to settle upon me
like a New England Bible
on a dying man’s chest.
Orange plugs twisted into my ears
dull it all, stop even
the crooning of the crickets
and the breeze’s inviting whisper.
(Caleb-3, upon finding two pennies.)
Though running late for work one morning, I felt a determination to take my walk on Rabbit Lane. Quickening my pace on the crunching gravel, I found myself thinking: If I hurry, maybe I can finish my 30 minute walk in 20 minutes. The absurdity of my thought struck me instantly. I chuckled to myself, but could see that my thinking deserved further study. I might as well have said, If I hurry, maybe I can short-change myself. Continue reading
On many a summer evening, as the dry air began to cool, the children found me in the garden sitting on a picnic chair hidden between rows of corn stalks, munching on cobs of raw sweet corn. That is as close to bliss as I’ve ever come. One day I yielded to the impulse to lie on my back in the dirt between the corn rows, close my eyes, and just listen. It took me years to put the experience into words, but I finally managed (hopefully) with “Summer Corn.” As the poem seeks to share with an anonymous companion, so now I share with you.
Lie with me between the rows of summer corn.
Don’t speak, yet.
to the raspy hum of bees gathering pollen from pregnant, golden tassels,
to the hoarse soft rubbing of coarse green leaves in the imperceptible breeze,
to the plinking rain of locust droppings upon the soft soil.
to the neighbor’s angus wieners bemoaning their separation,
to the pretty chukars heckling from the chicken coop,
to the blood pulsing in your ears, coursing through your brain.
Don’t speak, now.
Reach to touch my hand.
Listen to the world
from within the rows of summer corn.
Each morning as I leave for work I cross paths with my children. They each require a hug (or two or three) as I run out the door. I am often late and anxious to get away. Sometimes I protest, “Just let me go, guys” or “You already hugged me once” or “I’m just going to work.” When I slow down and live more mindfully, I stop and put my briefcase on the floor to give them a genuine embrace and a smile and a kind word, perhaps “I love you” or “Have a great day”. If I really pay attention to these moments of connection, I notice a subtle but distinct feeling of goodness and happiness, a sense that something in life has changed for the better. This poem is about one of those moments when I suppressed my natural tendency to hurry on to the next task and allowed myself to slow down and see what really needing doing. See the related Chapter 12: Worm Sign post of the Rabbit Lane: Memoir page of this blog.
ACROSS THE DAY
Down the stairs he stepped,
pulling up a pant leg
to expose to me
yesterday’s skinned knee
and today’s unabashed want
“It still hurts,” he whimpered
as I flew toward the door
with my briefcase and bagel.
“And you forgot.”
With guilty remembrance, I stopped
and lifted him to a counter top.
With guilty haste I rummaged through a drawer
for a bandage and soothing ointment.
“It feels better already,” he sighed,
his smile following me
out the door, down the highway,
and across the day.