Thursday, March 3, 2016

A kind of new

Today is a kind of boring first among continuations. It is the first day I have walked my semi-regular morning path after a week of searing back pain. It is also the first day of Lent, a season that does seem to mark beginnings, but which in outward appearance is about killing things inside us to prepare us for "new" life we over and over celebrate. 

Last week, a still unresolved problem in my back became so intense I could barely walk. After consulting good doctors and a few days of strong medication, I am able to get back to most of my routine. But to be fair, I have to say that the routine had fallen out of favor with my actual practice, so perhaps this is difficulty woke me up.

I had resolved to walk only on paved, level ground, and to be very careful. My usual route is about a mile, but I've only gone a quarter or half that the last couple of days. And only a little into this meditation, I felt the surge: like a glowing, growing brick between my spine and hip. I picture an ugly stone over the coals of demon furnace.

When I reached the grassy area where I intended to turn back the way I'd come, I continued, as if walking the slope of a ditch was a natural act. I can't say this was the right course, or that it produced a mystical experience. I can state (or maybe whisper) there was a moment or two when I thought I could breathe in the stars of the clear sky.

constellations blaze
indifferent to hermits
burning from old places

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Toward and Away

Walking, especially solitary walks, is about conversation. In many good walks, we take a friend, or God, or a part of ourselves which needs concentrated attention. Sometimes I take along fear, anger, sorrow, and disappointment. A frequent co-traveler is confusion. At my age, I keep thinking I should know more, or better.  I should be more comfortable with what I do not know.

My strange summer is coming to an end. I can't say I'm going back to work, because I have been working much of the summer. But work will be different, even in the old routines. 

even crows scatter
at the sound of my slow steps
i must be alive

Walking towards something usually means walking away, and only God can talk to more than one person at a time. Even here, where my feet are free and my mind can roam, I must mumble the old prayers and whisper the old cries to reconnect.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Between failures

Between failures, I've been reading Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek, and the act is been a glorious mess. The book is like a long prose poem or meditation on biology, which puts it far over my head. Part of that is because I have no familiarity with the scientists or science she refers to with such ease, and I realize that there is a strange irony there. As I walked today, I realized that of all the classes I took in high school, the only "honors" class I ever had was in biology. Not long after this book of been published and became a bit of a sensation, I was in that class driving my instructor crazy not because of the usual science versus religion crap, but because I couldn't be still to see what I wanted or needed to.  

Once, when we were all supposed to be looking at something on the slide, I just couldn't get close enough. It seems as if I went in just a little further I could see more. Now, I can't recall what it was we were all trying to look at, but I know I wanted to see deeper into the thing, whatever it was. And somewhere in a dreamy distance, I could hear my teacher fairly screaming for me to stop, and I turned the knob on the microscope just a little more and just a little more. Then crack! I had broken everything.

black dragonfly
you have mosquitoes to catch
pause here a moment

This summer work calls to me. Perhaps if I was more honest, I would say that I call to it. After taking last summer off, I have thrown myself – not without some joy – into my job. I have a renewed vigor, and I want to take advantage of it. The loss is perhaps big. There will be no week of walking in the woods. There will probably be fewer sunflowers on my camera. More birds will be left alone. Some colors rise, and some colors fade.  I keep turning the knob. Hopefully with age I am a bit more careful.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

In Praise of Companions; Mixed Reviews on the Rain

A number of experts will tell you that one of the most successful factors in weight loss or any other exercise program is community. Having at least one partner in the exercise process has many benefits. However, as I've said here before, my main motivations for walking have been my spiritual and mental health, and the physical benefits have merely accentuate the first two. On the other hand I have walked more recently with a friend, and though I end up going much faster and elevating my heart rate, thus producing lots of good sweat, it is also been good to chat with someone about the stresses of work in a place that's not work, and talk to a friend who can laugh with you and help you laugh at yourself.

In the past few days we have had an uncharacteristic amount of rain. While it has been much needed in our drought-stricken state, it has also brought with it several unwelcome side effects: mosquitoes on the track, soggy shoes on unfamiliar paths, and worst of all, pictures of snakes on social media. I had been thinking lately about how an awareness of death has helped me be less phobic. Then this.

And so again, I alter my course as I take pre-dawn walks, chastising myself for letting such worries get the best of me, patting myself on the back for not volunteering to be the first person in Texas in over a century to be found lying dead of a snakebite in a field only a few yards from home.

porches and streets littered
with storm cut branches darkened
by lightless summer nights
now i hear birds arguing
and thank God i am awake 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Irrational (and somewhat joyful) is probably clear to anyone who has read my last couple of posts or been around me for the past month that it is nearly impossible for me to be rational about rain. I know all that stuff about how we need rain to make things grow, and as a lover of food, I really do want things to grow and not cost me a fortune. And here in Texas, we could have weeks of rain and still need more.

But it isn't so much the rain, but the feeling of getting beat down. I don't think I have seasonal affective disorder, but I confess I have found it harder to be happy in the winter. Much of that is related to childhood. Rain and cold keeps kids in, and I was obsessed with sports as a teenager. They also cancelled what I looked forward to most. (Sometimes I forget that during lousy weather, I enjoyed reading the most.) in the first
of spring's sun
i thought: even country
music cannot bring
me down -- then
someone posted about copperheads

This feeling -- of real anger and disappointment-- is silly, I admit, for an adult. The rain has not prevented me from walking, or kept me from most of the other activities I enjoy or care about deeply. It has made a few things harder, but harder is not impossible, and without challenges, we do not grow. As I have tried to think through this, I have also had to admit perhaps the accoutrements of my walks and the confluence of the other "rains" of Life have most gotten me down. In short, I am not good at adjusting my expectations of the world around me, even the world I cannot control.

I've laughed a little, when I've walked the past few days, at the swarms of gnats the freezes were supposed to kill, thinking, "So what good did we get out of that?" But as I said, to be rational is sometimes hard, particularly when hurting or afraid. Don't get me started on my feelings about snakes.

I'm not sorry for my irrationality--usually. I'm humbled and embarrassed that I let so much get to me, and that I pained others around me with my bitching instead of finding reasonable solutions. And yet, I also am hoping that the stupid wonder I find seeing the eye of a bird and the flight of a bee will transfer to the sweet music of rain, bright blankets of snow, and the swirl of grey skies.