Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Giving, Receiving

Perhaps most of us find it more difficult to ask for help than to give help. Easier to see ourselves as strong and having something worth sharing rather than seeing ourselves as weak and needy. Yet here we are, under our prideful facades, receiving, receiving, receiving. All we need to survive every minute from conception to the moment when our body no longer carries our life flows to us.

I write to myself: if you're reading this, you have enough, even if you feel bad and blue.

My friend Judy mentions the image of calm in the deep ocean and busy excitement in the waves on the surface. She points out how we simultaneously have both calm and excitement in our lives, and we can see either element, or both, depending on our choice of thoughts, our noticing, our point of view.

We take such pride in what we give. Do we forget to notice the much greater gift we constantly receive?

Yesterday the morning sky tinted the whole world pinky-salmon, and by mid-afternoon the air temperature rose into the low seventies. Today clouds and rain. Wind coming, and cold. Weather, like the ocean waves, is part of the busy surface stuff of the world.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Uh-Oh! Forwarded on email...

To save the economy, starting in January, the Federal Government will start deporting old people (instead of illegals) inorder to lower Social Security and Medicare costs. Old people are easier to catch and will not remember how to get back home.

... See you on the bus.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Whole Shebang

We experience elegance, joy, beauty, hope, comfort AND catastrophe, loss, grief, bitterness, despair. Plus many more emotions on either side of that AND. One holds physical pain and spiritual solace together in the palm of the same hand because they co-exist.

If we are truth tellers, we will tell of the whole shebang, not hiding the hard parts of life because that's socially uncomfortable, considered self-pitying, or depressing, or some such nonsense. I actively seek the company of truth tellers who will look in the face of death and confidently, calmly say, "It's hard, and at the same time all is well." What did we expect, we'd get out of this life alive?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We Pause to Give Thanks

for the voyage of life from seed to harvest, the kiss
of rain and sun and growth, the gifts of the earth given

into the hands of strangers, friends and family
whose efforts now bring such bounty to this table.

Thanks for the soft animal body that carries each life
here present, so sturdy and so fragile;

thanks and praise for fellowship, and for the lives
of those now absent whose essence yet echoes among us;

Thanks for the complex ways we each continue to seek
and find our place, unique like everyone else.

Lead us to the gift of regular silence until it silences us;
bring us to choose gratitude until we are truly grateful;

fill us with praise until we ourselves become
a constant act of praise.

So we give thanks for all things, including joys
and sorrows here deeply felt but left unspoken.


~~~~~~~Carol Bindel

Sunday, November 20, 2011


A bald eagle rows the sky, it's wings so strong-looking and pulling evenly.
A twittery flutter of starlings as they rise, a whirring wing-beat of iridescence.
The bluest depth of the bowl that covers us all.

The covering bowl re-glazed, now colored in striated tints and shades of gray.
The smells of manure mixed with water and earth in the meadow, of fermented corn silage, of ripe ossage orange leaves and fruit.
The red berries of dogwood, viburnem, rose hips.
The black wooly-bear curling and straightening its way down the road, wearing the color that, according to folklore, foretells a hard winter to come

The hope of continuance, the certainty of change.
"Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, and ten thousand beside."
The blessing of all the ten thousand things.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


They're back, fluttering, flittering up and down, high in the trees then dropping, feeding on the ground, tossing leaves to find hidden goodies, soaring again. They make a great, recognizable sound.

There are fewer in the woods, when they visit, than there were in that sky river of starlings I remember experiencing at the MVA one morning when I was setting up the driver license test course before I began the early truck test. That year they streamed horizon to horizon. 1996. I paused among the orange traffic cones to just observe for a minute, to open my senses to the world that included those amazing birds. I wrote a poem, but it seems to be as far gone as that sunrise. All I have is the date, title and the memory of that streaming flock. They flew as if they were the cheery, chittery flow within invisible-to-me river banks in that day's cold, gray, November sky. I remember the smell of asphalt and exhaust and moist, moving air. I have not forgotten the starlings.

Friday, November 18, 2011

To Friends!

A joy shared is a joy doubled; a burden shared is a burden halved. (My variation on the theme of an old proverb; google gives a giggle of source attributions.)

Yesterday I had a morning walk with a friend. This morning I had breakfast with another. In both cases the conversation moved deep into sharing our truest understanding of what really matters to each. Some moments tears welled up, other moments laughter rang out, and together we each experienced enrichment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just a Minute

"Having imagination it takes you an hour to write a paragraph that if you were unimaginative would take you only a minute." Franklin Pierce Adams, journalist and columnist, quoted in The Writer's Almanac for November 15, 2011.

Today my imagination is crippled (medical tests require a caffeine-free day, and the local sky and atmosphere is drizzly-dull, as well) and my minute has passed.

Beauty, Joy, All the Small Stuff

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful, said William Morris, whose designs originated the Arts and Crafts movement in England in the second half of the nineteenth century.

One friend told me that when she considers a new purchase, she asks herself how she presently does the job the new item shall do. And where will she put the new thing? What smart friends I have! (Family, too.) Now I also ask those questions of myself before I make a purchase.

When I googled the above quote for exact reference and source, I came upon these, also, from William Morris: The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.

If I were asked to say what is at once the most important production of Art and the thing most to be longed for, I should answer, A beautiful House; and if I were further asked to name the production next in importance and the thing next to be longed for, I should answer, A beautiful Book. To enjoy good houses and good books in self-respect and decent comfort, seems to me to be the pleasurable end towards which all societies of human beings ought now to struggle.

Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement; a sanded floor and whitewashed walls and the green trees, and flowery meads, and living waters outside.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Everything, But Light

As we tumble into the season of short and brilliant days, consider this true statement:
We cannot see light, we can only see objects which light illuminates.

So, how do we see non-object reality? Things like joy, pain, contentment?

Yesterday I was again blinded by light, this time as I walked westward along Deer Creek in the late afternoon. My own poem came to my mind, and here I share it:

Everything, But Light

In a half-dream before waking,
little capsules of color
almost like bubbles

dance in dark space
and the Universe trills
so pleased for playfulness

and beauty. Even injured
and disappearing ones are
wholly acceptable.

Rendered in haiku—
within and between
the void and all matter, you,
an ovoid rainbow—

those two words appear,
(void, ovoid)
one above the other,

one letter of difference,
only that
circle of potential apart.

I rise into the promise
of day, sunshine flows
from just above the horizon
straight into my eyes.

I lose sight of everything
but light.

~~Carol Bindel

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Learned long ago

Yesterday's wind reminded me of this poem which I memorized when I was in elementary school:

Come Little Leaves

"Come, little leaves,"
Said the wind one day,
"Come over the meadows
With me, and play;
Put on your dresses
Of red and gold;
Summer is gone,
And the days grow cold."

Soon as the leaves
Heard the wind's loud call,
Down they came fluttering,
One and all;
Over the meadows
They danced and flew,
Singing the soft
Little songs they knew.

Dancing and flying
The little leaves went;
Winter had called them
And they were content-
Soon fast asleep
In their earthy beds,
The snow laid a soft mantle
Over their heads.

Written by the American poet George Cooper (1838–1927), "Come Little Leaves" was one of a standardized collection of poems printed in little pamphlets and distributed to school children each year to be memorized as part of the Pennsylvania curriculum requirement at the time. I've loved that poem since the year-- third grade? fourth?-- I made up a little song to sing and dance with it, over and over, in the process of memorization.

How useful for me to recall that learning happens most easily if I will involve rhythm, a tune, a lyric, a dance or stomp, whatever seems fun so my whole body gets involved. Learning as a full body experience.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This too, this too...

Predawn light. Fog on the land.
Sunrise approaching, near-full moon westering.
Pearl colored air like thick, quality paper.

Trees-- trunk, twig, clinging leaf-- like ink strokes,
some drawn with full-bristles brush strokes,
some with one stroke of a single bristle.

This too, this too. This too shall pass.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A beautiful-weather, beautiful-company weekend. Then Monday morning the fog limited our view. We could see the trees around us, but not the road or anything beyond. Moisture muffles sound and sunshine, and takes on the colors poured into it. So the fog was tinged pink-gold from sunrise and trees with leaves still clinging. I felt wrapped in a huge, soft comforter.

By mid-morning Monday the air had cleared, and this season's brilliance emerged again to bless all. Who wants to be inside at a computer in weather like this? The brilliant sunshine, the golden hour, the brilliant moonlight-- oh, I look and look, breathe it all in, let the scents of each moment of these amazing days permeate my cells.

"Summer and winter and springtime and harvest
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love"
(from the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness, words by Thomas O. Chisholm)

That Being that life on this earth carries at essence, this marvelous time to experience Being in the world.

Friday, November 4, 2011

My friend Terrianne Swift lives in another state, sees another landscape. Yet we share the world and ideas, we email, we recognized each other-- how? As fellow seekers? Artists? Individuals who tremble for the pain of the world and wish to hold it gently?

From my writings on this blog, you know of my daily walks. In a recent email Terrianne wrote of hers. Her words bring me such a tender, clear
holding of each described detail that my breath comes more easily and my heart feels more open after reading. I feel like I've been blessed. I share this with her permission:

-A break for a description from my walk today:

I chose the longer walk home from CircleK, the one that takes me down an alley behind a house and a few businesses. I thought of you, your daily walk ("Give us this day our daily walk, and forgive us our trespasses"?), how far my little path is from the scope of 'natural world' you encounter, and yet how satisfying it is to me.

When I walk there, I see a gravel lot where some small house trailers are stored, the gravel uneven and after a rain holding pools of water where the birds splash and cats drink--puddles too shallow for waves, so they perfectly reflect back the sky and trees. There are rabbits, a groundhog (surprisingly quick on his/her feet when startled), goldfinches, and a pair of cardinals in the stand of honeysuckle bushes--leaves still green now in almost-November! but the red berries showing, and a lot of vining somethings.

Those have climbed onto the cinderblock Genuine Auto Parts building, a building I've come to have affection for maybe just because it's been centered in the view from my front window for the last 5 years. The building-long sign is peeling, there's a small erratically blinking neon sign in the window that seems cheerful against rainy days, and the back of the building has become a semi-abstract painting, in my eyes--the unidentified ivy vine that's now turned the bright red of a maple, not that sharp red (do you see these colors the same way I do? we've talked about that) of poison ivy, the patterns it makes as it winds up and across the wall, the way the wild grapevine has strung itself, hanging from the building's corner...

Across the gravel lot there are two cellphone towers where the birds like to loudly gather toward evening--I think it's a mix, not all starlings, though there are a lot of those. And of course a mating pair of red-shouldered hawks often circle, hoping to snatch dinner.

So--there it is, dubiously beautiful, almost always satisfying.

~Terrianne Swift

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What's it all about?

Think of a time when you experienced the juxtaposition of two things so strikingly opposed to each other that it seemed to you that these two elements almost could not exist side by side, Rev. Lisa instructed the group gathered for discussion at Lunch Bunch on Tuesday.

What do you think of?

One group member mentioned the saying, at an open-casket funeral, "Doesn't s/he look good?" Another mentioned her experience of a deep, abiding, life sadness and yet, simultaneously, how laughter and joy welled up in her life. Yet another told of a time when an experience of being entirely vulnerable led to a position of strength.

For me, what leapt to mind was the memory of a glorious, blue-and-gold Monday in May when abundant life flourished, plants in the surrounding fields so verdant and vibrant, balmy breeze, a day absolutely gorgeous. That particular day I stood by my father's grave, the polished sheen of golden oak closed over his calloused hands, as he was returned to the earth. In that hour, I knew with sharp clarity that my life was all mine, all about me, and simultaneously not about me at all.

(Now, decades later, I live with cats. Any time one can observe that cats know it's all about them.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tell me a story.

"[A] human being is never reducible to biology. To make that reduction... overlooks a world of emotion, memory, fantasy, and meaning, all of which more directly define a human being than the body pictured on a doctor's skeleton chart of bone and organs," writes Thomas Moore in his book Original Self. (HarperCollins, 2000, 53).

Emotion, memory, fantasy, and story. How do we collect memory and meaning if not through the creation of story? Even small, basic equations (2+3=5) tell a little, comprehensible, memorable story.

Being me, that little equation I intended to choose at random suddenly appears like the story of my life-- me, my husband, our three kids. Therein hangs the tale. Experience, collected into words with meanings assigned, and thus the stories emerge of a life, of a community, of a nation, a world.