750. Mary Oliver's Song of the Builders

750. Oliver Song of the Builders.jpg

While on vacation a couple weeks ago and sitting outside a coffee shop on the two-lane highway that runs from Duluth up to Canada, I noticed a free library box off to my right. Inside were a couple of good finds, including a book of Mary Oliver poems, New and Selected Poems, Volume 2. In my book bag in the car I already had a couple volumes of Oliver's essays, which I'd taken along to reread, but I didn't own this book of poetry so added it to my stack of books for the road.

Inside I found this poem, "Song of the Builders." I love its take on work: humility, effort, and hope all merging together to rebuild the universe. Read it and see what you think.

750. Song of the Builders.jpeg

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[Photo: taken of a humble and hopeful daisy.]

749. Making visible signs of hope

749. Making Visible Signs of Hope.jpg

This past week I've been reading Henri Nouwen's, The Wounded Healer. Written in 1972 and primarily to an audience of ministers, I'm finding that it offers much wisdom to anyone who seeks to be a caring and positive presence in the world. I'm going to write more about it in my newsletter this weekend, but here's a place to start:

More than anything, else, he will look for signs of hope and promise in the situation in which he finds himself...[and have] the sensibility to notice the small mustard seed and the trust to believe that ‘when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’ (Mt. 13:31—32) He knows that if there is hope for a better world in the future the signs must be visible in the present, and he will never curse the now in favor of the later. He is not a naive optimist who expects his frustrated desires to be satisfied in the future, nor a bitter pessimist who keeps repeating that the past has taught him that there is nothing new under the sun; he is rather a man of hope who lives with the unshakable conviction that now he is seeing a dim reflection in the mirror, but that one day he will see the future face to face.

The Christian leader who is able not only to articulate the movements of the spirit but also to contemplate his world with a critical but compassionate eye, may expect that the convulsive generation will not choose death as the ultimate desperate form for protest, but instead the new life of which he has made visible the first hopeful signs.

Please forgive Nouwen the exclusive use of masculine pronouns (which he apologizes for in the introduction to the edition I read). Next, consider that his term "the convulsive generation" can apply to any person who is troubled or needs hope.

And then, most importantly, let's please imagine ourselves (dare I say) in the leader role, articulating the spirit, considering our world with a compassionate eye, and making visible signs of hope to whomever among us needs it.

~~~

[Photo: reflections on a summer sidewalk]

748. A reminder of the journey

748. A reminder of the journey.jpg

This past week I put back on my finger a ring I bought in Santa Fe during my first MFA residency, 13 years ago next month. I wrote about this ring in a chapter of Finding Livelihood.

I crossed the street to the Palace of the Governors. Blue, green, and burgundy blankets laid side-to-side in a row the length of a city block as if ready for a picnic if the goods don’t sell. On the blankets were pendants, necklaces, earrings, rings, guitar picks, barrettes, and broaches made of silver, copper, turquoise, coral, and lapis. Each Native American artist or artist’s representative presided over his or her wares from the head of the blanket, seated either on a chair, a low stool, or the veranda floor.

Small crowds gather at each blanket, and so patrons often wait for a turn to look down, crouch, pick up, and try on. I saw a ring but couldn’t reach it. The young woman with long black hair, seated on a stool, smiled and reached out with a long narrow stick she kept on the floor next to her. She slid one end of the stick through the ring’s opening, lifted it from its black velvet display box, and glided it dangling from the stick to my hand. I slid the ring on my finger.

“Did you make this?” I asked.

“Yes,” the woman said, and she showed me where the band bore her maker’s mark.

It was a split ring, open in the middle—for design purposes of course, but also conveniently accommodating the changing ring size of women throughout a lifetime or the month, like elastic in a pair of durable pants. On one side of the split is an oval turquoise, more blue than the earrings and with fewer veins. Along the stone’s perimeter, a hefty sterling silver band curves ever so slightly over its surface as if the stone were floating on hidden water and would bounce right up without the metal’s angled hold. The other side of the split is a vertical silver bar. Engraved in the silver bar and around the band is a zigzag design—a mountain range, the woman told me. It means journey.
— Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure

After buying the ring, I wore it daily for years but then took it off awhile back—no reason—and put it in my drawer. Lately, though, I've been needing the reminder again of the journey. Maybe it's the book project I'm working on. Maybe it's the conversations I've recently had. Maybe it's the passage of time. So I'm wearing it again. Maybe someone reading this post needs the reminder as well.

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[Photo: taken of the mountains outside of Santa Fe.]