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Poetry of Nature Late Summer


Sep 4, 2022

Autumn Moonlight

Autumn moonlight—
a worm digs silently
into the chestnut.

~ Matsuo Basho
Translated by Robert Hass

Autumn Moonlight Autumn moonlight— a worm digs silently into the chestnut. ~ Matsuo Basho Translated by Robert Hass

Autumn River Song The moon shimmers in green water. White herons fly through the moonlight. The young man hears a girl gathering water-chestnuts: into the night, singing, they paddle home together. ~ Li Po

Autumn Through the shutters it came autumn’s own shape: the warp of the candle flame. ~ Raizan

Winds of Autumn Even in a person most times indifferent to things around him they waken feelings the first winds of autumn ~ Saigyo

Green leaves That dawn after dawn Grow yellow, Red cheeks That fade With the passing days- If our world is made up Of such changes As these, Is it strange That my heart Is so sad? ~ Hsiao Kang

Dear Poetry of Nature Friends, Hello! How are you? Are you feeling the shift of late summer into autumn? As I said in my mid-summer missive, it has been an intense season of self-care, with many miracles. I'm grateful those miracles keep coming, and I'll say more about that in a bit. To get you in the mood and mind of autumn, I thought it would be cool to let the above poems trickle through your awareness. What details do you savor? I love their particular imagery and energy. Like the presence of chestnuts and moonlight in Basho and Li Po's poems. Like the shape of autumn in Raizan's poem, and the feelings autumn stirs in Saigo and Kang's poems. For me, each poem is a jewel, a brilliant snapshot of autumn in the hearts of these poets. I love how they awaken in me the wind-tossed eagerness for autumn. For your first prompt I invite you to consider if there is a poem above that touches you. Why? Or, why not? What if you held your palms out to receive autumn and asked, “Why not?” When you practice open receptivity, what qualities come forward? What details and gifts? What jewels of awareness can autumn offer you? "Why not...?"

Miracles This morning from our magic deck I sense late summer waning. I feel pregnant with Autumn! Twin yearling bucks browse pale green huckleberries. I love the proud velvet of their antlers. Their hides are a-twitch with deer flies, and the new scruff of winter coats.

Pipping her challenge, a lean, young Douglas Fir Squirrel races along the highway of a Douglas Fir crown. In preparation for autumn, she snips and drops green fir cones. I hear them smack to the forest floor. I've always wondered how squirrels avoid the sap.

From the thicket, Robin chuckles. On stately pink feet, afamily of Mourning Doves waddle the rockery, sussing out the seed I’ve scattered. Like tiny chickens, adult Spotted Towhees hop-scratch while their offspring dust bathe in the parched mulch. Tree Frog limbers his humid green ratchet. It’s wonderful to feel and breathe this new moisture! My heart lifts and my pores yawn. Just above the back door, Cross Orb Weaver dreams in his web. I spy a new scarlet leaf on my Dogwood tree. Tressy purrs in my lap. Through our bodies and senses, we listen for autumn and all her beautiful notes and changes. We welcome these miracles.

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“[T]hat old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air ... Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year's mistakes had been wiped clean by summer. ~ Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

September feels... I am loving all the September feels. What are you feeling? To deepen your connection you could try using the sentence stem: September feels... I feel the northern hemisphere tipping back from the sun and the lengthening play of shadow and light. I look forward to night's return, coolness, onshore flow, rain, and fog. I am eager for the respite they bring from heat domes, drought, and wildfires. Autumn’s changes always remind me of our fragility and vulnerableness. This is a time of dying to the self for Earth and for us. Autumn reminds how we are of Earth, and it is to Earth we return. Autumn feels like a time for goodbye, and I feel the sadnessHsiao Kang speaks of in his poem. Within the wheel of the seasons, I feel it is time to begin taking stock of the harvest. Autumn has always made me feel like it is time to return to the school of self. I look forward to preparing for the deep inner work of winter. I invite you to reflect and connect more deeply with autumn. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Just please make a time out for yourself to be still, open, and receptive in Nature. As you consider the following poem prompts, open to your feelings, to your imagination and experiences. Let your body and your senses speak through you.

  • Write a poem of what you’re looking forward to this autumn.

  • You could write a poem about what you’re saying goodbye to.

  • You might write a poem about dying to yourself.

  • You could write a poem about what you’re harvesting.

Please feel free to share your poems with your Poetry of Nature journey partners. You will find them here. Please know that every poem you share is your gift. To send your poems to Geoff and me, please reply to this email. We always look forward to hearing from you!

Dancing in September For the month ahead, I felt it would be fun to offer one of the most joyful R&B anthems ever: the timeless 1978 ode “September” by Earth, Wind, & Fire. Can you feel Maurice White’s joy and fond memories of September? White says he chose September 21st because he liked how the date flowed in the song. September was written over the course of one month, by Earth, Wind & Fire’s front man Maurice White, and songwriter Allee Willis. Since then, over four and a half decades, millions around the world have celebrated the advent of the autumn equinox by grooving to "September". For your final prompt, I invite you to shake your groove thing to "September". You can watch the video here. Please sing along with the lyrics below! Do you remember The 21st night of September? Love was changin’ the minds of pretenders While chasin’ the clouds away Our hearts were ringin’ In the key that our souls were singin’ As we danced in the night, remember How the stars stole the night away, oh, yeah Hey, hey, hey Ba-dee-ya, say, do you remember? Ba-dee-ya, dancin’ in September Ba-dee-ya, never was a cloudy day My thoughts are with you Holdin’ hands with your heart to see you Only blue talk and love, remember How we knew love was here to stay Now December Found the love that we shared in September Only blue talk and love, remember The true love we share today Hey, hey, hey Ba-dee-ya, say, do you remember? Ba-dee-ya, dancin’ in September Ba-dee-ya, never was a cloudy day Ba-dee-ya (Dee-ya, dee-ya), say, do you remember? Ba-dee-ya (Dee-ya, dee-ya), dancin’ in September Ba-dee-ya (Dee-ya, dee-ya), golden dreams were shiny days The bell was ringin’, oh, oh Our souls were singin’ Do you remember never a cloudy day? Yow There was a Ba-dee-ya (Dee-ya, dee-ya), say, do you remember? Ba-dee-ya (Dee-ya, dee-ya), dancin’ in September Ba-dee-ya (Dee-ya, dee-ya), never was a cloudy day And we’ll say Ba-dee-ya (Dee-ya, dee-ya), say, do you remember? Ba-dee-ya (Dee-ya, dee-ya), dancin’ in September Ba-dee-ya (Dee ya, dee-ya), golden dreams were shiny days Autumn blessings, NanLeah

“As long as autumn lasts, I shall not have hands, canvas and colors enough to paint the beautiful things I see.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

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Geoff Oelsner’s PONderings

Dear PON Friends, Cool is coming. The Autumn Equinox arrives on Thursday, September 22 at 6:04 PM PDT. During this time, the sun shines directly on the equator, and the northern and southern hemispheres get the same amount of rays as sun transits the equator towards the south. Here are some… Poems Of Regenerative Oneness With The Earth For the Coming Autumn A pause can permit an open moment, can admit you to a realm of rest and renewal. Let these autumnal poems prompt pauses and possibly poems of your own. We’ll take a sacred pause when we meet together on September 12 at the threshold of autumn, and return to the below poems and write poems of our own as we celebrate the advent of autumn. ~ Geoff Oelsner

Grace for Gurney Norman, quoting him The woods is shining this morning. Red, gold and green, the leaves lie on the ground, or fall, or hang full of light in the air still. Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes the place it has been coming to forever. It has not hastened here, or lagged. See how surely it has sought itself, its roots passing lordly through the earth. See how without confusion it is all that it is, and how flawless its grace is. Running or walking, the way is the same. Be still. Be still. “He moves your bones, and the way is clear.” ~ Wendell Berry Autumn I love the fitful gust that shakes The casement all the day And from the mossy elm tree takes The faded leaf away Twirling it by the window-pane With thousand others down the lane I love to see the shaking twig Dance till the shut of eve The sparrow on the cottage rig Whose chirp would make believe That spring was just now flirting by In summers lap with flowers to lie I love to see the cottage smoke Curl upwards through the naked trees The pigeons nestled round the coat On dull November days like these The cock upon the dung-hill crowing The mill sails on the heath a-going The feather from the ravens breast Falls on the stubble lea The acorns near the old crows nest Fall pattering down the tree The grunting pigs that wait for all Scramble and hurry where they fall ~ John Clare (1793-1864) Pleasant Sounds The rustling of leaves under the feet in woods and under hedges; The crumpling of cat-ice and snow down wood-rides, narrow lanes and every street causeway; Rustling through a wood or rather rushing, while the wind halloos in the oak-top like thunder; The rustle of birds' wings startled from their nests or flying unseen into the bushes; The whizzing of larger birds overhead in a wood, such as crows, puddocks, buzzards; The trample of robins and woodlarks on the brown leaves. and the patter of squirrels on the green moss; The fall of an acorn on the ground, the pattering of nuts on the hazel branches as they fall from ripeness; The flirt of the groundlark's wing from the stubbles – how sweet such pictures on dewy mornings, when the dew flashes from its brown feathers. ~ John Clare The Spider and The Bowl "A noiseless patient spider, I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated..." ~ Walt Whitman An anarchistic spider— I mark'd it where it crouched, spinning luminous filaments pitched out to gales gusting leaves over light-baked ledges by a lake where a somnolent tribe of its kind hunched sunning one late autumn afternoon. I mark'd as its compadres stirred and scuttled over the ledge toward a bar of pemmican left in my Ozark walnut bowl. The inspired spider kept on spinning, stringing some invisible wind-lyre. Honor to you, lone arachnid bard! And you, O my bowl, in your limited compass complete, concave conclave of great Earth's harvest, old camping friend useful, empty and generous, you thickcut brown concentric-banded polished walnut branch become bowl, my bowl in the sun, I mark well how we hosted that hungry herd of spiders to a fine Thanksgiving dinner in the presence of a singular minstrel of their kin. ~ Geoff Oelsner Your Autumn Face Now, there is no telling birds' curved shadows from their crossing flights; the jeweled antlers from winds that gorge them. Now all flows in the veins of a darker rainbow and motions couple in the dusk. It is a time of coming together in the land. Gelled sun bursts like a yolk on the meadow-line; sky's violet eye deepens. We lie scattered on the fading tapestry of grass, looking upon ourselves with wonder. One cannot own another (and I could not lose you in this Mystery). The leaf, the ground, the shadow meet and fall into darkness together, as the three of us-- you, me, and all of us-- join ourselves with the fading shadows and enter the smoky land coming together. ~ Geoff Oelsner Now…I promised in my August letter, to share excerpts from a journal my friend the Kansas landscape artist Robert Sudlow kept in August 1998 from when he was in his native Kansas to when he flew out to California to paint and visit friends. Its pages pulse with his quivery script and sketches of the changing landscapes. Here are dark lamentations about the human experiment, like: “This is a world of noise. Reality is changed into possibility. A vagueness permeates consciousness, it has no beginning or end. True reality is forgotten, a word unspoken. Noise is manufactured in the city, just as goods are manufactured. The great city is a fortress against silence, around which destruction hovers in feverish activity. It is a striving toward destruction, a search for death, or the silence after death.” Here too are descriptions of great natural beauty. I hope you’ll find some spiritual food in Robert Sudlow’s meditations. Blessings to all, Geoff Excerpts From Robert Sudlow’s Journal August 7, 1998 Friday morning, outside Lawrence, KS A still damp overcast morning, curiously breathing an air of nostalgia. The birds are stilled all sounds hushed and muted, almost dreamlike. My walk in the woods seems a passage into timelessness. The past present and what will be strangely present also. Sitting on the cabin porch, blending into the weedy hilltop old paths, brambled woods. Sumac suddenly red, spiders with limp webs across my face, the dog sniffing mole hills. A jet liner unseen in the low clouds. Nothing clear but all things diffuse in a mixed morning dream. Rest on the flight into Egypt. Camping at the source of many tributaries, crossroads. Without action, we are all wanderers, half asleep. From the throat of a high perched cardinal tentative calls of awakening, clear, assertive. Moss and mold begone, roots and things underground stir. The book of changes unfolds. Squat mushrooms, white puffballs, broken boughs, tireless weeds lead the way. Silver-blue floating in a shallow sea earth reflecting liquid air. What of the world and all its humans? Simply I would pray for their well-being—corporality I’m not sure. August 10 [Bob flew to California via Denver—G.O.] KCI to Denver 757—Two mouths large as truck wheels polished throats to gulp sky. A scattering of fleecy ewes. A long path down the concrete runway: distant and phantasy filled north route-then west along the Kaw {River}, Topekathen all erased by cloud cover— the plateaus of illegible whiteness. High over the plains—intricate patterns of farm lands. Like the intricate workings of wasps’ nest, the instinctive completeness of spider webs or coral heads. Human reason mimics nature’s creatures. Air gulping jet engine, a swallower of space condensed into thrust up and over the crusted city, spawned in foothills under the still wild mountains—up into towers of cloud fluff. Forestville, CA August 4 morning by the pool Cloudless sunrise with 3 balloons hanging near Mt. St. Helena. Three jays squack in complete contempt of the hour riding on an ocean of air. Silver morning sunlight lifts across mountains burning with heat glowing across the continent a grand overwhelming giant. This intensity carries the hour-awakening-and destroying indifferently. My dream scatters—time extends including names, hunger, and forgetfulness of night New lifted joy. This peaceful seeming light across a distant murmurous valley-instead of pollution surrounding and madness it seems a place of heroes, this hill fit for a temple. Wednesday The old coastal highway, the foggy path and great coastal cliffs-return reawakened and full of infinite powers. Truly I am blessed with opportunities. Monday on Big Creek Blowing clouds-dark-flat gray sea. Painted AM in sunlight. Sleep and awake in a paradise of possibility. I get on my feet with some difficulty: it is vaguely humorous. I have six paintings from this trip—likely frivolous sketches from a fading eye—yet it is worthwhile because it comes from a naked wonder. Somehow it is a witness of something holy that I could glimpse no other way. Tuesday August 11 Painting in West’s lost field. [The field sloped a long distance down to the shore of the Pacific. Bob painted there often. I could feel how the surrender and power in his highly energetic artistic process precipitated joy and blessing there—G.O.] Finally the energy in grass stems seems to inform my painting. All the landscape waits for this release. How fortunate when it happens. “Imagine the westerly squalls you have seen Battering clouds in a silver sky. The waves curl and blister on the sea below and lines of spray sheer off in the wind.” ~ Stanley Lombardi [Other quotes from Robert’s friend Stanley Lombardi’s translation of the Iliad precede and follow the above one in the journal. The next entries were made in California between August 21-31—G.O.] Sunday High noon brilliant sky blue...the southern ranch road. On the hills high above the ocean, an incomprehensible expanse. The blue waters rise to whitecaps, pound white on the cliffs. I look but do not understand. Like in a double sky, a universe beyond this shore. Wednesday This is a world of noise. Reality is changed into possibility. A vagueness permeates consciousness, it has no beginning or end. True reality is forgotten, a word unspoken. Noise is manufactured in the city, just as goods are manufactured. The great city is a fortress against silence, around which destruction hovers in feverish activity. It is a striving toward destruction, a search for death, or the silence after death. There is no world unity of the spirit of religion or politics. But there is a world unity of noise. In this all men and things are connected. Painting after dinner as the joy moves across West’s field. The tall grass rises in shafts of green gold. The fallen grass is silvered, a web of etched swirls. A palpable drift moves across the tall tree walls. I try the slope falteringly-yet an improvement over last time. Thursday The time of this trip has been rich and good. Already I joy at the harvest. Driving the coastal highway in my rental red car, leaning back as in a comfortable lounge the old panorama unreels. The highway is crowded and tin vehicles joust for position. Dreamlike journey edged with mortality. A salt breeze travels inland, some resonance of the ocean resides in us all. I see and feel it even here. Ancient shades climb upward. The hills reflect a salty sunset. Look again—the last rosy light now makes its last stand on the distant eastern hill... Friday, August 28th Sun travel, climbing from eastern shambles, through silver shrouds. Resurrection again in the grasses, among the quail and me. Warmth of creation the difference between heaven and earth Behind a valley of radiant haze, a constant noise of a million automobiles, like the humming of a doomsday ceaseless activity of the hive, the coming and going of a blind and doomed species. At Goat Island Look Out —a god’s view of the edge of the world, sea rocks sky and sand, wind, grass and the fragrance of salt breeze The beach-one of the few settings where humans become ennobled by contagion (taken into their own beginnings). A child hunting for curious pebbles removed the wrath of wild waves—Aphrodite ashore, a languid sea creature—the mother memory. Oil on the gearwheels; sidereal lubricants-for the operations of the universe-a hum still remains. I can hear it now. Forestville, CA Sunday morning again A morning in the world, an open passage, a time to awaken and witness near hill and distant Mt. Helena, cloudless sunlight rising warmth. To realize continuous beginnings like a chilled lizard awakening…a quail stirs to life in the warmed grass. “The morning wind spreads its fresh smell. We must get up and take that in, that wind that lets us live. Breathe before it is gone.” ~ Rumi An empty hour before dusk, when the shining brightness climbs back into the sky...a stillness of distance returns. In this space my eyes can rest and draw nourishment. The mountain slopes become fields of dream, and I find home—radiance—levitation of place [Bob flew back home to Kansas on August 31, 1998.] * * *

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