May 1, 2022
May this letter find each of you well, safe, and strong. May you have time to delight in your neck of the woods, and this turn around the sun. May the joy and exuberance of mid spring awaken and nourish your being.
Dear Poetry of Nature Friends, May this letter find each of you well, safe, and strong. May you have time to delight in your neck of the woods, and this turn around the sun. May the joy and exuberance of mid spring awaken and nourish your being.
Today If ever there were a spring day so perfect, so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze that it made you want to throw open all the windows in the house and unlatch the door to the canary's cage, indeed, rip the little door from its jamb, a day when the cool brick paths and the garden bursting with peonies seemed so etched in sunlight that you felt like taking a hammer to the glass paperweight on the living room end table, releasing the inhabitants from their snow-covered cottage so they could walk out, holding hands and squinting into this larger dome of blue and white, well, today is just that kind of day. ~ Billy Collins
I hope that, like me, you are discovering ways to awaken and nourish your life with joy this spring. Billy Collin’s “Today” feels like the perfect, lively way to celebrate! Don’t you love that day in spring when you can throw open all the windows in your house? What’s it like to ponder, and feel Collins' images of setting canaries and snow globe inhabitants free into this larger dome of blue and white? I invite you to enjoy 26 seconds of well, today is just that kind of day embodied. I find this unexpected and unabashed joy astonishing. When I saw it, I thought, Well, of course cowscan experience light-on-your-feet joy! How does this videomake you feel? I offer the following questions as one or more possible prompts. Throughout this letter, please notice where you feel the prompts: your body, your heart, your mind. You could experience them emotionally, intuitively, through your five senses, and beyond! For you, what makes the perfect spring day? When you feel light-on-your-feet joy, when you feel into throwing open all the windows in your home, what opens for, and in you? In your life, what is etched in sunlight? Here in mid spring, who or what are you setting free?
The smallest flower is a thought, a life answering to some feature of the Great Whole, of whom they have a persistent intuition. ~ Honore de Balzac
I hope that through these letters and through this year you are finding joy and inspiration. I hope you’re deepening your connection with your Nature spot! This mid spring what and who are you witnessing? For most Birds, the spring migration season runs April through June. This year, I find myself noticing certain birds and their unique migrations. I feel that migrating Birds possess "a persistent intuition", and they answer...to some feature of the Great Whole. It's this knowingness that makes me feel like throwing open windows. It gives me deep joy. Last month I shared with you my delight in Band Tailed Pigeon’s return. For me they are angels among us, and they vibrate with lightheartedness, grace, and sometimes a goofy energy. Through spring and summer, I love hearing their gentle cheers drifting from the canopy. Theirs is always a joyful season. It is a compliment and a blessing to be their migratory destination and a place to call home as they rear their single chick.
Band Tailed Angel
Today, I notice a pigeon pair settle together on a Douglas Fir branch. The male fluffs his crown, ruffs his collar, inflates his chest. He croons to his love. She’s having none of this and savagely pecks at his display. He is humbled by her ferocity. They sit silently for some while, on their mossy branch.
Golden Crowned Sparrows
Yesterday, from my peripheral I spied a familiar, elusive energy. Two pairs of Golden Crowned Sparrows! It joys me out that our little patch of Earth is a place where these Sparrows pause. For few days, they rest and store the sustenance I offer, before continuing their migration to their breeding grounds in Alaska. They’re garbed in earthy breeding plumage. I love the commanding black stripes along their head, a jaunty frame for golden crowns. I’m always grateful and delighted when Golden Crowned Sparrows remember that our dance of plants offers a place to stop and rest during their spring and fall migrations.
Glorious greys. White Crowned Sparrow with female Dark Eyed Junco in foreground
The next morning, I felt lucky to spy another visitor. White Crowned Sparrows. I love their finely drawn white and black stripes above their gold bill. Puff balls in the morning chill, their soft grey bellies gather mid spring's warming light. Their childlike curiosity sets them apart as they forage. Witnessing these Sparrows’ brief visitations always plants me in Nature’s migratory energy. The visitations of these Pigeons and Sparrows are prayers answered. This mid spring, I delight in migratory energy answered prayers. To be one stop along their determined journeys on fragile feathers and hollow bone, or to be their destination, is a great honor. I’m so grateful to be able to throw open these windows with you. As a possible prompt I invite you to feel into migration. This mid spring, how might migration be a metaphor in your life? Where are you traveling from? Where are you headed? Where do you stop for rest and sustenance along the way? What does it feel like to reach your destination?
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Ten Breath Meditation Recently, I’ve been inspired by the late Vietnamese Buddhist teacher, peace activist, and author Thich Nhat Hahn, by natural navigator Tristan Gooley, and my personal practice of ten breath meditations. Wherever you are physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, this is a great way to practice silence and stillness. It's a way to slow and soften into any moment. I’ve made this meditation my own, and I’d like to share it with you. I invite you to make it your own! I invite you to show yourself the kindness and compassion you would shine on a child learning something for the first time. Please have your journal handy to write down your before and after impressions of this practice. Before you begin your practice, notice how you feel now. What feelings, words, lines or images suggest themselves?
From wherever you are, I invite you to settle in and soften. Just notice where your breath is in your body. Notice how you are feeling. Be gentle with yourself.
Place your hands about 2 inches below your navel. Take a slow, easy breath. Feel your breath fill your nose and throat. Let it bless your heart and fill your lungs.
Notice how your hands and fingers naturally expand and contact as this wave of air moves your belly and you.
Breathe in this slow easy way for ten breaths. If you lose track of your breathing just notice that, then bring your attention back to your breath. If you need to, you can let your ten fingers help you keep track of your breathing.
When you're complete, rest in this stillness.
I invite you to continue opening to your meditation practice. In your journal, note how you felt before your meditation. What do you feel now? What words, images, and feelings come to you? Is there a poem wanting to be born?
This meditation is not about perfection—it’s a practice. Through my observations and experience I’ve discovered that this practice is a lovely way of softening, of slowing down. Especially now, I feel that Earth is asking this of me: to rest and open into my heart and presence and touch a new place of joy within myself. Sometimes I find myself energized, like after the best night of sleep. Other times I drop into complete stillness. I notice differences between doing it indoors, and out in my Nature spot. I’ve also been experimenting with sitting and standing. I like to do this practice before writing Morning Pages, making photos, or before starting my chores. I find it especially helpful to practice this before writing these letters! I hope you find this practice helpful, and you’ll share your experiences. Feel free to reply to share your responses to this letter with Geoff and me. And you can post about your experiences with others in your private online community. We look forward to hearing about your observations and learnings.
to touch a new place of joy
Before I close, I thought I’d share another poem I love, “Spring Song”. Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in 1872. He began writing poems and stories when he was a child. He was one of the first African American poets to gain national recognition. Although his poem is from an earlier era, Dunbar’s brimming joy and praise are just as relevant.
Spring Song A blue-bell springs upon the ledge, A lark sits singing in the hedge; Sweet perfumes scent the balmy air, And life is brimming everywhere. What lark and breeze and bluebird sing, Is Spring, Spring, Spring! No more the air is sharp and cold; The planter wends across the wold, And, glad, beneath the shining sky We wander forth, my love and I. And ever in our hearts doth ring This song of Spring, Spring! For life is life and love is love, 'Twixt maid and man or dove and dove. Life may be short, life may be long, But love will come, and to its song Shall this refrain for ever cling Of Spring, Spring, Spring! ~ Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872-1906
This mid spring, what is brimming for you? Who is singing? Who is blooming? What is the air and light like? Where do you wander? I invite you to shape your responses into a poem. We hope you will share whatever you write with us! Please read on for Geoff’s letter. This month, he continues with the theme of child energy. Geoff balances this with crone energy which is something I am living my way into...There’s great joy in this journey. May Earth bless you with beauty and joy, NanLeah
Evergreen huckleberry blossoms ring in last rays of sun
Geoff Oelsner’s Ponderings Dear PON Friends,
It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
I’ve noticed my inclusion of the phrase “Child Spirit” in both of my first two monthly messages to you. The theme seems to want to assert itself again this month. It’s interesting this recurrence is happening and I’m curious as to why. I’m going to go with it! So… An eight year old girl named Afton Wilder write this poem, which my wife sent me from an April 20, 2022 public posting on the website “Daily Good: News That Inspires.” Afton wrote this introduction to her poem: “This is my favorite poem. After I listened to a recording of Chelan Harkin’s poem, called “I No Londer Pray” the words "I no longer sing with only my voice…” flashed into my head like a stroke of lightning. The qualities in the poem are like the seven synonyms for God, (Love, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Truth, Life, Principle) I learned about in Sunday School, except I only used six of them."
I No Longer Sing With Only My Voice I no longer sing with only my voice. I sing with my heart, my love. I no longer sing with only my voice. I sing with my mind, my thought. I no longer sing with only my voice. I sing with my soul, my conscience. I no longer sing with only my voice. I sing with my spirit, my energy. I no longer sing with only my voice. I sing with my truth, my belief. I no longer sing with only my voice. I sing with my life.” ~ Afton Wilder
About thirty years ago I read a Zen Buddhist text that affirms: “A seven year old girl can be the Queen of Heaven and the Mother of all the Buddhas.” Our daughter Amy was about that age back then. Gazing deep into her angelic sleeping face, I could see something of the truth of this saying. That spiritual purity abides and shines in us all, though clouds may cover the moon of its bright truth. I find that purity in Afton Wilder’s poem. I was ambushed by that same bright shine in the Winter 2006 at the Hill of Tara in Ireland. I wrote the beginnings of a song about my experience and recorded it after the song finally finished itself in 2021. Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote a series of poems in the voice of a wild wise old woman named Crazy Jane. In his poem “Crazy Jane on God” you’ll find the refrain “All things remain in God:”
Crazy Jane on God That lover of a night Came when he would, Went in the dawning light Whether I would or no; Men come, men go, All things remain in God. Banners choke the sky; And men-at-arms tread; Armoured horses neigh Where the great battle was In the narrow pass: All things remain in God. Before their eyes a house That from childhood stood Uninhabited, ruinous, Suddenly lit up From door to top: All things remain in God. I had wild Jack for a lover; Though like a road That men cross over My body makes no moan It sings on; All things remain in God ~ William Butler Yeats
At Tara I encountered the Sacred in the form of a radiant girl child, so you’ll find a more feminine focus in the chorus of the song I wrote about my experience:
Winter Hymn at Tara Winter silence on the land, heedless of cold I go here and there in wind. On the burial hill of Tara, honoring the Goddess in abidance with the age long stream of pilgrims and the ancient bones of Irish Queens and Kings. All things remain in Her All things remain in Her All things remain in Her All things remain in Her Storms from the Atlantic Sea lash the cliffs and wash the hills and green the land. Peace keeps its hold here on these hills where the sky remembers cliffs where winds have been. All things remain in Her All things remain in Her All things remain in Her All things remain in Her Clearest eyes I saw today, I was beheaded by her sudden light before I met her maiden face. Passing fast on the steep footpath curving through the snowfall and the glow below the virgin snow on the burial hill. All things remain in Her All things remain in Her All things remain in Her All things remain in Her ~ Geoff Oelsner
A recording of my performance of the above “Winter Hymn at Tara” song can be easily accessed at my website, geoffoelsner.com, I sing it with my life. May the beauty of this season bring you to wellsprings of renewal. May your practice of poetry help you access the innate purity and ageless wholeness within, so needful in this suspenseful transitional time in our earthly lives. Please touch the earth with love. Geoff