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Poetry of Nature | Late Spring | Geoff Oelsner

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A scintillant red orange dragonfly perches on a reed next to a steam in Tlaquepaque, AZ. Photo by NanLeah

Dear Poetry of Nature Friends,

 

Summer cometh soon, June 20, 4:51 PM EDT. As Gaia turns around the Sun, its axis remains tilted at 23.5 degrees from the perpendicular, which causes different latitudes to get varying amounts of sunlight over the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, summer comes when the North Pole is tilted toward the Sun.


A host of golden black eyed Susan's rise into lemony sunlight. This variety is chartreuse at its center. Around that radiates petals of deep gold, the outside half of the petals lit by a lighter shade of yellow. Photo by Leslie Oeslner.
Heart Realm

For those of you in our monthly Poetic Medicine Circle, when we gather on June 10 to celebrate the approaching solstice we’ll do some free writing and sharing. Our sharing and listening can create a caring Blessing Field. We’ll go further into this heart realm, nearing wellsprings, when we meet Monday, June 10.  

 

May summer bring you closer to Nature and the Heart of Life.


The fuzzy edged, chartreuse center of a varietal of black-eyed Susan pokes the viewer from the top right corner of the frame. 6 petals are pop against a black background. The inner half of the petals are a honey gold. The outer half is a sunny yellow. Photo by Leslie Oelsner
Soular Power

The still-traditional Mayan people in the uplands of Guatemala believe that we feed the gods—the Powers of the World—best with eloquent praise and flowers. Here’s a Gaia-centric poem of praise, an extraordinary one, published in the April 1, 2024 New Yorker.  I don’t know if it could have been written without the legacy of Walt Whitman’s endless Leaves of Grass.


The Hymn

 

It began as an almost inaudible hum,

   low and long for the solar winds

      and far dim galaxies,

a hymn growing louder, for the moon and the sun,

   a song without words for the snow falling,

      for snow conceiving snow

conceiving rain, the rivers rushing without shame,

   the hum turning again higher—into a riff of ridges,

      peaks hard as consonants,

summits and praise for the rocky faults and crust and crevices

   then down down to the roots and rocks and burrows,

      the lakes’ skittery surfaces, wells, oceans, breaking

waves, the salt-deep: the warm bodies moving within it:

   the cold deep: the deep underneath gleaming, some of us rising

      as the planet turned into dawn, some lying down

 

as it turned into dark; as each of us rested—another woke, standing

   among the cast-off cartons and automobiles;

      we left the factories and stood in the parking lots,

left the subways and stood on sidewalks, in the bright offices,

   in the cluttered yards, in the farmed fields,

      in the mud of the shantytowns, breaking into

harmonies we’d not known possible, finding the chords as we

   found our true place singing in a million

      million keys the human hymn of praise for every

something else there is and ever was and will be:

   the song growing louder and rising.

      (Listen, I, too, believed it was a dream.)

 

~ Marie Howe

 

Marie Howe has published four books of poems, including “Magdalene” and “The Kingdom of Ordinary Time”. Her next collection, “New and Selected Poems,” is due out this spring.


*


In the midst of wars nobody wins, in the static and pain of intense geopolitical, national and environmental struggles and suffering, may we deepen into our Cores and find that safe quiet place in our heart space where everything is OK, where love, peace and causeless happiness abide and can flower.  It is loving awareness: “Heartmind.” True Nature. The Self, source of creation, adoration and praise.

 

Let’s go into It. Feel your palms and the soles of your feet, your arms and legs. Soften your belly. Now feel into your chest with your in-breath. Feel your rib cage open and your chest expand a little with each inhale…rest in the pause before exhaling…then exhale and feel your chest soften and relax. Soft belly. Rest into your chest and perhaps light an imaginal candle or watch the sun rise there to warm and illuminate your Hridiyam, your Heart-Cave.

 

What’s the whole feeling of all this?

 

What’s the whole feeling of all of this in your heart?

 

Optional (and it’s all optional): What might you hear or sigh or sing or write from that feeling?


*

Heart Massage:

 

What have been and are now the most peaceful moments of your life? 

What have been and are now the most peaceful places in your life?

What is the felt sense of contemplating these times?

 

What have been and are now the happiest moments of your life? 

What have been and are now the happiest places in your life?

What is the felt sense of contemplating these?

 

 

“Peace is happiness at rest. 

Happiness is peace in motion.”

 

*


I first discovered Wendell Berry’s poetry and prose in 1979, right at the time Leslie and I began homesteading on 40 wooded acres in the hills of the Arkansas Ozarks. I’ve returned to his prose and poetry for the pause that refreshes in much the way I return again and again to the woods around our present home in town. Berry carries a lot of mail, delivers a lot of wisdom. He’s one of our truest most stalwart homegrown elders and voices for the earth, along with folks like Thoreau, Thomas Berry, Annie Dillard…add your own favorite Gaian spokespersons.

 

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of a Berry poem that rises up and roots down again in somewhat the same way as Marie Howe’s above psalmody:


The Gift of Gravity

 

All that passes descends,

and ascends again unseen

into the light: the river

coming down from sky

to hills, from hills to sea,

and carving as it moves,

to rise invisible,

gathered to light, to return

again. “The river’s injury

is its shape.” I’ve learned no more.

We are what we are given

and what is taken away;

blessed be the name

of the giver and taker.

For everything that comes

is a gift, the meaning always

carried out of sight

to renew our whereabouts,

always a starting place.

And every gift is perfect

in its beginning, for it

is “from above, and cometh down

from the Father of lights.”

Gravity is grace.

 

~ Wendell Berry


Or, if you prefer, rather than Father, Great Mother, Spirit, Mystery… add your own wonder words:

 

Spiritual kinfolk:  Thomas Merton lived most of his life in Kentucky at the Trappist Gethsemani Abbey. A poet and a deep-rooted Christian like Kentucky-born Berry, they both find strength and communion in Nature. They both have lived in the woods for a long time. Me too.

 

Merton read and resonated with the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux: “You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.”   

The beauty of wet stones shine at the viewer from the shore of Lake Superior, Canada. The stones are colored yellow and red ochre. There are black, and grey stones with stripes. The focal stone is large and looks like a child drew a stick figure face of a cat on it. A wave is just washing in from the top of the frame. Photo by Leslie Oelsner
The Stones Will Teach You

Real masters will appreciate that!

 

Daily and nightly, year after year, communion with the natural world was central to Merton’s quest for union with God.  He contemplated, worked, wrote and photographed from that humble open heart space:

 

To deliver oneself up, to hand oneself over, to entrust oneself, completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hills…to sit still while the sun comes up over that land and fills its silences with light.  To pray and work in the morning and to labor and rest in the afternoon, and to sit still again in meditation in the evening when night falls upon that land and when the silence fills itself with darkness and with stars. (1958, Thoughts in Solitude, Farrar, Strauss and Cudahy, p.107)

A silvery brown wooden path angles in from the bottom left corner of the frame. The path wanders through greenery along choppy grey green water. The path leads the viewer into the photo as it disappears in a copse of trees after the storm. Taken in Nova Scotia. Photo by Leslie Oelsner
Path to Communion

Friends, thank you for holding these words, and my wife Leslie’s photos, in your heartminds.

 

I’ve been writing songs as well as poetry for over 60 years now, and want to encourage those of you who write them to share some of the songs you’ve written. Let’s make room for that. Song amplifies praise and strengthens communion. 

 

Here is a link that allows you to listen to many of my songs for free on my website, geoffoelsner.com. You can download a free pdf of my wife Leslie’s and my book Attunements for the Earth as well. Our book includes the introductions and lyrics of the many of my recorded songs, including the following:

 

West Coast Farewell, Dordogne River Hymn and the Sacred Hoop, all 3 of which came from my hands and my heart and have stayed close to my heart in special ways. I hope you enjoy what you hear.

 

What makes your heart sing, evokes effortless affection and praise?  What spiritual-artistic gifts might precipitate from LISTENING, attuning, to your heart now and again?

 

May everything you write, share or hear bring Gifts of the Heart.

 

Blessed Be,

 

Geoff O

 

 

NanLeah is on a much needed break. She looks forward to seeing you in July!

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