Now, this is how to give thanks!

Poem in Thanks, Thomas Lux

Lord Whoever, thank you for this air

I’m about to in- and exhale, this hutch

in the woods, the wood for fire,

the light – both lamp and the natural stuff

of leaf-back, fern, and wing.

For the piano, the shovel

for ashes, the moth-gnawed

blankets, the stone-cold water

stone-cold:  thank you.

Thank you, Lord, coming for

to carry me here – where I’ll gnash

it out, Lord, where I’ll calm

and work, Lord, thank you

for the goddam birds singing!

“Good Poems, Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor,” Penguin Group,

      Viking Press, New York, 2002 (page 3).

why not wisdom?

IMG_0272   Amsterdam

 

Several months ago, I traveled to Amsterdam. I have wanted to visit Amsterdam since I was young. Amsterdam is a city for the young. The coffee shops and streets are filled with young people, the sweet smell of pot smoke fills the air, young people ride their bikes over the canals, tall, slender buildings with old, old apartments, home to young people, line the streets. As I walked on the streets and over the canals of Amsterdam, I felt a kind of longing. I felt that longing to be young that comes to me from time to time in this time of my life.

To be young – the longing is a mixed longing, to be sure. My longing in Amsterdam was quickly met with the memory of what is was to be young. My longing was met with the reality of all those lonely days and nights, those meaningless times, those struggles to be true to myself. That’s what it means to be young, after all. No, I don’t miss being young.

It’s a cliche to say that we are a culture obsessed with youth. Images of perfectly made up, skinny movie stars, forever young, come to mind. Internet headlines boast: “she still looks good, at 42!” Buy this car, and you’ll be young again. Eat right, and you’ll never get old. Stay healthy, and you’ll never die.

All of these are not true. I know that now. But I also know that I once believed them, if I’m honest.

Why not wisdom? As the politics of this time unfold, it seems to me that we could use some wisdom. Where are the wisdom-keepers? I don’t mean the old politicos who have lost their positions and now say what is wrong. I don’t mean those who want to hold onto the institutions we have as if nothing needs to change. I mean those who have struggled and lost and now, in maturity, know that the losses in life were more valuable than the gains. I mean those whose lives have brought them to wisdom.

And who would listen?  It’s the purpose of being young to be young forever.  And perhaps the purpose of the old to bring wisdom, to be the wisdom-keepers.

Why not wisdom as a value we cherish? Why not???

A Rich Autumn

Autumn is here, even in dry northern California.  Today as I meditated, I had a strong sense of “return,” of “return” to autumn in the place I came from, Wisconsin.  I allowed myself to fall into the nostalgia of the desire to return, and I allowed myself to feel the sad/beautiful/longing of that time when your heart is torn apart by the beauty of the moment.  In a climate with cold winters, the coming of autumn carries with it a longing for what is past and a heralding of what is about to be.  These last red and yellow and brown days of autumn give way to a long, cold, dark winter.  Autumn here, in dry northern California, carries a  longing also, although the hope here is for rain.

When I was young, life was not good unless it was full.  Full then meant a calendar with dates and meetings and parties and meals out with good friends.  Full meant a relationship – whether or not that relationship was fulfilling.  Full often meant lots of drama, “lots going on,” on all levels.

In my working years, I noticed that when colleagues gathered at meetings, as old friends and colleagues met again, hugged awkwardly and briefly, and reconnected, conversation turned quickly to how busy we all were.  Conversations were lists of the meaningful and even burdensome schedules we carried.  Sometimes there was mention of not having had a day off in weeks.  Work was not good unless it was full, full calendars, full of meaning, full of emotion, fullness that somehow proved our worth.

Now that autumn is here in my own life, I’ve come to see these things differently.  I don’t like “full” as much!  I like one or two things in my day.  I like to have a cup of coffee with milk in the morning.  I like to take the time to think about what I’ll be doing on this particular day.  I like to consider whether or not what I have chosen to do may or may not be what I do.  I like to take a few moments to be grateful, no matter whether my emotions are up or down that day.

Now that autumn has arrived in my life, I find that “full” means the fullness of time.  This moment is the fulness of time.  Autumn is as lovely as spring.  This moment is as important as the next.   Sometimes I’m present for the moment, and sometimes I’m not.  When I can be, I am present.

I’d like to give this gift to those who are younger, this gratitude for being able to notice the passing of the seasons.  I’d like to tell them not to miss the light in the trees as the sun goes down over the Pacific.  I’d like to say “be grateful” without it sounding like a command.  I’d like to say “be grateful” because I know the gift will be yours if you have a moment to be grateful.

But that’s not what it is to be young.  There are too many things to fill the days, too many important – and they are important! – meetings and dates and outings and activities.

Now that autumn is here, I am grateful to watch the passing of the seasons through the branches of the birch tree outside my front window.  IMG_0347

 

 

How did I get here???

I made the transition to age 30 in a bumpy, awkward way, on my way to really being an adult.  More about that at a later time.  What I didn’t do at age 30 was begin to think of myself as “old.”  Remember when turning 30 meant being “over the hill?”  I certainly wasn’t old at 30.  Nor was I old at 40, or 50, or even 60.

Around the time I made 60, I started to offer, “I’m old…” with a smile and a twist of my voice to show that I wasn’t really old; wasn’t that obvious?  For my 60th birthday I received the gift of a tattoo, and have a beautiful dragonfly to prove it.   After all, no “old” person would have a carefully chosen tattoo, would they?

On my 61st birthday, I started to think maybe I’d been in denial for a long, long, long time.  While I knew I wasn’t old-old, I began to suspect that I was definitely on my way to that place, as if it was a particular moment in time.  I wasn’t young, although I still offer that I’m really only 17, “inside.”  I may be 17, “inside,” but my body and experience and soul have been around a lot longer than that.  I have the scars and the wisdom medals to prove that I’ve been around longer than 17 years.

That’s what this blog is about.  It’s about “getting here -” getting to the place in life when others can rightfully look to you as a Wise One.  I’ll draw from others’ writings, and I’ll draw from my own experience.  I’ll tell stories that speak to outer experience, and I’ll tell stories that speak to inner life.

Think about the world today.  Think way beyond your little world and its inevitable joys and sorrows today.  Think about the world today.  That’s why I’m here, as One Who Has Entered the Wisdom Years.  While the world may not want to hear what I have to say, the fact remains that I have something to say.  Maybe it will help someone, maybe not.  All I know is that I have to say it, I have to share some of what I’ve learned – and haven’t learned – in my life, which has now been in existence for over 6 decades.

Join me if you are a wisdom seeker, like I am.  Join me if you have something to say, too.  Join me if you are someone who asks:  “what’s it all about, Alfie?”                                                     Join me if you want to start a conversation.

open

Autumn, transition… walk in beauty…