Archive for the ‘Poetry and Musings’ Category

To Be a Pilgrim by John Bunyan

Who would true Valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will Constant be,
Come Wind, come Weather.
There’s no Discouragement
Shall make him once Relent
His first avowed Intent,
To be a Pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
With dismal Storys
Do but themselves Confound;
His Strength the more is.
No Lyon can him fright,
He’l with a Gyant Fight,
But he will have a right
To be a Pilgrim.

Hobgoblin, nor foul Fiend,
Can daunt his spirit:
He knows, he at the end
Shall Life Inherit.
Then Fancies fly away,
He’l fear not what men say,
He’l labour Night and Day
To be a pilgrim.

Life is a pilgrimage for those who chose to live and a slow march to the grave for those who prefer to simply exist. A pilgrimage, or a quest for a great moral purpose, is the aperture through which your significance is established. In fact, each day that you live is an opportunity to give expression to the blessings that surge forth from the fountain of life that you are.

As with any pilgrimage, obstacles and pitfalls must be met and overcome on a daily basis. Some days will be harder than others, but if you keep your heart and mind centered on the desire to reveal the highest and finest expression available to you, progress will be certain.

Do you see your life as purposeful journey filled with circumstances that serve as stepping stones or do you feel that you are wandering aimlessly through random experiences that lead nowhere? Where there is clarity of vision, you will flourish.

Your purpose isn’t something that you can cook up while sitting by a fire on a cool winter night. It isn’t something that you can learn from a book and neither is it something that another can outline for you. Your purpose is yours to discover and reveal.

Purpose is made known as you serve others. It is revealed organically. The more you focus on blessing and complementing those around you, the clearer your vision will become. Clarity of vision leads to clarity of purpose.

Take care that your pilgrimage does not end in mediocrity. Embrace life – both the good things and the bad – and make the most creative use of everything that comes your way. You deserve it and so does the world around you!


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Dust of Snow by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

It has been an interesting weekend, starting with an all-nighter caring for a sick child on Friday and ending in the first of two company parties yesterday evening. What was sandwiched in between was, in a word, rueful: a dead HVAC unit, a minor flood in the office, my recuperating hawk perching on my shoulder and then head and finally a close friend’s new puppy diagnosed with parvovirus. Oh, that I had happened upon a crow and a hemlock tree!

On the bright side, Northeast Georgia (Dahlonega in particular) is experiencing unseasonably low temperatures and drumroll, please…snow! Having spent most of my childhood in colder climes, the freezing temps aren’t that big of a deal, though past injuries do seem to creak a little more than in summer and than in my youth.

Frost’s poem is delightful to me as I’ve often considered how a change in heart leads immediately to a change in mood. I was speaking with a yoga instructor friend of mine at dinner last night and she made an interesting statement. She said that most people take up yoga with a desire to gain physical flexibility but if they stick with it long enough they become more mentally end emotionally supple.

Mental and emotional resiliency come from the inside out. If you base your mood on what is going on outside of you, you will live life on a roller coaster. Your good moods will come when things are going well and your bad moods will rear their ugly head, well, the rest of the time. It doesn’t need to be that way.

You can use your heart radiantly as well as reactively. Most people emphasize the latter capacity, but those with true grit regularly exercise the former. The expression of radiance does not require more exertion, in fact, it comes as a result of greater relaxation.

Unrelieved tension is the nemesis of radiance. You cannot try to be radiant. You either are or you aren’t. Engaging in regular changes of pace, such as yoga or massage, when you lead an otherwise busy, go-getter life, generates valuable space in heart and mind that lead, in turn, to a greater expression of radiance.

Wise, stable and sane is the person who cultivates this balance, a balance achieved, incidentally, through oscillation between rest and exertion or put differently, between “being” and “achieving.” Foolish, unstable and nuts is the person who relies solely on cues from the environment to determine the state of his heart and subsequently his mood.

Radiance comes from an inexhaustible source deep within. When you truly understand this you won’t rue another day. Some days will provide more openings than others and if you’re lucky and you’ve forgotten that every day is an opportunity for radiance, you might just be lucky enough to be sprinkled by the dust of snow from a hemlock tree as a gentle reminder!

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I take the time every night to review my day, to tie up any loose ends and to set the stage for the day to come. Some days end like a neatly wrapped package at Christmastime. Others end like a pile of fall leaves, tumultuous and disorderly with little hope of settling into order.

No matter how your day unfolds, take time to access the quiet place in your heart that no man, woman or circumstance can ruffle. Each one has this place available to him or herself, though the failure to visit it regularly allows the weeds and the bushes to obscure the path that leads to the gate of the garden of tranquility.

The golden scissors of forgiveness, thanksgiving and appreciation keep the way clear. Some days you may need to be more specific or persistent than others as you maintain the garden path, and last evening I found this poem (written by the author of Anne of Green Gables) to be particularly helpful as I sought to organize my thoughts, soften my heart and mind and come to rest.

I hope that you enjoy it this morning and I highly encourage you to read it once again before settling in for the evening.

November Evening ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

Come, for the dusk is our own; let us fare forth together,
With a quiet delight in our hearts for the ripe, still, autumn weather,
Through the rustling valley and wood and over the crisping meadow,
Under a high-sprung sky, winnowed of mist and shadow.

Sharp is the frosty air, and through the far hill-gaps showing
Lucent sunset lakes of crocus and green are glowing;
‘Tis the hour to walk at will in a wayward, unfettered roaming,
Caring for naught save the charm, elusive and swift, of the gloaming.

Watchful and stirless the fields as if not unkindly holding
Harvested joys in their clasp, and to their broad bosoms folding
Baby hopes of a Spring, trusted to motherly keeping,
Thus to be cherished and happed through the long months of their sleeping.

Silent the woods are and gray; but the firs than ever are greener,
Nipped by the frost till the tang of their loosened balsam is keener;
And one little wind in their boughs, eerily swaying and swinging,
Very soft and low, like a wandering minstrel is singing.

Beautiful is the year, but not as the springlike maiden
Garlanded with her hopes rather the woman laden
With wealth of joy and grief, worthily won through living,
Wearing her sorrow now like a garment of praise and thanksgiving.

Gently the dark comes down over the wild, fair places,
The whispering glens in the hills, the open, starry spaces;
Rich with the gifts of the night, sated with questing and dreaming,
We turn to the dearest of paths where the star of the homelight is gleaming.

Have a brilliant day!

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A poem came to mind following yesterday’s consideration which has haunted me ever since I first read it in middle school. It is one of the most evocative pieces of literature I’ve ever read:

The Listeners, by Walter de la Mare

Is there anybody there?” said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grass
Of the forest’s ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
“Is there anybody there?” he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
‘Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:—
“Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,” he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been on both sides of the equation in your lifetime; at times the Traveler whose call was unrequited and at others a Listener who did not respond to a call obviously meant for you. The failure to communicate is often at the root of the problems we face as individuals and as a race. It reasons, then that improving communication will have the effect of improving our ability to meet the challenges we will face in the days to come.

If someone speaks or writes words that call forth the greatness deep inside of you, for goodness sake, answer the call! Don’t wait for the sound of the hooves; be a good listener! Likewise, if you find yourself in the shoes of the traveler, speak up, knock and don’t give up when nothing but stillness answers your cry.

For those of you who are more auditory, I encourage you to sit back and enjoy this unusual reading and animation of The Listeners by de la Mare:

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William Blake, Image by Wikipedia

Hear the Voice, by William Blake

Hear the voice of the Bard,
Who present, past, and future, sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word
That walk’d among the ancient trees;

Calling the lapsed soul,
And weeping in the evening dew;
That might control
The starry pole,
And fallen, fallen light renew!

‘O Earth, O Earth, return!
Arise from out the dewy grass!
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumbrous mass.

‘Turn away no more;
Why wilt thou turn away?
The starry floor,
The watery shore,
Is given thee till the break of day.’

Have you ever thought of yourself as the Bard of the world you center? A messenger, of sorts, with an important story to tell? Looking back over the course of the week your words have conditioned the soil of your future, like the farmer’s plow.

Whether you meant to say everything that you did or not, whether you regret anything you uttered or not, every word you spoke planted a seed. The quality of your life is determined in large part by the seeds you sow in the form of your words.

Words are unique configurations of sounds. Some sounds have particular meanings and some sounds have multiple meanings and spellings, as is the case with homonyms. Your vocal chords are an incredibly capable tool designed to help you influence the world around you, through sound!

Vocal Cords, Image by Wikipedia

Sound is a traveling wave, that is an oscillation of pressure, transmitted through a solid, liquid or gas. The sounds you make – every grunt, roar and snort – send oscillations of pressure that are perceived by the world around you. When spoken, words are a peculiar manifestation of energy that have a palpable, physical effect. In short, the words and sounds you issue, matter!

If you wonder what your week will be like, think back to the words you planted in the soil last week. Add to that the words spoken by those whose company you kept and you have at least a hint of the tone, the challenges and the opportunities you’ll likely face this week.

Whatever comes your way this morning, today and during the week, remember that you have an opportunity – as the Bard of your world – to plant words in a way that you can “Arise out from the dewy grass” renewed, returned, and awakened from the “slumbrous mass.”

Choose your words wisely!

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Eastman's portrait of Longfellow in 1846

The heat wave we’ve been simmering under finally gave way yesterday and I couldn’t help but notice a sensation of the pressure being off in a more general sense. The shift was either precipitated by or perhaps just accompanied by summer rains and a soft overcast that stayed most of the day.

There is nothing like a good summer rain. As a nod to the lovely weather we’re experiencing I’d like to share another poem about summer with you, this time from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Rain in Summer

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!

How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!

Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!

The sick man from his chamber looks
At the twisted brooks;
He can feel the cool
Breath of each little pool;
His fevered brain
Grows calm again,
And he breathes a blessing on the rain.

From the neighboring school
Come the boys,
With more than their wonted noise
And commotion;
And down the wet streets
Sail their mimic fleets,
Till the treacherous pool
Ingulfs them in its whirling
And turbulent ocean.

In the country, on every side,
Where far and wide,
Like a leopard’s tawny and spotted hide,
Stretches the plain,
To the dry grass and the drier grain
How welcome is the rain!

In the furrowed land
The toilsome and patient oxen stand;
Lifting the yoke encumbered head,
With their dilated nostrils spread,
They silently inhale
The clover-scented gale,
And the vapors that arise
From the well-watered and smoking soil.
For this rest in the furrow after toil
Their large and lustrous eyes
Seem to thank the Lord,
More than man’s spoken word.

Near at hand,
From under the sheltering trees,
The farmer sees
His pastures, and his fields of grain,
As they bend their tops
To the numberless beating drops
Of the incessant rain.
He counts it as no sin
That he sees therein
Only his own thrift and gain.

These, and far more than these,
The Poet sees!
He can behold
Aquarius old
Walking the fenceless fields of air;
And from each ample fold
Of the clouds about him rolled
Scattering everywhere
The showery rain,
As the farmer scatters his grain.

He can behold
Things manifold
That have not yet been wholly told,–
Have not been wholly sung nor said.
For his thought, that never stops,
Follows the water-drops
Down to the graves of the dead,
Down through chasms and gulfs profound,
To the dreary fountain-head
Of lakes and rivers under ground;
And sees them, when the rain is done,
On the bridge of colors seven
Climbing up once more to heaven,
Opposite the setting sun.

Thus the Seer,
With vision clear,
Sees forms appear and disappear,
In the perpetual round of strange,
Mysterious change
From birth to death, from death to birth,
From earth to heaven, from heaven to earth;
Till glimpses more sublime
Of things, unseen before,
Unto his wondering eyes reveal
The Universe, as an immeasurable wheel
Turning forevermore
In the rapid and rushing river of Time.

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I found a lovely poem for you that captures the essence of my feelings on this lovely summer’s morn. Take a moment, soak it in, though to all I do forewarn: by reading this it cannot miss, you’ll no longer be forlorn!

– Gregg

The Barefoot Boy

by John Greenleaf Whittier (1855)

Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy,—
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art,—the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye,—
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood’s painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor’s rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee’s morning chase,
Of the wild-flower’s time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole’s nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the ground-nut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape’s clusters shine;
Of the black wasp’s cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy,—
Blessings on the barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood’s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his spade;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!

Oh for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread;
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the door-stone, gray and rude!
O’er me, like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs’ orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp and joy
Waited on the barefoot boy!

Cheerily, then, my little man,
Live and laugh, as boyhood can!
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt’s for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil:
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!

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