In This Place. An American Lyric by Amanda Gorman Poet Laureate for Biden Inauguration

There’s a poem in this place—
in the footfalls in the halls
in the quiet beat of the seats.
It is here, at the curtain of day,
where America writes a lyric
you must whisper to say.
There’s a poem in this place—
in the heavy grace,
the lined face of this noble building,
collections burned and reborn twice.
There’s a poem in Boston’s Copley Square
where protest chants
tear through the air
like sheets of rain,
where love of the many
swallows hatred of the few.
There’s a poem in Charlottesville
where tiki torches string a ring of flame
tight round the wrist of night
where men so white they gleam blue—
seem like statues
where men heap that long wax burning
ever higher
where Heather Heyer
blooms forever in a meadow of resistance.
There’s a poem in the great sleeping giant
of Lake Michigan, defiantly raising
its big blue head to Milwaukee and Chicago—
a poem begun long ago, blazed into frozen soil,
strutting upward and aglow.
There’s a poem in Florida, in East Texas
where streets swell into a nexus
of rivers, cows afloat like mottled buoys in the brown,
where courage is now so common
that 23-year-old Jesus Contreras rescues people from floodwaters.
There’s a poem in Los Angeles
yawning wide as the Pacific tide
where a single mother swelters
in a windowless classroom, teaching
black and brown students in Watts
to spell out their thoughts
so her daughter might write
this poem for you.             
There’s a lyric in California
where thousands of students march for blocks,
undocumented and unafraid;
where my friend Rosa finds the power to blossom
in deadlock, her spirit the bedrock of her community.
She knows hope is like a stubborn
ship gripping a dock,
a truth: that you can’t stop a dreamer
or knock down a dream.         
How could this not be her city
su nación
our country
our America,
our American lyric to write—
a poem by the people, the poor,
the Protestant, the Muslim, the Jew,
the native, the immigrant,
the black, the brown, the blind, the brave,
the undocumented and undeterred,
the woman, the man, the nonbinary,
the white, the trans,
the ally to all of the above
and more?
Tyrants fear the poet.
Now that we know it
we can’t blow it.
We owe it
to show it
not slow it
although it
hurts to sew it
when the world
skirts below it.       
Hope—
we must bestow it
like a wick in the poet
so it can grow, lit,
bringing with it
stories to rewrite—
the story of a Texas city depleted but not defeated
a history written that need not be repeated
a nation composed but not yet completed.
There’s a poem in this place—
a poem in America
a poet in every American
who rewrites this nation, who tells
a story worthy of being told on this minnow of an earth
to breathe hope into a palimpsest of time—
a poet in every American
who sees that our poem penned
doesn’t mean our poem’s end.
There’s a place where this poem dwells—
it is here, it is now, in the yellow song of dawn’s bell
where we write an American lyric
we are just beginning to tell.
Credit

Copyright © 2017 by Amanda Gorman. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Database.

Storm’s Movin’ In

Sitting in the protective barrier of Lion Mountain, I watch the first major winter storm for thirty years for this Bend in the Rio Grande. North of my perch, above the plateau that spreads out for several miles before being cracked open by Arroyo and Wind, rests Lion Mountain; a great, maned beast watching over the East and the Great River. The storm which will eventually bring 24 inches of snow in less than 24 hours, barrels down the valleys to the East and West leaving the place, this perch, dry and wind blown.

——-

The Element aka GRW, rocks in the wind like a young child shifting from foot to foot in excited anticipation of their first roller coaster ride. GRW, like the mountain, feels like Protector. Even with the newly smashed window left by some suffering, desperate soul, GRW shelters me from the gusts and will shield me from the oncoming onslaught of the impending storm. If GRW were to have sentience, I imagine that they would feel confident and even proud of how they have in the past, and will tonight, take the brunt of the knocks, rocks and rolls of this journey.

——-

Raven, now steers themself toward Lion Mountain, losing as much air as they gain in the stormy gusts. There are not enough “stones to swallow” to keep Wind from throwing Raven back and back and back again until finally surrendering and dropping out of their prideful effort to find sheltering in Arroyo, hunkering down under scratchy limbs of Mesquite.

——-

Wind is at a sustained 20 mph with gusts up to 30 or so mph. Once on the sandy shores of the great Columbia, GRW withstood 45 mph winds with gusts up to 60mph. I recall taking down the tent during that storm and having Wind lay it down flat in the sand before I could unstake the poles. Although the sound and the rocking seems threatening tonight, I know what it is like to lie awake through a night on open ground with Wind double what it is now.

—–

Of all Earth’s apprentices; Fire or Rain or Quaking or Cold or Wind, Wind is the one that is the most unsettling for my inner being, especially when Wind is relentless like tonight. But even as a gentle breeze, when it is as constant as this storm will be, Wind gets deep inside me, finds every crack and crevice, every loose board, and everything not nailed down in my sense of self and works at dispersing, breaking open and disintegrating them all. And the concepts that are concretized are worn down and weakened until they are loosened as well, and identity, stability, and the Self itself is left somewhat shattered. Surrendering to Wind takes me to the edge of what some might call madness and what I experience as the freedom of complete selflessness and open sky awareness. Just like when Sky is swept clean to a clear azure blueness in the aftermath of a storm.

—–


Lion Mountain remains still in Wind’s onslaught, offering Wind all of the dust and debris and rock granules, that are no longer serving. Asking Wind to carve away everything to leave only Lion Mountain essence or as Dogen teaches in “Moon in a Dewdrop”; “mountain flowing”.

‘.

—–

Wind reaches deep with in my being and releases Fear which starts as a churning in my belly as if a tropical depression had begun there and is quickly building to a category 5 hurricane. As the storm of Fear builds and all loose and solid attachments are threatened, I experience the clinging and gripping that mind does to maintain its throne. I can sense the deepening, welcoming warmth of Space as Wind whips Fear up and out, scrubbing this interior spotless and spaceful.

—–

Winds tulmutuous song plays the desert shrub, yucca, chollo, and GRW into a cacophonous chorus of tympanic tumult. My mind tells my hearing to shut it all out and keep the threatening noise from subsuming and overwhelming its stable throne of concretized concepts. But the warmth arising from the fear-carved space in my belly is like Lion Mountain in its resilient surrender, and as mind senses an inkling of ease through the wall of Fear; a sense of no longer needing to cling onto Self or to protect itself from dissolution, begins to slow to rest, to celebrate the vast, open emptiness that is and always has been here.

—–

Rain is like a quiet snare drum in the midst of the percussive Wind. It seems to soften WInd’s mania, transforming it into a swell of effusive orchestral strings. Eventually rain transforms to Snow and takes the solo like an oboe and the music lulls me into an edgy but restful sleep.

—–

Watching Dawn try to push their way into the fog-frozen night which, after much resistance, finally yields to reveal Snow Lion Mountain. Dawn has often been the time in a journey when Fear, Clinging and Desire sneak in and today is no different, as I look out and realize that Snow has blanketed the entire landscape and GRW, except for a circular area leeward that was shielded from it all by GRW’s bulk. The rocky, riveted, wash-rutted roads had not been too much of a challenge for GRW, but add several inches of snow? Stuck? Stranded? Isolated? Then the practice kicks in; Tea, Sit, Study, mind spins but does not dominate and motivation to explore the newly snow-blanketed land comes from the deeply abiding celebratory Joy of Nature’s beauty.

—–

I walk. and take up one of the indications for practice from Dakpo Tashi Namgyal  to chant and make offerings if Mind is being persistent and undermining. So as I walk, I sing a wordless offering to Nature and Buddha and Freedom. I call on Wind and DesertShrub to join and Rock People to accompany. I dance in the sunless white Dawn while Snow Lion Mountain flows in and out of the risen frosty fog. And there is just

Song

Dance

Nature

and all Mind’s chatter dissolving as it arises and is embraced by Snow Mountain Lion singing, dancing flowing.

—–

I bow deeply to all Teachers, seen and unseen, heard and unheard and dedicate all of my lives to this freedom from suffering for all beings.

      Storm

(Click link to hear song)

https://1drv.ms/u/s!AgilQIyI_eolhWWZODWpE-1Y60pg

Storm, movin’ in, 

movin’ in, to the city. 

Storm, movin’ in,

movin’ in, dark and pretty. 

Storm, you make me laugh,

you make me laugh…

Storm, movin’ in, 

movin’ in o’er this canyon.

Storm, movin’ in, 

movin’ in, with black abandon.

Storm, you make me laugh,

you make me laugh…

Storm, you don’t give a damn,

you don’t care about my worries.

You big ole’ storm, you saved me now,

I’ve moved into your flurries.

Storm, you don’t sympathize,

you don’t see these eyes, cryin’,

your vast expanse blows through me,

I feel the power of you drivin’.

Storm, you make me laugh,

you make me laugh…

Storm, you make me cry.

  vocals, guitar and arrangement – Bruce Gambill

  lyrics and melody – Stephen Gambill

  strings – Tim Lorsch

Grand Canyon

Being in the Grand Canyon and trying to take a picture, or afterward seeing professional photographers’ work or artists’ renderings; no matter how beautiful or breathtaking these renderings are they never capture the experience of sitting with this Grand teacher.

As I sat on on outcropping off the trail leading down to the Esplanade, I pondered on this. “How do I share what you are with those who have not seen you, been with you, in you?”

Raven arrives and rides the thermals like a child running through wind. Wind arrives, strong enough to jostle my stability and spark a fear of tumbling over the 1500 ft drop to the esplanade below. AncientSeabedSand crumbles under my fingers and slips quietly down the slope. Sagebrush and Rabbitbrush whisper in the wind and call me to run my fingers through their stiff locks that shine iridescently in the noon sun. And me, sitting awake, alert, aware, sensing through every pore of my being and non-being.

“I cannot be captured in a moment of photography or a memory of an artist, because I am ever-changing time and space and I am not Grand without the play of Raven, the strength of Wind, the loaminess of AncientSeabedSand, the whispering light of Sagebrush and Rabbitbrush and the ones who sit, awake, alert, aware and sensing. Without all of these and the infinitely constant unfolding in the silveriness of the moon and goldenness of the sun, the blue-blackness of the open sky and the turquoiseness of the river, the ancientness of the rimstone and the unearthing of the new sediments, the earthness and the skyness and the spaceness; without these I am not Canyon, Grand or otherwise. And each of these are not each of these without Grand Canyon.”

“I see”, I said, bowing deeply as Grand Canyon, Raven, Wind, Sand, Brush, Sky, River, Sun, Moon, Earth, Space. “I am not me without all of you.” 

360 From the outcropping
Looking down Deer Creek

Over the edge toward the Esplanade.
Looking Southwest following the Colorado River

The Desert

The desert offers you nothing

and demands everything in return.

The delusory appearance of lifelessness

empties out the senses 

in their longing for affirmation of purpose.

“What good am I if there is nothing to see?”

“What will I do if there is nothing to feel?”

“What will i judge if there is nothing to smell?”

“Where will I find joy if there is nothing to taste?”

“What will I think if there is nothing to hear?”

And then a deathening quiet.

stirless

soundless

aridification

conceptless.

Raven floats over gurgling

or were they laughing?

Wind rumbles like a distant train

before forcing ancient dust 

down your agape mouth.

the sky drones 

and the stones sing

the sages illuminate

and the cacti practice.

Suddenly the empty nothingness that the desert first offered

is luminous with the infinite

unborn

non-regressing

thinkless

suchness.

Just as you reach out to grasp the offering

The desert wind roars ungently through

the ebony, moonless, star-painted, shadow laden night,

scattering stability and haveness

wringing out the mind of any possession

and dashing new realizations on the sandy wash.

Stumbling into the orange and tourquoise dawn 

the first despondent thought is 

“I have lost everything.”

Raven floats over gurgling

or were they laughing? 
Wind rumbles…


Kenny. Walking with Wolves

Jenga

“Will you be coming back this way?” “It depends on how things open up tonight.” Kenny said. I was on my first wolf walk with two large Northwest Timber Wolves, Jenga and Aijan, male and female respectively. Kenny “handling” the male “punk kid” as he called him and Rob “handling” Aijan. “The wolves actually handle you.” Kenny had told me. “We just try to keep them out of harm’s way.”

It was early evening, the sun just dropped behind a few horizon clouds leaving a faint gold white glow in the west but darkness there on the beach with towering bluffs above, sand and sharp reef exposed by the low tide below. My headlamp was dim due to failing batteries and we were facing in the darkness a shadow of what seemed to be an insurmountable, slippery, crumbly ridge that needed to be crossed over in order to continue the walk. It wasn’t really a ridge it was about eight feet high but appeared to have no hand or footholds for crawling up and over. As I watched Rob tightrope up the side at an angle with Aijan gliding over the top, I realized I would not make it without falling and at least scraping the shit out of my hands and face or, if not that,  being knocked unconscious by falling from the edge and into the tide pools below. 

“I think I’ll wait here.” “I’m not sure we’ll be back this way.” Kenny said again, “But you know your way back eh?” We had been walking for about 30 minutes in the dark, over an open pasture and down a steep trail through a ravine to the beach where we had been walking for about a half a mile. I realized I did not have any idea how to get back, especially in the dark with a dimming headlamp. My thoughts were flooded with stories of failure and fear, inadequacies, doubt, being  weak in the presence of my teacher. That was when the practice took over. “Just one hand, one foot, one movement at a time. Just the next step, just what is there in front of you.” A cool clear attention flowed through my awareness. I heard Kenny say something like “can you see?” as he shined his lamp on the hidden stepping places that slipped up the side and over the top of the small ridge.  And I was there on the other side, sliding down a steep slope after watching Kenny do it with a chuckle and “this is a fun part.” Just a few years ago, I would have been trembling and probably battered and scraped from clinging to the sharp crumbling reef as I crossed over it. But the practice just took over, with only the slightest thought of “Stay present.”

The night was star-laden and a cold wind was gently breathing me into the experience of the immensity of evening on a Pacific Coast, bluff-guarded, beach with two black shimmering timber wolves leading us into a silvery, luminous expanse of unknowingness. Their surety of foot and Rob and Kenny’s ease in the midst of being jerked along, slipping on exposed reef and tumbled down a ravine in the moonless night just happened. Tinglings of fear mixed with giddiness and a prideless confidence carried me through the three hour, six mile walk over sand, reef, up ravines, over pastures under low hanging Eucalyptus into pitch darkness and then home. The practice handled me while the wolves and my teacher kept me from harm.

The second night of walking, Kate replaced Rob with Aijan and it was raining. We began a bit earlier because we would be doing ceremony that evening, so there was some light for the first half hour or so. It was a grey light due to the cloud blanketed sky, but I could see better and had replaced the batteries in my headlamp so there was a bit more ease in my step.

As we came out of the first pasture to cross down a ravine onto the beach the wolves startled and tried to bolt back up the path. It rattled me and I wondered what could have caused these powerful, confident…. beings to startle.  Two women were working there way up the same path and the wolves were straining at the leads to get away. The women willingly took a side path and let us pass. We soon came to the outcropping that had taught the lesson the previous evening. I didn’t scamper like the rest of the travelers but I moved with relative ease, even cutting my hand as a result of a careless step when I was thinking about how easy it seemed to be.

 Immediately upon sliding down the slope, Jenga came and thrust his head into my hand and  nosed the bleeding cuts. He wanted to lick the wounds clean and would not give up. It did not feel quite right to have the tongue of a wolf licking my blood. He finally relented after several clear rejections on my part.

A bit later, I was walking next to Kenny. “Why were they so skittish back there?”

“They’re wary… of anything new in the environment.” “Why should they be wary?” They are the top predators and have no predators themselves except for us. Is it a wariness of humans?”

Wolves have an holographic experience of the world. They can sense and map a 200 mile radius. They are aware of anything unusual in the sphere and prefer to live on the periphery as an observer. Always aware and wary of making contact with any thing outside of the pack.” It is in their instinct, their DNA. They cannot help it. Kenny said”

I felt that I had been given an answer to a question that was in constant reverberation in the marrow of my bones. Wariness, a holographic picture of the environment for as far as I could perceive with both conscious and unconscious senses. I am always experiencing an everpresent wariness of the environment. I can map people’s expressions, subtle movements, glances, even their breath. I look for signs that I am doing something wrong or something that will trigger displeasure or disappointment or anger or aggression. I developed it as an infant, I believe, in an unpredictable environment that could shift from laughter and play to threatening anger and aggression. As I grew, the unspoken threats of violence and anger permeated the house and anything that threatened the order laid out by my father would result in a comment about my selfishness, my stupidity, or my inadequacies. The approach by my mother was different. Attention came only when I said or did something that was right in her view or that helped to ease her suffering in some way. There was love there but it was constantly clouded by their own intergenerational trauma.

Wariness, like the wolves was embedded in my being, wired into my nervous system and no matter how much work, I did it would always be that way, or so it seemed in the moment. That evening in the ceremony I was guided by the Grandmother through a tour and recall of the ten years of ceremony work that I had done with Kenny years before. The celestial beings sang their songs and wove new cloths of harmonies and healing into my being. In the midst of the work, I doubted the efficacy and the purpose, since as I had discovered, these early childhood imprints were not to be healed or removed. They were the asphalt road of my life and even the hottest sun of warm awareness could not melt them an the most frigid ambivalence could not crack them open. However, Kenny saw clarity in me that he had never experienced before in our work. He blessed and adorned me with garlands of ease and honored me with ancient icaros and medicine to give me strength and goodness on the road ahead.

I woke from the ceremony to sit, practice and watch the sun rise over the Pacific from a bluff that overlooked the tidepools laid bare by the tidal ebb. I felt warmth toward my life and the road that I had travelled. I felt ease at being able to see that what I had thought needed to be done away with just could not be abolished. It was how I had arrived at where I am. I sang a blessing song to honor the concrete road of my life and bowed down in gratitude to its unwaveringness and unyieldingness. And in the instant that I I fully embraced it… it dissolved  or rather became everything. A road, a sky, an ocean, a heartbeat, the breath of all the children I have taught, my mother, my father, my brother, my lovers and my husband. All of the gravelly pebbly substance of it dispersed yet remained. I recalled Dogen: (paraphrased)”A mountain is not a mountain without the earth, the earth is not the earth without the mountain. The ocean is not the ocean without the wave. The wave is not the wave without the ocean.” These things cannot be undone nor are they ever really done. It all is.

I walked the path of the wolves the next day in the light by myself. Seeing all the details that are absent in the dark of a moonless night. I walked my own wolves and paid reverence and honor to Jenga, Aijan, the medicine of the celestial beings, Grandmother and my teacher Kenny.

On to Death Valley!!!

Images on the Road

Lake Albert salt lake, SE ORE.
GReat Cedar Cathedral, Wolfe Creek, CA
Full Moonrise, Mendocino National Forest.
Elder Wild Fig Roots Cascading in Waterfall, Harbin Hot Springs, CA
Burned White Oak with Buzzards Sunning at Dawn, Middletown, CA

Meditation schedule

Dawn from a moonless night.

Dear Friends.

As the country and the planet makes this transition the practice supports a deeper understanding of our own way of being as well as other sentient beings.

Sponsored by Illuman of PNW. Everyone is welcome anytime; all genders, beginning meditators and folks who have been practicing a while,are invited.

Sundays at 7AM PST we will practice Tonglen. The zoom link is: https://zoom.us/j/2867859631The term tonglen is translated from TIbetan as giving (tong) and taking (len) or sending and receiving. In the contemplative practice of tonglen the practitioner cultivates generative qualities of being (such as loving kindness, compassion, joy) that arise naturally when suffering subsides. From this place of understanding they look into the world of suffering and invite that suffering in and, in a sense, metabolize it with the fire of the generative qualities, and then give back the quality of being that meets that suffering.

___

Mondays 6AM PST Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/4257749477 : Samatha or “calm abiding”. The is the foundational practice of meditation.

___

Tuesdays 6AM PST Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/4257749477 : Body-centered meditation. Awareness of conscious and unconscious contractions in our physical being facilitates a deeper awareness of how we are interacting with the world around us.

___

Thursdays, 6AM PST Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/4257749477 :Cultivating the Four immesureables; Loving kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity.Please feel free to share.

Comment from Linda on “Survival”

Dear William,

I was glad to read your post this morning.I thought of you yesterday evening, as I put covers over my spinach and lettuce in the garden against the freeze.
Your post inspired my meditation.  I began with putting myself in a tent on the street where I pass by several times a week.  A house-less encampment near the locked high school field where I used to run the track. 

Who am I? 
I am the one sitting in this tent. looking out onto the street and sidewalk.  I am the one cold and not getting warmer today, the library is closed, The shelters are closed.I am the one wondering where I will eat today. Will my temporary neighbors share sources of food today?I am the one with only tarp between me and the weatherI am the one wanting to feel clean, trying to remember a hot shower.I am the one hopeless and despondent.I am the one forgotten and ignored.I am the one sad and angry.
Here is this one. Here is awareness of pain, of wanting relief, of needing to be seen, of needing support.
Here is awareness. 

Cottonwood

Giant. dripping gold, drops of blood

Into the azure stillness ocean

drops, fat like buddha’s tears, dissolving in the 

undissolved expanse of of blue beyond blue.

Massive. clinging roots sunk deep

into the dusty stone strewn sky

grasping onto nothing secured or stable

seeking deeper into the melted core where

Nothing survives.

Thickness. bark, skin, and bones winding in agony 

lost in directionless searching spreading wide in longing

until skin grows impenetrable and limbs grow fine

seeking, bursting free in verdant joy only to

transform into dissolving gold, drops of blood.

Not a crack, not a pore, not a crinkled broken leaf

not a churned stone, not lightining struck branch,

not a rotten heart, not the unconditional shade,

not the gentle wind song, not the decaying moldy crevasses,

not the golden sun emanating leaves, not the woodpecker holes,

not nothing wasted. 

Dance your life like the cottonwood giant

bleed your song like the golden leaves into solvent expanse

make each step a thrust of every pore of being,

know each thought creating and uncreated

Let each taste burn, each smell saturate.

Greif and joy chameleon into each other

clarity and stillness, inseparable

fear and strength shape shifting as ….

separate and one not two.