Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

The Bouquet

for Summer, Autumn, Lulu and Katie
From the garden, the girls brought
a small bouquet of late summer’s
loveliest flowers: snapdragons,
nasturtiums, lavender, salvia,
and the fernlike leaves of marigold.
And there in the center, like a guest
who did not care what clothes
she was given to wear to the ball,
was the white globe of dandelion
gone to seed, its white filigree
quite unlike all the other petals.
How could I not notice this orb
of wishes still waiting to be wished?
How I longed to spend all the wishes
on these girls who had seen
this fragile sphere as a gift.
May they be happy.
May they be sure they are loved.
May they know their own beauty
beyond any mirror.
May they flourish in all soils.
May they believe their own hearts.
May they trust their own voices.
May they find friends wherever they travel.
May they feel vital in any bouquet.
May they know love. Again and again.
Live into the fullness of each ordinary moment.
And wherever they grow, may they know
for certain the earth itself will carry them.

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Relative Key

I paid extra for the bell
with a beautiful sound,
knowing we would ring it
one hundred and eight times
on the anniversary of your death.
I wanted it to be beautiful.
I wanted to play a sound
that would reach
to wherever you are
and offer you peace.
There are bells that ring
danger or failure or shame,
bells that clang with dissonance,
bells that toll only melancholy.
I have heard those bells.
But for you, my boy,
the bell we rang for you
pealed with a brilliant, shining ring,
a rousing chiming,
a surprising harmony
that opened the evening
with new light,
a ringing that rhymed
with new colors I’ve found in my heart—
the shimmering blue of enduring hope,
the glimmering gold of companioning.
I could still hear the blue
and the resonant gold
long after the bell stopped ringing.

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These warm summer evenings
I take in the nighthawks
looping above the field.
I take in their fast and agile flight,
take in their long and pointed wings.
Come winter, I will be grateful
to have stored such things.
When the nighthawks are gone
and the world is dim,
I will want to remember thema—
their aerialist displays, the way
they make of the dusk a playground,
the way the whole night
seems to hang on an angling wing—
Oh summer is such a generous thing.
Even the dark is charged with the thrill
of living. Even this heart, wounded
and bruised, can’t help but open
to the wheeling of nighthawks,
how they arc and sweep
as the sun disappears
and then continue their swooping
long after the light is gone.

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Oh Vincent,

There is in my heart
a small yellow room
with a small wooden table
with a dull yellow cloth
and a rounded clay vase
with your name scrawled in blue,
and it’s bursting with sunflowers,
all of them open, all of them turning,
turning toward the light,
which is to say the flowers face every which way.
There is light everywhere we dare to turn.

Consider this a love letter, Vincent,
a letter sent back in time,
a letter that impossibly arrives
just when you despair,
just when you believe no one cares about your art,
the letter that reaches you to say you are loved
in that exact moment you feel unlovable.

Let this be the letter in which you see
the sunflowers you sowed a hundred thirty years ago
have re-seeded themselves in me
and now grow rampant in my days,
golden petalled and flagrantly lovely.
And your stars, swirling, your wheat fields goldening,
your cypress reaching, your church bells unsinging,
you will find them all my words.

This is how love replants itself—
more love, old friend, more love.
Because you were so truly you,
so full of hope, so full of fear,
because you risked your everything,
I, too, will risk, will dare.

Consider this a love letter, Vincent,
the one that helps you see
how your life is linked to eternity.
Let this be a letter that says thank you, Vincent,
for teaching us new ways to see beauty.

Perhaps this letter will arrive
when you are in the yellow room,
or perhaps the asylum, perhaps in Neuwen,
and you, surprised to find it addressed to you,
will receive it and let the words in,
then hear your own startled voice saying,
It matters? as you pick up your brush
and begin again.  


My dear friend composer/pianist/historian Kayleen Asbo and I want to offer you the video recording of our hour-long conversation about Vincent Van Gogh, loss and The Art of Creative Collaboration– click here.This project has been such an important part for each of us in holding on to hope and beauty during a dark and challenging time. If it speaks to a part of your own aching soul and you want to share it, you have our blessing to forward it to whomever you wish.

If you want to offer a donation in support of our work so that we can professionally record our project in both audio and video format, click here for our Go Fund Me account. And we have an anonymous donor who will match all funds donated before July 30! 

If you want to engage in the full collaboration–Vincent’s paintings, Kayleen’s music, and my poems–I hope you will join us in “Love Letters to Vincent” on July 29, the day Vincent died, at 11 a.m. mountain time. We will present the entire collaboration, sending love letters back in time to honor this man who changed the way we see beauty. There will also be a chance to participate in a group creative activity, responding to his work, creating a giant love letter for Vincent. Sliding scale. It will be recorded and sent to all who register.

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It prefers barren soil.
It prefers land that is dry.
It prefers to grow
without protection of trees.
The larkspur doesn’t want to compete.
It simply grows where others don’t grow,
brings beauty to the lonely ground.
It grows tall—tall enough
that the weight of its petals
might bend the stem,
might force a fall.
It says to me as I walk by,
there are many ways
to serve the world,
bringing beauty is one.

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Stitching It Together

In our imperfect world/ we are meant to repair/ and stitch together/ what beauty there is
            —Stuart Kestenbaum, “Holding the Light”
Today I gather the morning light
as it angles gold across the lawn.
I gather the scent of fennel fronds
in the garden and the surprising sweetness
of the one-bite strawberries
and the softness of the shawl
I thought was lost, but today I found.
I gather the weight of my daughter
as she leans into me on the couch
and the smooth burn of rye whiskey
and the purr of the cat as she naps
deeper into my lap, and I stitch
them together with the thread
of my attention.
Long ago, I learned what I focus on
creates me. Not that I ignore the bindweed,
the news, the drought, the young raccoon
dead beside the road. I do not turn away
from the stories that make me weep.
I am willing to be ferocious—
to stand up for what I know is true.
But I study what is beautiful,
what is generous. I offer it my devotion.
Even in this moment writing this poem,
I stitch in the pauses and the stumblings—
these, too, are beautiful because they are true.
I stitch in the pure potential that steeps
in uncertainty. I stitch in silence. I stitch in hope.

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I couldn’t say why that particular hymn
made me cry—not that I am averse
to weeping—but when love broke me open
with hot, relentless tears,
my daughter beside me reached
to hold my hand and leaned into me
and I bloomed into wild gratefulness.
Grief comes with its arms full of blessings.
I am not grateful for the loss,
but there is so much beauty in how the world
rises up to hold us—cradles us with kindness,
cradles us with song. There is so much good
in how grief asks us to be tender with each other—
teaches us to reach, to offer comfort,
to receive comfort, to connect.
In a world where we crave beauty,
we learn we are beauty,
our every word, our every touch
a building block that makes the world.

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for Andrea Bird

A person, once a stranger,
can slip into your life,
unplanned, of course,
as if brought by the wind
in much the same way
a seed of spotted saxifrage
can slip by happenstance
into a crack in a rock
then root and grow.
Eventually, the saxifrage
will split the rock open.
By then, it will be full,
its flowers prolific
and beautiful.
If you are lucky,
this once stranger
will do in time
the same to you—
will be alive in you,
crack you open
with their beauty,
make you grateful
to be so broken.

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inspired by Eternity’s Gate by Vincent van Gogh and a piano composition by the same name by Kayleen Asbo, with quotes from van Gogh’s writings about the painting

Perhaps you, too, have sat
in the corner of a room,
back bent like winter grass,
elbows on your knees,
head weighty in your hands.
Spent. Exhausted.
Unsure how to live
another minute.
This is perhaps
the moment
we least want to be seen,
but if we are lucky,
perhaps an artist
with an eye for eternity
will feel it his duty
to find in our ruin
something precious,
something noble,
something unutterably moving
something to help us
know ourselves
as a part of infinity,
our life a brief song,
unbearably beautiful,
a masterpiece,
dark and descending
though it is.   

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One Inner Reordering

hiking to the waterfall
my priorities rearrange themselves
promptness? or bright pink primrose?

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