Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Growing Orbits

after Rainer Maria Rilke, “I Live My Life in Growing Orbits”

I am circling what is true,
with my arms open I am circling,
with eyes wide I am circling,
I am circling that which has never changed
and that which is always changing.
I circle with eyes full of tears, I circle
as I sing along with voice breaking,
lips praising, I circle with chest
expanding, feet eager, my body
exhausted, my whole being charged,
and the only words on my lips are thank you.
I am circling with the certainty
I can only do this right. I circle
the spaces I’ve circled before
only nothing is the same. I circle
the nothing at the center and the everything
which has come from it. With every step,
I see something new, something
I could not have seen before. With every step
I understand and lose my understanding.
I am circling all that can never be known
and all I long to know. I am circling
in quickening spirals and in lazy
orbits and I circle for the joy
of circling. I am circling you, God,
as Rilke invited me to do, and
still I am learning who you are,
so I circle and I circle and I circle.

Read Full Post »

It feels right to learn the stem stitch,
to embroider bright floss through the cloth,
to move the needle and watch words emerge
in long and ropy loops.

It feels right to sit at the oblong table
with my daughter and women I’ve only just met,
where the talk is light and we laugh
as bright thread slips through our fingers.

There are so many ways the world
is falling apart. So when the teacher explains,
We step and we float, as a method for moving
from one letter to another, I take notice:

How easy it can be to change, to start something new.
How easy to connect what seems separate.
I look across the table where my daughter
concentrates on her message in lavender and blue.

What a gift to learn these lessons together.
Not too loose. Not too tight. Stay consistent, smooth.
It feels right that I stitch my skirt into the project.
Some things can be undone.

O sweet, the lack of drama, the stakes so low.
How sweet, to share this moment, heads bowed.
Because fear, because sorrow, because hopelessness,
bless these circles where we come together

and make beauty. We step and we float,
step and float, linking one moment to the next,
we step and float, meeting the world
and each other one stitch at a time.

Read Full Post »

Still Learning

Tonight when I see a photo
of myself from almost thirty years ago,
I stare at the woman in white lace
the way a butterfly might stare
at that strange nibbling larva—
curious. It doesn’t occur to me
to tell her about what will happen.
I flit by as she stays on the wall.
She’ll learn soon enough. I breathe
into my wings. She’ll learn.

Read Full Post »


Just because I don’t see the edge

doesn’t mean the edge isn’t there.

Walking with Amy through the scrub oak woods,

I had no idea that just to my right

was a deep canyon. I could have walked on for miles

believing the world was flat

if she hadn’t suggested we walk off the trail

to see the gaping chasm.

It wasn’t that she was trying to teach me,

she was just doing what she does—

straying from the path to see what else is there.

Now I am looking everywhere for edges—

in every conversation, in every thought.

Now, I am looking at everyone as a teacher.

I have no idea what they see that I don’t.

Read Full Post »

From the Cottonwood

I want to hear the song in the old cottonwood tree

outside my window, the tired xylem, the weary phloem,

the rough hymn of the ancient bark. I want to know

how, despite fatigue, it continues to flourish,

to push new cells through the tips of the twigs,

how it thickens despite long drought.

I want to hear the dark lullaby of the worms

as they move through the loyal roots—

what do they know of persistence?

And the dappld shadow that continues to grow,

what might it teach me of love?

Let me be the student of the limbs

that broke off in the wind. Let me listen

and listen again. There is too much

I think I know. I’ve been singing the same

familiar songs so long I began to believe

they were gospel. Oh, how I’ve loved the psalms of green.

Let me sing them while they last. And then, may I learn

to love the song of emptiness, song of surrender,

song of whatever comes next.

Read Full Post »


It’s not because anything special happened.

Though I’ve sat in silence in desert canyons

and climbed iron rungs on overhanging cliffs

and sung in cathedrals and sung in snow caves

and hiked naked through juniper and

washed dishes in inner city shelters

and wandered the cobblestones of ancient villages,

today, sitting on the couch in my own house,

I finally understood with my whole body

how life puts us in the places we need to grow.

And so I made tea. And sat a while longer

with the windows open, listening to my longing

as it wove with the sound of the sprinklers and the oven fan

and I said to the moment, what do you ask of me?

Read Full Post »


Today the shadows

teach me to love

what is dim,

the sweet respite

of obscurity

when the sun

is too much

and a tree

yields its shape

so that I might slip

my clumsy heat

out of the bounds

of the vertical world

and find instead

a cool dark pool

on the ground,

as if I’m a boat

that has discovered

at last

a slim calm eddy

in which I might rest.

This is perhaps

the way we start

to meet our deaths—

sliding into the relief

of these dark, quiet


Read Full Post »




Dave drips the hot blue wax onto the ski

and tells me how it will help the ski meet the snow.

“The cold snow is sharp,” he says, “and aggressive.”

Today’s wax will harden the base of the ski.


I think of the world and all its sharpnesses,

all its aggressions. We humans

are not so unlike the snow. I’ve been fooled

so often. Perhaps my soul needs blue wax.


No, I think, what the soul really needs

is more like the scraper he pulls out,

and the brushes of copper, horsehair, and nylon.

What the soul really needs is a scouring.


He explains that the scouring allows

the cuts in the structure to be exposed

so that the skis don’t suction to the snow.

Is that what all these little cuts are for in me?


To keep me from getting stuck? Later,

as I skate in the race and feel my ski glide

across what is cold, I thank Dave

with my visible breath.


There are so many ways to relearn

how it is we meet the world. Today,

the lesson is a ski, a scraper, some wax,

a man with an iron, and acres and acres of snow.



Read Full Post »

You’re hesitating, says John from behind his mask.

Each time I invite you to strike, you wait. And he’s right.

Each time before I extend and lunge, I drop my sword.

It’s crazy. I tell myself not to do it, but every time

he motions to strike, instinct says: drop the sword.

John, I say, I’ve trained myself not to be aggressive.

When people are vulnerable, I do everything I can

to make them feel safe. It helps that John

is gentle. It helps that he beams at me a genuine smile.

Don’t think of it as aggression, he says. If someone

you love gives you the signal to touch them,

aren’t you always ready to meet them then?

And I am. Think of it as an invitation to touch.

I wonder how many stories I’ve hardwired into me.

Thou shalt not hurt. Thou shalt not strike.

Thou shalt not stab another with a sword.

I wonder that I struggle so instinctively now

when this is so clearly a game.

John drops his sword. I extend, I lunge.

I touch his chest through his silver vest

with the tip of my sword, then retreat.

Good, he says. Good. Again. Again.

Is this the way we learn all the rules

we have written for ourselves?

By breaking them. Is this the way

we might choose to meet our opponents?

By loving them.

Read Full Post »




Keep distance, the fencing teacher says,

and by this he means, stay close enough

to your opponent that you could, at any time,

extend, lunge and attack with your point.

All my life, I’ve tried not to keep distance.

All my life, I’ve done my best to avoid

the attack—from either side. And now,

with my silver lamé and my one white glove

and my face safe behind metal mesh, I dig

to find the part of me who craves engagement,

who seeks a bout, who wants to threaten

my target and exploit their vulnerability.

Keep distance, he says, and I understand

that this is how I show up for the game.

This is how I meet not only the opponent,

but, perhaps for the first time, myself.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: