Posts Tagged ‘paradox’


How do we live at the traumatic center of death and life?
            —Rabbi Irwin Kula, Original Thinkers Festival 2022

A single moment contains
the scent of warm pumpkin pie
and the gravedigger’s spade,
the splatter of blood
and the smooth honeyed flesh of mango.
Did we ever believe we would live
this life unscathed?
Oh, the stab of loss
and the clean, mineral perfume of rain.
Oh, the ache of loss
and the deep golden sunflowered yes.
Oh, the carving of loss
and the sweet subtle tang of apples in fall.
Oh, the ache, bless the ache,
oh, the beauty, the loss,
oh, the beauty, the loss, oh, the beauty.

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each line taken separately from his letters or speech
 inspired by his unfinished painting “Tree Roots,” which was first hung upside down,
and by Kayleen Asbo’s piano composition “Roots”

you will find beauty everywhere,
the root of everything—
and the sadness will last forever


the sadness will last forever,
the root of everything—
and you will find beauty everywhere


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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We weave through tombstones,
the spring grass soft beneath our feet.
Thick roar of wind charges the valley.
Our paths braid up the hill
as we feel into where we will bury
the ashes and bone matter
of the boy who no longer breathes.

We all quickly agree on a place.
“It’s beautiful,” I say,
and fall into tears,
broken by the reason we’re here
in this stunning graveyard
rung with aspen and waterfalls,
red cliffs and spruce.

I lie on my back where he will be,
my husband beside me,
our daughter nearby,
above us all blue sky and sun.
The earth is cold and hard,
and the spot feels right to my body,
this body that carried him,
this body still learning
how not to hold.

We cry until we don’t.
Until whatever is unbreakable inside us
rises through the brokenness.
We dust the earth off our clothes
and walk arm in arm out the gate
where our lives go on, devastated and whole,
where the boy is missing,
where the boy is as present
as the wind.

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Meeting Your Death

Because there are no clear instructions,
I follow what rises up in me to do.
I fall deeper into love with you.
I look at old pictures.
I don’t look at old pictures.
I talk about you. I say nothing.
I walk. I sit. I lie in the grass
and let the earth hold me.
I lie on the sidewalk, dissolve
into sky. I cry. I don’t cry.
I ask the world to help me stay open.
I ask again, please, let me feel it all.
I fall deeper in love with the people
still living. I fall deeper in love
with the world that is left—
this world with its spring
and its war and its mornings,
this world with its fruits
that ripen and rot and reseed,
this world that insists
we keep our eyes wide,
this world that opens
when our eyes are closed.
Because there are no clear instructions,
I learn to turn toward the love that is here,
though sometimes what is here is what’s not.
There are infinite ways to do this right.
That is the only way.

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I want a word that means
   okay and not okay,
     a word that means
devastated and stunned with joy.
   I want the word that says
     I feel it all, all at once.
The heart is not like a songbird
   singing only one note at a time,
     more like a Tuvan throat singer
able to sing both a drone
   and simultaneously
     two or three harmonics high above it—
a sound, the Tuvans say,
   that gives the impression
     of wind swirling among rocks.
The heart understands the swirl,
   how the churning of opposite feelings
     weaves through us like an insistent breeze,
leads us wordlessly deeper into ourselves,
   blesses us with paradox
     so we might walk more openly
into this world so rife with devastation,
   this world so ripe with joy.


by the way, friends, if you are aware of a word in another language that means okay/not okay, gosh, I would love to know it

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from sweet nectar
and bitter pollen
all the honey

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Your sister and I finished
this year’s gingerbread house—
not a duplex this time,
nor two condos connected
by a gingerbread bridge.
It’s a single house with angled walls
like in the Jan Brett illustrations.
How can I be so happy and so sad
at the same time?
It’s like being a rose
that has lost all its petals and yet
is in full petalled bloom.

There is, in every moment,
an opening that appears—
and I find I often stand
in the threshold, one foot
in now and the other
with you in eternity.
Then the kitchen
is not only a kitchen.
but a garden.
And every gardener knows
she must grow first herself.
And the baker knows
everything she makes
is made to disappear
in its prime.

And so it is on this night
of decorating gingerbread,
your sister and I use bright candies
and thin pretzel sticks to make
a one-room house
unlike any we’ve made before.
And we laugh. And I miss you.
My petals drift across the floor.
My petals open into wider bloom.

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Made to Love

That love is complicated
is no surprise—
consider the human heart
pumps blood to almost
seventy-five trillion cells,
and if we were to stretch
out our blood vessel system,
it would extend over
sixty thousand miles.
Of course, things
get tangled and messy.
And perhaps, love is also
not so complicated.
Perhaps it’s as easy
as waking up in the night
and feeling the darkness hold us.
As effortless as sipping
sweet licorice tea
and letting it warm the body.
As inclusive as the lily’s white perfume
that touches the whole room.
Yes, perhaps loving is as instinctive
as the human heart that beats
over a hundred thousand times a day—
not because we ask it to,
not because we try,
but because that’s what
it was made to do.

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Today again I thank the arugula

for the way it teaches me

that sharpness, too, is what

draws us in, that we come

not just to forgive

but to crave what is bitter,

what bites us back.

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The yew can live to be over two thousand years old—

a sacred tree that grows large enough for forty people


to stand inside it. Today, its ancient power fits

in a clear plastic bag the size of two fists and it drips


through a clear plastic tube into the chest of my friend.

In three days, she will not want to move. She will not


want to eat. She will wonder if it’s all worth it.

It will last a week. So strange that a plant


that causes death when consumed will help

to save her life. Her hair has been gone for weeks.


But today, on her last day of chemo, I marvel

at how she is being infused with evergreen


in the hopes that she will transmogrify, carry

in her the mystery that grows in the bark of the tree.


When a yew branch touches the ground, it takes root.

Sprouts again. Let her body know this secret. Amen.

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